Some Thoughts On Matthew 9

At my weekly men’s bible study, we discussed Matthew 9. Particularly this passage:

1Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”

3At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”

4Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7And the man got up and went home. 8When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.

Jesus put the spiritual before the physical healing. I think TEC is getting this backwards with its social justice agenda. Or, perhaps they are just forgetting the spiritual altogether. But, our primary purpose as followers of Jesus Christ is the forgiveness of sin aspect of ministry. I find it interesting that those of us in TEC that speak of this are given the same accusations by Piskie leftists: “This fellow is blaspheming!”

May we all learn to blaspheme as strongly as Jesus did in his day by declaring God’s forgiveness of sin.

5 Responses to “Some Thoughts On Matthew 9”

  1. 1 Neal Michell November 3, 2008 at 12:41 am

    Yes, Brad. I agree. Although, of course, we are called to feed the poor, heal the sick, and so on, the Jews of Jesus’ day wanted him first to overthrow the Roman authorities. They expected Jesus to bring in an earthly kingdom (only). They didn’t understand that inner conversion was the method for bringing the kingdom of God into reality.

  2. 2 rgeaton November 3, 2008 at 6:31 am

    “..inner conversion was the method for bringing the kingdom of God into reality.”

    Neal, that’s what I recognize as the inside strategy.

  3. 3 Phil Snyder November 3, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    Brad, I agree.

    The problem is that we can’t have true “justice” without a conversion to Jesus Christ to begin with. Our minds are so clouded with sin that we can’t know Justice. This is true both personally and as a society or a people. The first step to Justice is to be reconciled with God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    Phil Snyder

  4. 4 Sarah November 3, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    You know, Rob, I disagree with this: “Neal, that’s what I recognize as the inside strategy.”

    To me, inner conversion is simply the Great Commission. If that is what conservative Episcopalians are relying on for the “inside strategy” they will be unsuccessful in any attempt to renew TEC.

    Of course, that was precisel the tack taken by so many in the Renewal Movement and amongst the charismatics in TEC. Their plan was to outgrow and to convert TEC, without paying attention to political strategy.

    And we all know how the past 25 years of Renewal strategy has worked out! While the renewalists were busy about the Great Commission in their churches, liberals took over the levers of power within TEC. And many of the Renewalists have left.

    But continuing to proclaim that one is going to “outgrow” the revisionists is just crazy, to my mind, as an inside strategy.

    It’s great for evangelism and the duty of Christians — but not an inside strategy, I think.

  5. 5 rgeaton November 17, 2008 at 4:57 am

    My apologies for not tracking this thread and seeing your comment until today. I’ll be starting talking to you, and then it will be to everyone else. Brad forgive me for carrying this thread out tangentially.

    Let’s see… Charismatic Renewal and “outgrow”; I suppose guilty as charged since I was in the midst of that. However, just like my repeating of the last line of Neal’s comment, I think your assessment is a bit simplistic of an analysis. Kevin Martin’s observations are very good regarding, “What happened to the Charismatic Renewal”? I do want to say, though, that there is a difference between “out growing” and “renewal” (and in many cases the “conversion”) of those already in place. You are correct, the first 20 years were not political in nature for the Renewal. It was a matter of saying, “Oh, my God! Look what we as a Church have been missing! No wonder we are called the frozen chosen!” It was about renewing in the Holy Spirit ALL who were already in the Body of Christ, and then that becoming the standard for future Great Commission work (just as the apostles standardized the Baptism in the Spirit for all new Christians).
    The next 20 and now 30 years saw the need to assert a biblical witness within the Church, and Charismatic clergy and laity were now being drawn into the battle of biblical authority and interpretation. Tragically, many of the charismatic clergy – unlike many of the evangelically (not to be confused with evangelistically) trained clergy – simply did not have the best of foundations in biblical study, having been trained in higher criticism without reclamation of validity of the Word (that is, tearing it apart without ever having it put back together – what was the word….ExitJesus (exigesis)). Their first learning curve after Spirit outpouring was that biblical witness was actually true and valid. Jumping into full blown debate, or simply demanding that such debate should take place, was overwhelming.
    And I think you are right, too, the concern was for parish renewal, with a healthy dose of unwillingness to see the liberal ascendency, or simply not having the political training to see it. It wasn’t that networks didn’t exist: with the ERM Leadership Training Institutes I and II, Regional conferences led locally and with nationally recognized teachers and ministers So in the looming political wars in TECUSA (and all of the mainlines), it was and is not uncommon for TECUSA charismatic clergy to take the back seat in visibility, but keep signing documents and lists as they came around. The establishment of Trinity School became extremely helpful in this regard of training, but their measurable effectiveness could not really be seen until after accreditation (I’m thinking later 1980’s) and then increasing numbers of entering students in the 1990’s. Trinity has had its effect on other seminaries, most notably Nashota. But too late to stem a revisionist tide. Fuller has had quite an effect in bringing those charismatic clergy up to speed in DMin and other training. But, still…
    It was impressive, though, at the ECF/ERM clergy gathering in Texas in 1983(year? – I went as a seminarian) to realize there were 700 clergy there (and some guys from Canada who got the ball rolling up there after that conference). Wow. Almost 10% of the number of active clergy in TECUSA. But the “Wow” was not about a spearhead of reasserters vs. the building up of liberal/revisionist political groups; it was more about “Dare we believe the entirety of our Church can become alive in the Lord?”

    I think we’re basically on the same page with all that.

    The assumption you make about “Renewalists”, however, is that there was any evangelism. There are wonderful exceptions, of course. But for all the work, teaching and energy that Chuck Irish, specifically, put into the first priority of Parish Renewal – the conversion of the parishioners to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – that’s the part that rarely got done.

    And to this day, beginning intentionally with personal research at the national platform of GC Philadelphia (the one that elected Griswold to be PB), I have only been able to ascertain a few (literally, not like the current PB uses the term) clergy and laity who could truly be called evangelists. And 3 of the 6 are no longer with us, either by death or by resignation from TECUSA.

    The Great Commission cannot be equated with inner conversion. The Great Commission should be evidenced by conversion and more. But you can have a focus on Great Commission and never convert anybody. Especially if you make the mistake of believing that a conversion to the life of the Spirit makes everything else immediately fall into place.

    Regarding your reference to conservatives, there are plenty of “conservative” Episcopalians who have no concept of any kind of conversion. And that kind of conservative Episcopalian can usually only conceive of an inside strategy consisting of political activism and litigation; this would be the institutionalist that others try to identify.

    And back to Neal. What I was agreeing with was that Neal was pointing to the very strategy of Jesus himself, and by direct inference, that of the Father. Perhaps the phrase “inner conversion” on Neal’s part is too interior sounding. But he did come, as a Jew, to convert the People of God to Himself. That is, to convince them that He was the One. On that note, Brad’s statement, “Jesus put the spiritual before the physical healing”, sounds less incarnational than he probably meant. The truth is that Jesus came to do it all, and all to lead others to the point of accepting him as the Messiah.

    All of it. The whole enchilada. To a people in need. From within.

    Jesus looks at the Church, His Bride, and He is in pain. I hesitate to even use that word. What we humans describe as ex-cruci-ating is what we would experience when Jesus shares with us only the very smallest portion of his pain regarding the Church. It is from this inspiration, though, that the calling of Jesus to so many within and waiting to be in TECUSA echoes the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah when He calls out, reflecting the same pain, “Who will stand in the gap?!”
    That’s the inside strategy. If you will. It is not to claim a self-imposed cruci-form. But it is to point to the Risen Jesus, alive, His real “the Spirit is upon me” ministry carried out through us in the power of the Holy Spirit. With compassion and mercy. Sometimes with anger and frustration. Often with pain. Too, it will not be a complacent mission; and we must make ourselves available to go places and do things we didn’t think possible for ourselves.

    To be crudely simplistic, if you – bible believing, redeemed, washed in the blood of the Lamb, Spirit-filled, resurrection affirming, etc. – know you have been called by the Lord to be in TECUSA, then how will you carry out that calling? Sitting around twiddling your thumbs? Something about the parable from today’s Gospel seems familiar to that. And it is not a good ending.

    Find your forum, and start talking about Jesus. And do things in His Name. Things that He did. It may go in different directions, but this always what is the basis of the divine “inside strategy.”

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