Job 33-35; Acts 13:13-52; Psalm 48
‘With you there is forgiveness, therefore you are feared’ Ps 130 vs 4
What sets the God and Father of our Lord Jesus apart is the forgiveness of sins. And Christ when he comes, announcing the reign of God does so by forgiving sins. (We may be in awe of making a paralytic walk, but remember that Jesus only does this to reveal his even more breathtaking authority, to forgive sins)
Thus we may well say with the Psalmist, ‘Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised’ – that the dwelling place of God is a place of wonder and beauty.
So also, Paul, when he is called to speak in the synagogue in Antioch, when he comes to the culmination of his message says ‘Let it be known to you therefore my brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you; by this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the Law of Moses’
And here is a small clue as to how we announce the gospel in our own day. Paul begins by rehearsing the story of Israel – and it is a story fundamentally of how they are trapped by their past. In many respects the Pharisees whom Jesus encounters embody this slavery to what has gone before, as they seek to reaffirm their national identity in the face of many challenges, they are clinging to a history of rebellion agains God.
All around us we are surrounded by people similarly trapped by their past. Let us be clear, our past is all we know for sure. For so many that past weighs heavy. Shame and guilt often threaten to overwhelm and so we hide. The Gospel of Christ is an invitation to step out into the light that we might be healed – set free from our past – given a new life.
But this life is no mere, new start. Those who know this forgiveness become themselves forgiving. The wonder of that release means that they want others to know it. If we do not forgive we as yet have not come to know Christ, we as yet have not known the true liberation he brings – we have not ourselves yet heard the gospel, the Good news of the forgiveness of sins.