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By What Authority?
This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
It is an interesting thing that Jesus Christ went around in his earthly ministry saying, “Your sins are forgiven.” We don’t think of it this way, but this is an extremely presumptuous statement — one of the many radical things Jesus said in such a humble way.
Perhaps you don’t think so; look at it this way:
Suppose that I, David Herbert, decide that you need a good punch in the nose. Being a man of action (and rather limited sense) I decide to carry out this plan, and I bop you in the face. You (being a superb Christian) now have the Christian privilege of granting me forgiveness. Let us suppose, however, that Satan arises and tempts you to petty vengeance, namely, you decide to punch me in the nose. The fight seems to be on, but (let us further suppose) that our minister, Dusty Delafield, steps between us. He directs you to cease and desist, because, he says that he has forgiven me.”
Now, being the logical sort of person you are, and greatly given to debate as opposed to combat, you decide to reason with Dusty. “Hold on, preacher,” you say, “if I want to punch David’s lights out (in a decent Christian manner, of course), why, that’s my business. What right do you have to forgive him and let him off the hook?”
You see the argument, of course. You have the right to forgive, because you’re the one I punched in the nose. I didn’t punch Dusty, so he doesn’t have the right to forgive me on your behalf. Right? To turn this into a principle, only the person who is offended has the privilege of forgiving.
But hold on. In any such dispute, there are always at least two persons who are offended. In this instance you are one and the Lord God Almighty is the other, for he has ordained peace among his children. When I punch you in the nose, you bleed and He is pained. He who set the moral order of the universe is always offended when it is violated. And that doesn’t count how He feels about someone punching his children (how do you feel when someone hits your children?)
Now you see why Jesus so enraged the Pharisees — when he claimed to forgive sins, he claimed to be God. His entire purpose in coming to us was just that: to rescue us from our sins, to grant us salvation.
Vengeance is cheap, and therefore is commonly sought and sold. Forgiveness, however, is costly; the more there is to forgive, the greater the pain of forgiving. Our forgiveness cost Jesus his life, at Calvary. As God, he had the authority to forgive. As man, the price had still to be paid. He paid what I owed and forgave me without price.
When you take the Lord’s Supper, then, remember that He who died came with the authority and the purpose of forgiveness. Our forgiveness.