DEVOTION—PRIESTHOOD OF BELIEVERS
I hope that your time in school was a wonderful, enriching experience. But few things are more exciting for any student than the first days of summer vacation. Perhaps as an adult you have continued to keep the tradition of having certain times off every year. While I hope that you have a fulfilling, enjoyable job, it’s important to have a work/life balance. We sometimes need some rest and relaxation, or R&R. But having a day off school or work doesn’t excuse us from responsibilities to our family, needs around the house, preparing meals, paying bills, feeding pets, exercising, and so on. That third R of responsibility may seem unwelcome, but it’s a blessing from God.
“He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.’ And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, ‘This Man blasphemes!’ But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’—then He said to the paralytic, ‘Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’ And he arose and departed to his house.” (Matthew 9:1-7)
Notice the reaction of the scribes when Jesus forgave the sins of the paralyzed man. They were indignant! Rather than allowing them their unspoken protest, Jesus called them out. The order of His actions ranked the importance of forgiving sins above that of healing paralysis.
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” (John 20:21-23)
The order of things is also important here. Jesus breathed and told His disciples to receive the Holy Spirit, then told them to forgive sins. A Christian’s “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9) responsibility to forgive and retain sins seems quite heavy, especially when we study the examples above. But compare life with and without Christ. The burden of unforgiven sins is unbearable. In contrast, here’s how Christ describes His burden: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)
Our responsibility to Christ is a blessing! Jesus did the hard work of paying for sins. Freed from slavery, we have God-given purpose to tell that the unbearable debt of sin has been freely paid.
God gave the Old Testament priests many responsibilities. They offered sacrifices, prayed on behalf of others, worked in the tabernacle and temple, and performed special ceremonial duties. Jesus has made each Christian a New Testament priest. We get to announce the forgiveness of sins to all, to the salvation of those who repent and believe in Jesus. We also call others to repentance by withholding forgiveness. Jesus trains us through His Word and sends the Holy Spirit to help us faithfully perform these blessed responsibilities until He calls us home to heaven. Thanks be to God for freeing us from the burden of sin and for giving us both the will and ability to perform the responsibilities He gives us!
Ross Kokis a teacher at Holy Cross Lutheran School in Phoenix, Arizona.