Tonight, we’re going to be looking at Matthew 9 and the story of the healing of the paralytic. What does it tell us about the understanding of Christ?
Jesus 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.
The Markan account is longer and runs as follows:
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home.2So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7“Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . .” He said to the paralytic, 11“I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
While there are several facets to this story, the main one we’re focusing on is that Christ forgave sins. It’s already been shown he has power over sicknesses, weather, and demons. Now he’s going to take on the condition of paralysis.
One can imagine the shock that would have been experienced by these friends though when they heard Jesus say to him “Your sins are forgiven.”
It makes you wish there could have been cameras in the courtroom to see the way the friends reacted.
Of course, the way the Pharisees reacted was quite noticable as well and that’s what Matthew wants us to notice. The Pharisees immediately say that this man is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God alone?
And the truth is, they’re right.
If Jesus is not God, he is blaspheming.
Jesus knows their thoughts though, which is an indication of his unique nature as well.
Why is this blasphemy though? If you sin against me, can’t I forgive you?
I can, but if you sin against a stranger, I can’t forgive you. Jesus is treating all sin as an affront against him.
Jesus uses what is called an a fortiori argument here. It was common in Jewish thought. If the lesser is true, then a greater idea based on that lesser truth is true. If Jesus can heal the paralytic, he implies that what he said about forgiving sins is true.
And of course, he does heal the paralytic.
Now what about the authority being given to men by God? It could be that Matthew is hinting at what happens at the end of the gospel in that Jesus passes on to his disciples the right to pronounce the forgiveness of sins of others. They do not arbitrarily forgive on their own. They pronounce forgiveness already forgiven.
Jesus is not like that though. He has his authority by nature.
We shall continue going through Matthew tomorrow.