JESUS HAS AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SINS
Key Verse 9:6
“‘But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ So he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Get up, take your mat and go home.’”
In this passage, Jesus is returning from his encounter with the two men who were once demon possessed men. We learned about Christ who will spare no cost at the expense of one lost soul. He approached those two men, those of whom others would have nothing to do with. He learned of their suffering, and he healed their broken souls as he cast their demons into a herd of pigs nearby. When the pigs then rushed to drown themselves, the people of that town pleaded with Jesus to leave fearing what else they would lose if he stayed. This act of kindness was very costly for the people of that town, and it ruined Jesus reputation with them. Almost always, when experiencing the much-needed healing work of Christ, it will cost us something. Upon realizing this, people will either drive Christ out of their lives, or sacrifice whatever is necessary for his beautiful work to continue. After this, he travels back across the sea to his home town, to continue his ministry of preaching and teaching.
Let’s read verses 1 and 2, “Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, laying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’” There is a much more detailed account of this story in Mark’s gospel, but Matthew’s account leaves out these details, his focus is more so on the person and love of Christ. We don’t know if the man had asked to be brought to Jesus, or if he was carried against his will. But we do know that these friends of his deeply cared for him, and that they had great faith in Christ. As the story goes, Jesus was in a house teaching. And the house was so crowded that there was no room left, not even outside the door. Since there was no room, the friends did not turn back, but they dug a hole through the roof of this home and lowered the man in front of Jesus. They were desperate to help their friend, and willing to look a little crazy doing it. Having great faith drives us to do things that others may not understand and even misjudge. These are the kind of friends that we all need. Those are willing to do whatever necessary, so that we find our way to Christ. Those who are willing to struggle with us until we experience Christ’s deep healing in our hearts.
Look at verse 2b, “When Jesus saw their faith…” Look at what mattered to him. Amazingly He didn’t pay attention to the damaged ceiling. He didn’t see the fact that they were interrupting the life-giving teaching that this huge crowd desperately needed. He only saw their faith. This is an important truth that deserves our full attention. Unlike all the perceptions that people have of others and their actions, and what people look at when they see others, it’s imperative that we learn what attracts Jesus’ attention. Above everything else that we might bring to God, or present to him, what he looks at first is our faith. And look at how great their faith in Christ is. When someone has been paralyzed for so long, it becomes very easy to lose hope; easy for our motivation to drain after each failed attempt to walk. We eventually despair thinking there is nothing that can ever make us/or them better. Usually paralysis is impossible to heal. But when our faith is in Christ, nothing is impossible. A person with faith will go beyond the obstacles and trials of this life. They will have hope for those who have despaired, and when it seems like there is no way to Christ, they will find one. Some of us may think that we don’t have much faith. But Scripture teaches us that it really only takes little faith to uproot deep spiritual diseases and raise the crippled. It is not so much the quantity of our faith that’s important, but it’s really about the object of our faith. Our faith shouldn’t be in the temporary things of this world, but in God and his power, wisdom, his love and mercy. Let us always be reminded of Christ’s words on his last night with his disciples before he went to the cross, when he said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1)
What did Jesus do when they came to him in verse to 2? He said, “Take heart son; your sins are forgiven.” Why did he say this to a man who is suffering from paralysis? At first glance, our impression might be, “What are you doing Jesus? This man doesn’t need your forgiveness, he needs to walk again?” “He needs your sympathy!” In our times and culture, no one would think this man needed forgiveness. Many times, we only see what’s on the outside. But when Jesus sees a person, he really looks at the inner heart. Yes, his body was paralyzed, but Jesus saw that his soul was crippled with the weight of guilt and shame of sin. People try so hard to ignore their guilt and shame because acknowledging it just paralyzes them. The truth is too much to bear. But the truth is that if our sins are not forgiven by the beautiful mercy of Christ, it will eventually surface and cripple that person’s spirit. We don’t know this man’s sin was. But we know that his sin was much more urgent than his physical condition. This passage is great for teaching us what Jesus looks at. The moment this man was forgiven, a huge weight fell off him as he now sensed the emerging love of God filling up his heart. Truthfully, that’s all we need! People can bear their paralyzed if only they have the love and forgiveness of God in their heart. We all need God’s mercy of forgiveness on our souls.
Let’s read verse 3, “At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” These were the men who were supposed to understand the heart of God. But instead they totally missed the point. Jesus forgiving this man’s sins is one of the most beautiful acts of God’s mercy. This display should have moved the religious leaders to repentance and awe of God’s love. They also didn’t see this crippled man’s sufferings, his pain and agony of heart. They didn’t see the Messiah’s concern and compassion. They only judged. In verse 4 Jesus, says that their thoughts were evil. Some Christians can be this way too. We can also judge through the law instead of sharing God’s mercy. Part of the dilemma with the teachers of the law was that they believed that those who have physical ailments like ‘paralysis’, ‘blindness’, etc, had them as punishments for their sins. Saying that he is forgiven but seeing that he was still paralyzed, to them made Jesus’ claim of forgiveness groundless. In Mark’s account of this story, the teachers of the law say that no one can forgive sins accept God alone. In that sense then, Jesus would either be a blasphemer or God himself.
Let’s read verse 5 & 6, “Which is easier: to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk? ‘6But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Get up, take your mat and go home.” For a man, both are impossible! It is impossible for man to forgive sins in the place of God. And it is impossible for man to make another person walk miraculously. So to everyone Jesus demonstrated that he is God on earth, and has the authority to forgive sins by healing this man in the view of everyone. Today Jesus continues to forgive those who come to him in faith, healing their crippled hearts from guilt and shame of sin. There are still many paralyzed people out there. Even those of us who are forgiven still somehow become entangled in sin and so become paralyzed with a sense of helplessness and despair. Therefore, even believers need to come to Christ continually in faith, confessing our sin, and receive his forgiveness. We need to come for continual healing and restoration so that we may display the glory of God as we should.
The following verses tell the story of a paralytic of a different kind. Let’s read verse 9, “As he went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.’” For those of us who aren’t familiar with the tax collectors of Rome, they were the most hated. The Israelites that became tax collectors were looked at as traitors who became wealthy from exploiting their own suffering people. Being more oppressive than the Romans, they were known for collecting more tax than what they were supposed to. For those who couldn’t pay, the consequences were severe. They had the power to confiscate your goods, property, or even sell your family members into slavery so that the price that they deemed you to pay would be placed in their pockets. For a fellow Israelite to have this occupation, it was an outright stance against Israel. It was like social suicide for Israelite to become a tax collector. It was like abandoning God, your family, and country to work against them. It was like abandoning their humanity and their conscience.
But how does a God-fearing Israelite become a tax collector? A change like this isn’t an overnight process. Perhaps he was one day overwhelmed with the poverty and unfairness going on around him. Maybe his own family was poor, and he vowed to do whatever he could to never live like them. Whatever the case was, eventually Matthew went from cold, to colder, until he couldn’t recognize himself anymore. His heart had become hard enough to be fully invested in this new life of greed, and selfishness. Sure, he could count his wealth, and be secure in his comfortable home. But he would be lonely and miserable, and trapped by the greed and selfishness of that lifestyle. Living this kind of life, even if a person had some conscience left in them, would have almost unbearable guilt and shame.
So why did Jesus call a man like Matthew? As we said before, when he looks at someone he really sees the heart. What do you think he saw in Matthew’s heart? Typically, when we look at someone, we tend to see them from the outside inward. We define someone by their actions, instead taking the time to understand what’s really going on. Everyone defined Matthew by what he did. Matthew saw himself with no hope because no one else had hope for him. But only Jesus could see the man himself. And that may have been the one thing that moved Matthew to get up and follow Christ. To really have a shepherd heart for someone, we have to pay attention to how we see them. Jesus saw him not as a disease, but as a lost son who desperately needed to be rescued. He saw someone’s soul crying out to be saved. With Matthew’s kind of life style there was no way out. No one wanted him. No one wanted Matthew to follow him. If he was following you, you’d be running the other direction. But then Jesus approached him, and said, “Follow me.” Jesus doesn’t just command us to repent of our sin, but he graciously comes to our rescue and leads us to himself.
As soon as Matthew heard the forgiving and compassionate voice of God through Jesus, he left everything in the world to follow Jesus. (9) To Matthew, nothing in this world mattered anymore. All that mattered now was Jesus himself. The apostle Paul tells us the same thing when he says: “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” (Ph.3:7-11) When Matthew met Jesus personally, he became a changed man. Once he cared nothing about his actions. Now he felt all the pain he had caused others. At one time he was a cruel money-maker. But now he was someone who could sacrifice everything for others in the name of Jesus. He became a man who could understand other people’s sufferings. Once he was paralyzed by the sin of selfishness. But now he was free from that inner oppression and able to soar in the freedom that only Jesus can give.
He was so overjoyed with his decision that he did something remarkable. He took a step out of selfishness by faith. He invited his sinful friends to come and meet Jesus personally. (10) It was a small sacrifice. But it was a big sacrifice considering that Matthew had always taken something and had never given anything to anyone. For the first time, in faith, Matthew felt life filling his heart. It was the life of God, born anew in his heart and growing.
When the religious leaders criticized Jesus’ loving heart and ministry, he tried to help them see the heart of God— the heart of a shepherd. He said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (12,13) These verses tell us the truth about Jesus’ purpose in coming to this world. Jesus came to heal the sick. He came to save sinners. It was the great revelation of God’s love for sin-sick people. The world was dark and sinful. The religious leaders were like wolves in shepherd’s clothing. They had no love nor concern for the flock of God. They may have sacrificed money and time for religious purposes. But they didn’t know the mercy of God. At the same time, the world was filled with paralyzed people needing the mercy of God. The world needed shepherds who would carry out God’s mercy with the shepherd heart of God. For this reason, Jesus was helping his disciples learn the mercy and sacrifice of God. He was helping them be concerned with the suffering people. Lord help us see suffering and paralyzed people with your eyes that we may bring them to Jesus for forgiveness and healing.