You’re the one who conquers giants
You’re the one who calls out kings
You shut the mouths of lions
You tell the dead to breathe
You’re the one who walks through fire
You take the orphan’s hand
You are the one Messiah
You are I am
- Mercy Me, You Are I Am, from the 2012 album “The Hurt and the Healer”
The Christ is at it again. He’s healing freely and indiscriminately. This time, Matthew records the story of the paralyzed man lying on a mat whose friends bring him to Jesus, who doesn’t heal him right away but says the man’s sins are forgiven. Some of the religious leaders standing nearby overhear this comment and think to themselves that Jesus is committing blasphemy because no one but God can forgive sins. Jesus, being God, knows their thoughts and poses a question to them: Which is easier to say? Your sins are forgiven or get up and walk?
Then, without waiting for an answer, He turns to the paralyzed man and commands him to pick up his mat and walk. It’s an amazing moment. Matthew writes that at first fear ripples through the crowd, then the people break out in praise to God. This story is also recorded by Mark (2:1-12) and Luke (5:17-26). Both of the other accounts mention how Jesus is inside a house and there is such a huge crowd, that the paralyzed man’s friends can’t get him through the door to Jesus, so they take him up to the roof and remove tiles before lowering him down in front of the Christ. What’s not recorded in any of the accounts, is the reaction of the religious leaders. What were they thinking when the paralyzed man stood up and walked out with his mat under his arm?
One thing is certain: They missed the point Jesus was trying to make (that He IS God). By proving He could heal the man enough to walk, He was also proving He had the authority to forgive sins. This is important because forgiveness of sins was a sign that the Messiah had come (Isaiah 40:2/Joel 2:32/Micah 7:18-19/Zechariah 13:1). As religious leaders, they should have had extensive knowledge of these scriptures, yet it seems they missed the sign.
The same God who forgave the paralytic man offers forgiveness today to anyone who seeks it. The Greek word for forgiveness (aphiemi) translates as meaning to let go or to give up a debt; to send away from oneself. It means that the relationship has been renewed despite a wrong having been done. However, aphiemi goes beyond human forgiveness in two ways: (1) the law and justice are satisfied, thus, sin can no longer be held against a believer; and (2) the guilt is removed and replaced with the righteousness of the Christ. Believers are so forgiven in God’s eyes it is as if they have never sinned. What all of this doesn’t mean is that such forgiveness is cheap. Too often, I think people who follow Jesus (myself included) tend to mess up and then act like it’s no big deal. We need to remember our sins hurt God; it cost Him everything to forgive us.
It’s also important to note that AGAIN Jesus COMPLETELY heals the man: both physically and spiritually. He healed his body and his soul. It is a message for us today that we, as His ambassadors, need to be a thorough in our daily dealings with people. We can say that we love God or others, but if we are not taking practical steps to demonstrate that love, our words become empty and meaningless. The question I need to ask myself is: How well do my actions back up what I say?
One thought on “Chapter Nineteen – Matthew 9: Authorized to Forgive Sins”
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