Thoughts from Matthew 9…
I often wonder what life was like during some of the great moments in history. What were they thinking when these big events were going on? What was it like for Washington’s soldiers at Yorktown, at the end of American Revolution, to see British General Cornwallis surrender? What was it like for the Civil War soldiers at Appomattox, to see General Lee surrender to Grant?
Other moments must have been terrible. September 17, 1862 is known as the bloodiest day in American History, where over 22,000 men were killed or wounded at Antietam. And that was only one battle! Many of the atrocities of history, such as the Medieval tortures in Europe, the African slave trade, and the Nazi concentration camps, are horrible to even think about. Even Jesus Himself burst into tears when He foresaw the Romans destroying Jerusalem (see here and here).
Other events seem minor at the time, and it is only when you look back through history that you can fully appreciate their significance. In 1492, the king and queen of newly-united Spain agreed to support an ambitious explorer, hoping to establish a trade route with China by sailing west. Thus began the first voyage of Christopher Columbus, and opened up the age of exploration, conquest, and genocide in the New World. On March 10, 1876, an inventor used a new device to actually send his voice, through electrical wires, and summon his assistant. Thus began the first telephone call by inventor Alexander Graham Bell.
Matthew’s gospel account tells of a very significant event in the life of Jesus Christ. No one knew that this day would be significant as they hurried to hear this new teacher in town. It was winter,a and Jesus was staying with Peter and Andrew, teaching out of His house, and attracting massive crowds.b
All members of the social strata came to hear Him that day. The curious ones came to listen to His words. The poor came to hear the good news. The sick came to be healed. The educated and religious came to learn more about this new teacher. How did He know so much about the Holy Scriptures? Was He speaking the truth? Should they support Him or oppose Him?c Soon, the house was full. Listeners crowded into the central room, gathered into the entryway, and even spilled out into the street.
But as Jesus was teaching, dust begin to fall from the ceiling. Everyone in the crowded room could hear the rumbling from the roof above as they to look up. Suddenly, four hands pulled the roof tiles away, filling the room with bright sunlight. Before anyone could react, these four men sent a stretcher down through the hole in the roof. There, directly in front of Jesus, they lowered their paralyzed friend.
After the initial shock, the murmurs began across the room. How could these men interrupt their teacher like this! How would they repair the damage to the house? What would Jesus do?
But there were even more sinister comments in the room. Why bother the teacher with this hopeless case? This man was paralyzed, so God must really be punishing him! He must have been especially wicked! Didn’t they know he was getting what he deserved? How dare they interrupt this important teaching from God’s word!
But Jesus took interest in the man and his four friends from above. As Jesus approached the stretcher, the crowd anxiously watched for how Jesus would heal him. Would He touch the man, or simply speak a word? Hopefully, He would heal him quickly so that He could get back to their own questions.
But instead, Jesus simply walked up to the paralyzed man and said, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” No healing. Just words.
The crowd gasped, stunned. How could Jesus say that! He healed people — that made Him interesting. But to say that He could forgive sins — only God could do that!
The educated scribes knew exactly what was going on. Jesus had just claimed God’s authority! This was blasphemy!
Jesus looked at the stunned crowd, with their mouths gaping. He knew how scandalous this statement was to them. But Jesus could forgive sins because He was God! He was bringing in the new kingdom of Heaven. In His kingdom, He will heal the sick and the broken (see here), He is greater than nature’s might (see here), and He is greater than the supernatural (see here)!
And even more than the horrible effects of nature, Jesus can heal the horrible effects of sin. We are all broken and separated from God. We have just as much ability to fix our sins as the paralyzed man had to get up and walk away!
And to prove that Jesus had that ability to forgive sins, he told the man to do exactly that — to get up and and go home. The paralyzed man was suddenly well! He got up out of the stretcher and walked away!
And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
They brought their friend to Jesus
And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed.
And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus.
Jesus returned to Capernaum (“His own city”) after healing the demon-possessed men in the Decapolis (see here). He stayed in the house,b but the crowds followed Him inside.
Jesus was so popular that when four friends attempted to bring their paralyzed friend to Him, the crowds blocked their way. They could not even get into the house!
Not to be discouraged, the men carried their friend up the outside staircase, dug a hole into the roof, and lowered him into the room before Jesus!d g
Jesus forgave the man
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
“Faith must be in Christ Himself, not in the signs and wonders He performs.” – H.A. Ironside2
I would love to have seen the looks on the crowd in that room as the roof opened up and the men lowered their friend down into the room — right in front of Jesus! While their boldness may have shocked the crowd, Jesus saw the friends’ act of faith in getting the man to Him.
Jesus stopped the startled crowd, looked up to see the four friends peeking through the hole in the roof, walked up to the man, and forgave his sins!
He looked at the sick man and immediately knew his main problem. Yes, he was paralyzed and needed to be carried by his four friends. But the man was suffering from a much deeper problem, and from Matthew’s account, it appears that he knew it. This man was in anguish, not only because of his injuries, but because of his guilt.
We don’t know the man’s past, but whatever he had done, it had left him with a broken body and a guilty conscience.e While everyone else saw his paralysis, he was torn by his guilt.
But The Lord’s immediate response to him speaks first to his guilt, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” His conscience is now clear!
“Was the man’s physical condition the result of his sin? We do not know. But we do know that Jesus dealt with the sin problem first, for this is always the greatest need.” – Wiersbe4
But not everyone shares the man’s excitement over his forgiveness. This horrified the religious scribes who were present — this is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!
But Jesus could forgive sins, because He was God!
“The spiritual need is always greater.” – H.A. Ironside3
Jesus healed the man
But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home.
And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all
When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God.
Understanding the shocked crowd, Jesus replied to them.f It is not blasphemy because Jesus can forgive sins! He has the authority because He is God!h
Jesus then demonstrated His power in order to prove that He has the authority. He has already forgiven the man, but now He tells him to pick up his bed and go home. The broken nerves are immediately healed and atrophied muscles are restored. The man got up, picked up his bed, and went home!
When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
The people responded with shock, awe, fear, and amazement! But most of all, they glorified God after this extraordinary day!
Even in our modern times, it is easy to skip over Jesus’ forgiveness and go right to the spectacular healing. But this is something new. Jesus the king over sickness, over nature, and over the supernatural world. But most importantly for us, He can forgive us.
The man was paralyzed, and totally helpless without his friends. But just like this man, we are totally helpless without God. We are lost in our sin and need Him to pull us out!
It means that no matter how terrible our past, no matter what we have done, Jesus can forgive us. He forgave the thief who was crucified with Him (Luke 23:41-43). He forgave the Roman soldiers who crucified Him and gambled over His clothes (Luke 23:34). Jesus forgave and rescued Paul, even though He was a blasphemer and persecutor (1 Timothy 1:12-16).
If He can forgive them, He can forgive us!
“Many will say, ‘I wish you would pray that I might be healed of my sickness.’ But few realize the need of pardon for sin. But they do not seem to realize that our Lord Jesus does not specialize in merely fixing people up, but in giving them pardon for their sins and imparting a new life.” – H.A. Ironside3
“Forgiveness is the greatest miracle that Jesus ever performs. It meets the greatest need; it costs the greatest price; and it brings the greatest blessing and the most lasting results.” – Warren Wiersbe5
Previous post: He is King over the Supernatural
 Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold The King, Kregel Publications, 1980, Matthew 9:1-8, pages 128-132
 H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Matthew 9, The King Continues to Manifest His Power and Grace
 H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Address 16, Healing and Forgiveness, Luke 5:16-26
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Matthew 9:1-17, page 29
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Mark 2:1-22, pages 93-96
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Luke 5:17-39, pages 151-153
 Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book III, CHAPTER XVI: THE RETURN TO CAPERNAUM, CONCERNING THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS, THE HEALING OF THE PARALYSED (St. Matthew 9:1-8; St. Mark 2:1-12; St. Luke 5:17-26.), https://www.ccel.org/ccel/edersheim/lifetimes.viii.xvi.html
 Doug Bookman, Life of Christ, Audio Series, Lecture 7. http://www.jesus.org/life-of-jesus/harmony-of-the-gospels/14-jesus-saturates-galilee-with-his-message.html
 Stephen Davey, Never Off Duty . . . Always On Call, Mark 2:1-17, 11/1/1987
 Stephen Davey, Splitting Hairs, Mark 2:18-3:6, 11/8/1987
 John MacArthur, Jesus’ Power over Sin, Matthew 9:1-8, Nov 23, 1980
[a] According to Edersheim, “The second journey of Jesus through Galilee had commenced in autumn; the return to Capernaum was ‘after days,’ which, in common Jewish phraseology, meant a considerable interval. As we reckon, it was winter, which would equally account for Christ’s return to Capernaum, and for His teaching in the house.”7
[b] Many Bible scholars expect that Jesus stayed at the home of Peter and Andrew while He was at Capernaum. Jesus said in Matthew 8:20 that, “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”, which indicated that He did not have a home of His own. When Jesus is identified with a specific house in Capernaum, it is usually the home of Peter and Andrew (e.g. Matthew 8:14, see here).
[c] Luke’s account indicates that there were not only scribes, but the Pharisees “had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem”. However, we have no indication of an organized opposition in Galilee at this time in Jesus’ ministry. Therefore, the best understanding is that the scribes and Pharisees came out curiosity and watchfulness. They were curious about this new teacher, yet watchful lest He lead people away from their beliefs. The opposition would come later.
[d] The wealthier homes in first-century Palestine would consist of a circle of dwellings around a large courtyard. The courtyard itself could have a thin roof over part of it in order to protect the household and guests from the sun and weather. Peter’s home must have been one of the larger dwellings since it had room for at least Peter and his family, Andrew, Peter’s mother-in-law, and Jesus. It would easily fit into the narrative if Peter and Andrew’s house had such a courtyard with a roof. Jesus would have been teaching in the crowded courtyard while the four friends carried the man above and dug a hole through the thin roof. It would have been easier for them to dig through this type of roof than the heavier roof on top of a home, however the narrative neither indicates nor requires this type of home.7
[e] The Jewish rabbis taught that illness and injuries were always the result of punishment from God. Therefore, they would have believed that the paralyzed man must have greatly sinned against God in order to have received such an injury. Not all illnesses are a direct result from sin (see here), but many commentators believe that this man’s paralysis was directly related to a sinful past. Jesus’ first response to the man was to forgive him before healing him.
[f] Jesus knew their thoughts. Many commentators see this as a supernatural act of omniscience for Jesus, but there is no need for any supernatural ability in order to understand what the people were thinking at this time. He had scandalized the entire crowd by walking up to the paralyzed man and forgiving his sins. This would have shocked any devoted scribe or Pharisee, and they would have recoiled at this expected blasphemy. It is important to remember that Jesus had limited His abilities while He was on earth, including His omniscience (see here). Therefore, He would have only accessed His supernatural knowledge as He was directed by the Holy Spirit. While He had used supernatural knowledge to call Nathanael (John 1:47-51) and the Samaritan woman (John 4:16-18), and when He came to Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44), these times were in the minority.
[g] “Houses had flat roofs that were usually accessible by means of an outside stairway. It would not be difficult to remove the tiles, laths, and grass that comprised the roof and make an opening large enough to fit their friend through on his mat.” – Wiersbe5
[h] Jesus answers the critics with these steps:
- No one can be healed unless forgiven
- Only God can forgive sin
- The paralyzed man was healed
- Jesus did forgive his sins
- Jesus must be God.