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.
Understanding And Applying the Text
This passage shows, that Capernaum was Jesus’ home and home base. This is also the third in a series of stories where Jesus shows his divinity. The result of Jesus revealing His divinity in each case is fear. When we see the holy, it scares us.
This story is also in the other synoptic gospels as well. Those writers include an interesting detail. When they brought the man to Jesus, they could not get to Him. So they went to the roof and lowered their friend through the roof. Why would Matthew leave out the detail? It is not important to the message of the story. The message is Jesus’ ability to forgive sins. That is the point of the story. This is God’s story not the story about a man.
The man’s friends had exercised faith. True faith is more than believing. True faith provokes action. And this man’s friends took action. They could have had only believed. They could have said, “If Jesus wants to he’ll come by and heal.” But no! They took action. They believed God could and would. So are we to take action. If we have true faith, we take action. Faith causes action. Faith that does not cause action is dead. (James 2:7) There is no choice. God can and will, but we are to take action. In fact, it would have been a lack of faith to have waited for Jesus to come by. “It is what it is,” is not faith it is fatalism. It is not accepting God’s providence. It is a lack of faith.
Jesus saw the faith those who brought the man. And the man received mercy. So the question arises how beneficial is the faith of one for another. The faith of Abraham extended to his descendants. It is true for all believers. God’s grace extends to their children, and their children’s children even before they are born. This is why we may have confidence in infants who are capable of faith. Adults children and friends receive grace by indirect means. This is not a salvific grace. Rather it is God’s grace to hear the gospel. A believer’s prayers for the unbeliever have value.
In this passage, Christ was moved by the faith of others. But the paralytic had to have his own faith to obtain forgiveness of his sins. Christ healed many people. But He did not always forgive them of their sins. God makes the sun rise on the just and the unjust. (Matthew 5:45) We are only reconciled to God by faith.
When the man appeared to Jesus, Jesus said your sins are forgiven. Christ appeared to give something other than what he had requested. This reflects the grace of God. We ask for what we want. He gives us what we need. Jesus intended to heal the paralytic’s body all along. But He also gave the man much more.
When we petition God, we usually only consider our immediate problem. We ask God to solve a physical or temporal problem. But the only solution to all evil is being reconciled to God.
As Amos said, Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. (Amos 5:18-19)
When Jesus said the man’s sins were forgiven, some of the scribes said to themselves Jesus blasphemed. Blaspheming is to say something that dishonors God. At this point, Jesus was claiming a divine right. Only God had the authority to forgive sins. To claim that right for one’s self was to speak for God. And to speak for God when you do not have that right is blaspheming.
This is important to understand. How many times have you heard a Christian say, “God told me to tell you…” They are speaking for God. They do not have that right. In making such a statement they blasphemed God. They claim a right that is not theirs. They claim a privilege God has not given them.
Here Jesus claimed that right. And the scribes were correct if Jesus was not God. So, here we have the dual nature of Christ revealed to us. He was both God and man. (1 Timothy 3:16.)
They had a right to ask what gave Christ the right to claim such authority. But they did not ask. They accused. Christ called their thoughts evil. Why? Because to question God’s authority is evil. Anytime we question God we do evil?
Jesus proved His divinity first by revealing their inner thoughts. Then Jesus asked what was easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven. or rise and walk?” This can be a little confusing. If we do not think about it carefully. It requires the same amount of effort to utter the words, “Your sins are forgiven,” or “Rise and walk.” But to accomplish the forgiveness of sins is much more difficult. Christ needed to die on the cross to pay for those sins. Healing the body required much less.
Some may say but Christ had not yet died. True but Abraham was justified by faith in the future work of Christ (Romans 4:11). So this man was justified by faith in Christ’s future work.
Christ declared He was more than proclaiming the man’s forgiveness. He was the author of this grace. Christ’s authority was different from that exercised by the apostles or church pastors. They cannot forgive sins. The best they can do is proclaim the forgiveness that Christ gives.
Everyone who saw the man get up and walk was afraid. They glorified God for giving authority to men. They missed the point. Jesus had told their inner thoughts. Jesus proclaimed the forgiveness of sin. True He was a man. But He was so much more. He was God incarnate. They glorified God. But failed to glorify Jesus who was the Christ. How often do we miss the opportunity to glorify Christ?