Power To Forgive Sins

Grace For The Journey


26May  I like jokes and riddles.  I always have.  When I was young I had this book entitled, The Big Book of Jokes and Riddles.  Even today I have a pastor friend who when we talk or get together somewhere in the conversation he says, “Let me tell you the latest joke I heard” because he knows I like that.   Just a couple of his latest ones are: “Who can jump higher than a mountain?”  Do you know?  The answer: “Anyone. Mountains can’t jump.” And “When you have me you want to share me; when you share me I no longer exist.  What am I?”  If you guessed, “a secret,” you would be right.

Jesus tells a riddle in Matthew 9:1-8.  He asks, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk?’”  That’s a good question – and a good riddle! In today’s blog we will look at these verses for the answer.

Verses 1-2 say, “So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.’”

Note carefully what Jesus says to the paralyzed man: “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”  Here we learn the first truth in this passage:

1) There Are Occasions Where Sickness Is A Direct Consequence Of Sin.

That statement raises a couple of questions.  First, it seems to suggest that, at least in this case, the paralytic may be paralyzed because of some personal sin in his life.  Jesus knows this so He says, “Your sins are forgiven you.”  There are occasions where sickness is a direct consequence of sin.

  • An alcoholic, for example, won’t be surprised if he is found to have severe liver trouble.
  • Someone who abuses their body in other ways, a chronic smoker for example, will not be surprised to learn he has lung cancer or emphysema.
  • Or the promiscuous lifestyle of an individual may lead to some kind of sexual disease.

Most of us would acknowledge there are cases where there is a more obvious link between sinful behavior and the consequence of bodily harm, disease, or injury.

Yet, not all sickness is directly tied to personal sin.  Sickness is the inevitable result of living in a fallen world due to original sin, sin that has been in the world since Genesis 3.

This is why even when we are healed of sickness we eventually become sick again.

Sickness is inevitable

And God often uses sickness

And other health challenges

To accomplish His perfect will,

Things He does for His glory

And for our good

Or the good of others.

One thing is clear in this passage . . .

Jesus shows us that

While paralysis is a problem,

The man’s need for forgiveness

Is the greater, more fundamental problem.

 Verse 3 states, “And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, ‘This Man blasphemes!’”  And the other Gospel writers tell us why they said that . . .

They had asked,

“Who can forgive sins,

But God alone?!”

Essentially, the scribes and religious teachers say, “Jesus is dishonoring God by taking upon Himself the authority to forgive sins.  He can’t do that!  Only God can forgive sins!”  And that is absolutely true – Only God can forgive sins – And that’s the point, isn’t it?!

Jesus forgives sin

Because He is God.

This is one of those places in the New Testament where it is really clear that Jesus is, in fact, God in the flesh.  After all, who can forgive sins but God alone?

Verse 4 says, “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts?’”  Here again is an illustration of the deity of Jesus Christ: He even knows the thoughts of the scribes.  I’d like to think that if I were one of the religious teachers, this would make a believer out of me!  I’d be like, “How did He know what I was thinking?! He must be God!”

Then Jesus asks in verse 5, “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk?’”  Wow, what a question to ask.  Which do you think is easier to say?  It seems easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” because there’d be no way for anyone to see whether it had actually happened.

Sin is an inside job.  So a person could say another’s sins were forgiven, but there would be no way to prove it.  No one could verify that his or her sins had been forgiven. So maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t.  On the other hand, if you’re going to say, “Hey, paralyzed man: get up!  Arise, take up your bed and go home,” then you’d better be sure you can deliver!  Everyone’s eyes will be on the paralyzed man, watching to see whether he can walk.

Here is the second truth brought out in this passage:

2) Jesus Shows That He Is Able To Do What Is Unseen By Doing What Is Seen

Jesus shows that He can

Change the inside

Of a person by changing

The outside of a person.

Christ proves that He has the power to forgive sin by healing the man of his paralysis.  That’s why He answers the riddle the way He does:

Jesus shows that

He is able to do

What is unseen

By doing what is seen

Verses 6-7 state, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins – then He said to the paralytic, ‘Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’  And he arose and departed to his house.” 

Now everyone can see.  And the point?  Simply this:

Jesus is more than just a man.

He is God in the flesh.

That this paralyzed man

Arose is evidence – visible evidence –

Of the authority of Jesus to forgive sin.

Of His Power to forgive sins.

Verse 8 says, “Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.”  It’s like the crowd has now become paralyzed!  And the story ends.  But the truths God wants us to know don’t.

3) Our Greatest Need is Spiritual, not Physical

By saying to the paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven you,” Jesus illustrates that of the two needs this man has – one physical and one spiritual – and that the greater of the two needs is spiritual.

We may well be concerned for physical healing of our family, friends, and neighbors.  And we should be.   But their greatest need is not physical healing, but spiritual healing.  Your greatest need is not your physical well-being.  It is your spiritual well-being.  Remember . . .

Even if we are healed of sickness,

We will eventually get sick again.

So, our greatest need is not physical, but spiritual.

How important this is for Christians to remember during this COVID-19 season!  We may well be concerned for physical protection and healing of our friends, family, and neighbors.  We should be.  But their greatest need is not physical healing, but spiritual healing.  We must share with them the Gospel.  That is what they need most.

How many people will be in heaven because of you?  Because you knew that their greatest need was their spiritual need for Jesus?

There is a fourth truth revealed in these verses:

4) Jesus Alone Meets Our Greatest Need.

No other religion offers forgiveness as Christ offers forgiveness.  All the other major religions – whether Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, New Age teachings – all of them teach something like this:

Here’s what you need to do.

And if you’ll do these things,

Then maybe, just maybe,

Through this process, or reincarnation,

It will all be okay for you in the end

– Maybe.”

Christianity is not that!

Christianity is not our working our way

Up to God or working through some process

Of trying to earn His favor.

Christianity is God’s coming down to us

To do for ourselves what we cannot do –

Live a perfect life

By fulfilling all

The righteous demands

Of Scripture and dying a death

That pays the penalty

We deserve for breaking

All the righteous demands of God.

God does this for us in Jesus Christ.

He lives for us, died for us, and

Rose from the dead for us.

He does all this that we may be justified –

Declared righteous in the sight of God

Because of the work of His Son, Jesus Christ.

It is interesting that the word Matthew uses when describing Jesus’ command to the paralyzed man – “Arise” – is the same word he uses in Chapter 28 where he records the resurrection of Christ.  Remember that the angel had said to the women at the tomb: “He is not here; for He is risen.”  That is the same word as “arise.”  And it makes sense, doesn’t it?  After all, the only way this man – this paralyzed man – can “arise” is because Christ will “arise” for him.

The very reason Jesus can say,

“Your sins are forgiven you,”

Is because He Himself will pay

The penalty of this man’s sins on the cross.

Jesus alone meets our greatest need – our need for forgiveness.

Here is a fifth truth from this passage:

5) Only Jesus Continues To Meet Our Greatest Need.

When Jesus healed this paralyzed man, Matthew tells us in verse 8 that the crowd “marveled and glorified God.”

That’s the right response

To an encounter with Jesus!

There is the joy and wonder of God’s working through Christ.  It is important to remember this every day of our Christian lives.  We have to rekindle the fire of our love for Jesus each and every day.  A Christian may recall fondly: “I remember how great I felt when I got saved!  It was awesome!”  And so it was. But . . .

Christianity is an ongoing,

Continual experience.

We must remember that the Jesus who met our spiritual need back then continues to meet our spiritual need right now – each and every day.   If we will do this, then we will stay in love with Christ each and every day and we will stay away from the danger of sin and temptation.

Always remember that when we choose to sin we are substituting a cheap satisfaction for the all-satisfying Jesus Christ.  Sin is a substitute for the joy of Christ.  It is a lack of our delighting in Him and His promises.

You can’t change merely by changing your thinking,

Or through great acts of your will,

But rather by changing what you love most.

Change happens not only by giving your mind new truths

Though it does involve that — but also by

Feeding the soul and heart new beauties

That will lead you to love Jesus supremely.

We change when we change

What we worship the most.

How do we do that?

By seeing that Jesus’ own heart was crushed

And broken as he died on the Cross

For us (Psalm 22:14).

It is as we worship a crucified

And rise Savior

That our hearts are transformed.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”


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