Matthew 9:1-8.

Forgiveness and Healing.

        June 16, 2002                                        2002, J.W. Carter
     www.biblicaltheology.com              Scripture quotes from KJV


We live in a culture that increasingly rejects the truths of God's Word.  It is a jungle of The prevalent philosophy has become one of relativism that states that "as long as your beliefs are sincere, then you are OK."  Relativism argues that it does not matter what one believes in because there is no absolute truth, as truth has come to be what the individual wants it to be.  Oprah Winfrey preaches this false gospel from her television platform.  George Lucas preaches his philosophy of pantheism in his Star Wars movies, an argument that God is all around you, and you become part of God by tuning in to the force.  These two religious philosophies have been around for a long time, well documented in the ancient Greek pagan teachings of Zeno and others.  Those who propose such homocentric (man-centered) philosophies go through their lives thinking that they are secure in their positions, ignorant of their apostasy.  The one true God, the Creator of this cosmos, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob stands infinitely above any other set of religious authorities that man can create.  These philosophies reject that God is the all-powerful, intelligent, creator, the One who provides, the One who heals, the One who saves us from our fallen state, the One who is God over all that is.  No other system of beliefs, no other manufactured god, demonstrates these attributes. 

This Bible study examines God's unique power to provide physical and spiritual healing, observing events where God reveals Himself to us in this manner.

PART ONE:  FORGIVENESS AND HEALING

Matt. 9:1.

And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. .

This scripture passage finds Jesus and the disciples returning to Capernaum from the region of Gadara where the "Gadarene Demoniac" who lived among the tombs was healed.  It was on their way to Gadara that Jesus taught the disciples a lesson of faith through His calming of the storm.  This all took place shortly after Jesus' "sermon on the mount," the lessons of Matthew 5 - 6 that were taught to the disciples.  Because of the lack of medical knowledge and the level of moral decay, ancient Palestine was not a healthy place to live.  Those who were sick were persecuted in the Jewish culture for what they perceived as evidence of God's punishment for sin.  The sick were considered unclean, with most sickness holding the stigma that to even touch the infirmed, or to be touched by them, caused the healthy Jew to become equally unclean, requiring a ceremonial cleansing before they could reenter the temple.  Consequently, the infirmed tended to gather together in small camps where they might receive the alms of the people.  They would gather at main entrances to the cities, by the gates of the rich people, etc.  Everywhere that Jesus went He encountered the sick an infirmed, and had compassion on them.  Though Jesus' purpose was not to provide physical healing, He would not hold back God's power to mend the ills of those who asked.  As he entered Capernaum, Jesus was returning to the city where He had been residing, a city that He knew well, and one that was beginning to know Him. 

Matt. 9:2.

And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.

Matthew's account of Jesus' healing ministry is covered with less attention to the details provided by the other synoptic gospels, Mark and Luke, convincing most theologians that Matthew was the latest of these gospels that was written.  Matthew's gospel, written for a Jewish audience, packages its message in a way that Jews would best identify with, as we will see in these examples.  As Matthew simply states that "they brought to Him a man...", Mark's more detailed account describes the setting.  Jesus was about to address a crowd of people who were assembled in a house.  The friends of the paralytic could not get the pallet, on which they brought their friend ito the house through the crowd, so they went onto the roof, created an opening, and let the friend down through the opening to settle at the feet of Jesus.  One can probably visualize the scene:  the dust and dirt dropping from the ceiling, the shaft of light breaking through from the sun, and then the lowering of the man on the pallet.

Certainly, many people were indignant about what they were witnessing.  Many were probably critical of the disruption, the favor given to this unclean person.  They might have responded as many of us do when we are approaching a blocked highway traffic lane, crawling forward, only to witness someone racing up the passing lane or the shoulder trying to get ahead of everyone else.  The religious leaders were looking for an opportunity to ensnare Jesus and were clueless of Jesus' bold plan.

What did Jesus do when he saw the lame man and the bold and unpretentious faith of him and his friends?  First, he gave them words of peace.  What they had just done would normally have brought great difficulty to them.  They had destroyed a respected man's roof.  They had disrupted the program of this respected teacher and healer.  They had brought an infirmed man into the house where he was forbidden.  So, Jesus' first words were words of peace.

We would expect, from the pattern we have seen, that Jesus would then heal the man.  Is that what Jesus did?  Rather than providing healing, Jesus simply stated, "Your sins are forgiven."  It is these words that set the context for the conflict to follow and the illustration that Jesus would draw from this event.

 

Matt. 9:3.

And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth..

The religious leaders would have been inspired and awed by Jesus' healing.  Instead they were astonished by what they saw was a demonstration of open blasphemy, just the kind of transgression they were looking for.  Why were Jesus' words considered this way?  The Law teaches that only God can forgive sins (Isa. 43:25, 44:22).  This alone would be considered worthy of stoning by the scribes who knew the words of the Law.  However, the conflict was compounded by the word for "sin" that Jesus used.  Some sins could be forgiven by sacrifice, particularly those of error and omission.  However, errors of commission, willful sin such as David's adultery and his murder of her husband had no such mechanism of sacrifice, causing David to plead for forgiveness from God.  It is this type of sin that Jesus was referring to.    This event is further complicated by the cultural tie between sickness and sin.  When the scribes looked upon a sick person they first saw their sin.  Their lack of compassion was illustrated in their condemnation of the individual for that sin and their opinion that sick people were getting what they deserved.  This gave the scribes an excuse to denigrate the person, thinking that since they were under God's judgment in their sickness, they also could judge them.

Christians must always be careful to avoid falling into this pitfall.  When Christians see an individual who does not "measure up" to some standards, we should still have the same love and compassion for them that Jesus demonstrated, rather than the judgmental and condemning attitude of the scribes.  The scribes were led to their opinion by their ignorance.  There is no reason for a Christian to be so ignorant.  Our model is Jesus, not the scribes.

Matt. 9:4-5.

And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? 5For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? .

Jesus saw the contrast between the faith of the paralytic and his friends, and the indignation of the Scribes.

The definition of blasphemy was a subject of great controversy among the Jews.  In this case, the scribes accused Jesus of appropriating for Himself an attribute that only God has:  the ability to forgive sins.  However, like the modern world today, the scribes rejected any deity in Jesus.  They rejected that He was the Messiah, the Son of David, a name that Jesus would never publicly acknowledge since the people thought of the Son of David as a military messiah.  Like the paralytic, they were paralyzed by their presuppositions of who Jesus was, and simply could not conceive of his authority.  When Christians say that Jesus "is the only way," they are considered intolerant and ignorant by the world.  To place Jesus equal with God and the Holy Spirit is still considered blasphemous by the Jews and Moslems.  Jesus is about to use this event to illustrate to the scribes that He, indeed, has been given the authority of God to forgive sins.

 

Matt. 9:6-7.

But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7And he arose, and departed to his house..

Referring to himself, not as the Son of David, but as the Son of Man, he makes illusion to Isaiah 7:14, the son of man who would be called Emmanuel, who would have the authority to "save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21)."  By making this statement, he is declaring himself as the Messiah, but one that is not as the Jews expected.  Those who listened to him and responded in faith could understand.  Those who were paralyzed by their dogmatic theology would remain in their sin.  The irony of this event is profound.  The paralyzed scribes remained in their sin.  The faithful paralytic was no longer paralyzed.

Matt. 9:8.

But when the multitudes saw it, they marveled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men

The scribes, who had more reason to recognize the Messiah than anyone, were totally blinded by their pride and indignation.  They could not see Jesus for who he was.  The people, who were not as well-versed in the scriptures were awestruck by what they had just witnessed.  Here was a man, an individual who looked like anyone else on the street, who was characterized as a rabbi without the requisite credentials or ordination.  Yet, what he just did was an act that is only attributable to God. Remember that they still associated sickness with sin, so when the man was no longer paralyzed, they understood that he was also forgiven.  They witnessed that Jesus had the power to heal.  They now understood that Jesus had the power to forgive.  They now could believe that Jesus is Lord.

How should people today respond to Jesus?  People still reject Him out of their pride and indignation.  People are ignorant of what took place in that house in Capernaum, and many who have heard of it think of it as an interesting story that probably never happened.  The truth of scripture that is unfolded herein sets this forth as a watershed event.  It is the first time that Jesus, calling himself the "Son of Man" reveals himself as the "Son of David," the Messiah who has come to save people from their sins.

People today are looking for every possible source to find peace and comfort.  They are sick in sin, sick in worry, sick in fear of their future.  Jesus came to bring all people peace by healing them of the condemnation of death that comes with their sin, providing forgiveness that can bring peace.  Jesus did not come to heal every physical illness that we will experience, though He can if it serves God's willful purpose.  Instead, Jesus came to save us from a far more insidious sickness that threatens to kill us for eternity.  It is that Jesus that Christians need to proclaim.  It is through Jesus that people can find forgiveness and healing.