Newtown Bible Church

Messiah's Mission: Forgiveness of Sin (Matthew 9:1-8)

  •  To understand Christ; His coming, the cross, the resurrection, return in any other way than the all glorious work of reconciling sinners to God is to miss Him altogether. The Christ of much of evangelicalism, is not the Christ of the Bible. 
    •  He is not a genie in the bottle of prayer to answer our whims; He is not a servant to our claims of faith; He is not an anxious Savior waiting to see who will believe in Him; He is Lord of all; He is the Son of God, come in the flesh, to save His people from their sins. And it is this Christ that Matthew continues to hold up before us. 
  •  2 Compelling proofs of Jesus’ mission and ability to save His people from their sin, that sinners would believe. (1) Jesus came to deal with the problem of sin; (2) Jesus’ authority over the fruit of sin proves His authority over the root of sin 


READ: Matthew 9:1-8


Setting the Scene

  •  (9:1) “Got into the boat, crossed over, and came into His own city” - Matthew 4:13 identifies “His own city” as Capernaum, the place Jesus made His main location out of which He ministered around Galilee; the “home” of Jesus is likely a reference to Peter & Andrews house (Mk. 1:29; Matt. 8:14)
    • Mark notes: “many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them.” 
    • Luke adds “there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law (i.e. Scribes) sitting there who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem.”  
  • So there he is in the midst of a crowded home, little room to stand, almost no room to move; the air would have been thick with all the bodies so close together, the shorter among the crowd straining to see, others out side leaning in and straining to hear ever word that came from the Savior’s mouth. 
  •  (9:2) “and they brought to Him a paralytic lying (having been cast down) on a mat” - a common scene in the life of Jesus; healing was a constant part of His ministry. None of the gospel writers are very specific about the paralysis. All that can be said is that it extended at least to his legs and rendered him unable to walk. 
    • The loss of use of limbs is always a tragedy and makes life more difficult, however, it was especially so in that time when there were no automatic doors, wheelchairs, special facilities, or other helps. This man was totally helpless and depended entirely upon the care of his friends and family. 
    • Mark 2:2 “he was carried by four men,” no doubt good friends, possibly brothers.  Apparently, however, no one among the crowd was willing to step aside for these four men and their friend.
    •  Mark 2:4 notes, “Being unable to  get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof  above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the  paralytic was lying.” Luke 5:19 “into the middle of the crowd.” 
  • [HOME] Likely a typical home around Galilee, it would, most likely, have been constructed of a dried brick exterior with few and small windows so as to have protection from the heat and cold, and enemies, but it made the interior dark; most light coming from the front door, or the lamps. The inner part of the house would have had a larger courtyard like area for small animals, cooking, and most of the daily activity for the women, with other rooms for sleeping off to the side.
    • If a two-story house, likely the case here, then there would have been a large upper room for people to gather. 
    • The roof was generally constructed of beams laid closely together, with brush laid on top, and then covered with compacted earth. Nicer homes would have had tile (cf. Lk. 5). These roofs were generally flat and commonly used for sleeping, working, resting, gathering. 
  • You can imagine the scene, a crowded room, antagonizing religious leaders sitting up front, all eyes on Jesus who is speaking to them the word of God. Suddenly dried mud begins to fall on the heads of those in the room, the people looking up some annoyed, some curious, some outside oblivious to the commotion. The Lord probably stopped teaching and He Himself looking up at the sight of the dirt falling and the sound of the roof being taken apart. Suddenly, a man appears on a mat being let down through roof suspended by rope!

(1) [First glorious truth]  Jesus came to deal with the problem of sin:

  • A) Notice: Jesus sees this man’s faith: “seeing their faith He said, ‘Cheer up (‘take courage’), son, Your sins are forgiven.’” - “Their faith” - referring to the faith of the paralytic and his four friends. He addresses the paralytic because he is both the center of attention and the only one in the room (four friends are still on the roof)!
    • Some believe that Jesus was only referring to the evidence of their faith in bringing their friend to Him,Jesus healed all who were brought to Him, He did not pronounce them all forgiven. This was unique to this individual and his friends, and it is attached to their faith. They clearly understood more about Jesus than the religious leaders, and presumably many from among the crowds. 
    • Jesus’s knowledge was the knowledge of omniscience (cf. John 2:25). Sincere, saving faith is not a tangible, visible thing, like the color tunic they are wearing. It is invisible to the physical eye; but not to the eye of God. He knew the kind, quality, sincerity, and content of the man’s faith and that it was the faith that saves. 
  • B) Jesus gets to the heart of the problem: “Cheer up,” or “be encouraged.” Jesus never said this to an unbeliever, but to believers under distress. This is shocking statement. “Your sins are forgiven”  - Jesus gets right to the heart of the man’s problem; it is not his paralysis, it is his sin.
    • All sickness is connected to sin in either a general, or specific sense. Sickness exist in the world because sin exist (Rom. 5:12 “Through one man sin entered into the world, and through death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” - there will be no sickness in the new heavens and new earth because there will be no sin. Jesus’s healing ministry is a foretaste of this future reality. This is the connection with the atonement (cf. 8:17; Is. 53:4)
    • Sin is also the result of specific sins. Sometimes as the consequence of sinful choices (Rom. 1:27 “receiving in their persons the due penalty of their error”). At other times it is the specific judgement of God (1 Cor. 11:29-30 [Lev. 26:14-16; Deut. 28:21-22]). Now the Jews tended to think that all sickness was related to specific sin (John 9:1-2). While Jesus corrected this thinking, it is strongly suggested that that is the case with this man, who knew that somehow his condition was connected to his sin. 
  • Which is why Jesus goes directly to the problem: “Your sins are forgiven” - This man’s greatest problem was not his paralysis it is was his sin and apparently he knew that and was under much conviction.
    • The source of the man’s joy was forgiveness; a restored relationship with God; his sins forgiven. This man came with a conviction of sin and wanting more from Jesus than just a restored body. 
  • Most of the people only saw in Him a healer of physical disease; how many were healed and yet are spending eternity in hell.  Regardless of what happens to the body here everyone is going to die physically and then stand before God.
    • How many only want Jesus to heal them, provide for them, be there when they need Him, but not to deal with the issue of sin. People’s greatest problem is not sickness, it is sin. It is moral & spiritual guilt, eternal judgment and torment,. Men don’t simply need a divine physician, but a divine Savior. 
    • So, when trials and sickness come, they doubt, or walk away saying that Jesus just didn’t work. Jesus’ primary interest is not the body it is the condition of your soul and where you are going to spend eternity. It is that we stand before God guilty and helpless, but He is willing to forgive. 
  • Jesus simply moves past all the superficial stuff and goes to the heart of the problem, which is the man’s sin, which is our sin. This is why Jesus came, to deal with sin. This is glorious to those who know their sinners. 
  • C) Note the Settled Resistance: (9:4) “Behold, some of the Scribes said to themselves, ‘This man blasphemes.’” - Not the typical definition of speaking directly against God, but  attacking the glory of God by bringing Him down to the level of man. They understood that to make that statement was to make one’s self equal to God. 
  • They have a point. To say that and not be God is the height of arrogance and blasphemy. Mark & Luke make the connection: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” The obvious answer, “No one” (Is. 43:25; Mic. 7:18; etc). First, because it is God who is the One sinned against (Ps. 51:4 “Against You, You only, have I sinned”). Secondly, it is His justice that needs to be satisfied; He alone can do that. 
  • Jesus is claiming to have the same authority & prerogative of God in relation to sin. He is claiming equality.  This was a major stumbling block for them  -  (John 10:30-33) and the ultimate justification for their murder of Him (Matt. 26:64-66).
    • There are only 2 ways to evaluate His statement: 1) if in fact He is not God He is blaspheming; and, according to Lev. 24:25-26, he should be put to death. 2) If He is God, then to deny His power and authority to forgive is to resist God Himself and to call God a liar. 
  • [divine rebuke] “Jesus, seeing their thoughts, said, ‘Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?” - again, He sees (i˙dw»n), with the eyes of omniscience; nothing escapes His gaze. Some suggest it is simply the perceptive observance of the reaction of the leaders, however,it was their “thoughts” of their heart He saw. 
    • FN: and neither are our thoughts, there is nothing said under our breath, thought, felt, intended, or desired that escapes the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. They thought there minds were a private place; they are not. 
  • “evil in your heart” - only God knows the heart (1 Sam. 16:5; 1 Kings 8:39), here Jesus knows the hearts (Rev. 2:3). Here that omniscient gaze is focused on the inner thoughts and heart of these Scribes and it is evil (ponhra»): corrupt, vile, perverse, rotten, bad. Their attributing to Jesus blasphemy for pronouncing forgiveness is identified as “evil,” not misguided or ill-informed. 
    • This is the beginning of Matthew’s record of the leader’s opposition and hostility to the Person and ministry of Jesus (culminate in ch. 12). 
    • This is a settled rebellion and hostility toward Jesus. Of course, had Jesus not done the things that He did, had He not been so clearly attested to by the prophets, John the Baptist, the Father, the Holy Spirit, and everything He said and did in His life then they would have a point; but He did.

(2) Jesus’ authority over the fruit of sin proves His authority over the root of sin:

  • A) Jesus sets a test: “for what is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, ‘Rise and walk?’” - the obvious answer would seem to be the former: “Your sins are forgiven.” But there are 2 ways to take this: 
  • (1) It is easier to say take up your mat and walk, because forgiveness of sin is completely and totally the prerogative and and within the power of God. Healing is a lesser work; many prophets did miracles (Moses, Elijah, Elisha, disciples), but none forgave a man’s sins! None had that kind of authority. This statement radically places Jesus in another category. 
  • (2) However, the Lord, playing off of their thoughts; and He does not say which is easier to do, but which is easier to “say.” In this case, the easier thing to say is: “Your sins are forgiven”  Because the reality of it is outside the ability of man to see, or verify. The truthfulness of the statement can not be proved, or disproved. It is easy to say whatever you want, but to actually back it up is a different story. 
    • A Hindu can say that a cow, or a bug, or a cat, or a whatever is a reincarnated soul. I can neither prove, nor disprove it. Men can say whatever they want the point is what can you do to back it up.  So, Jesus can say “I and the Father are one … [or] your sins are forgiven,” but to back that up with an undeniable demonstration of power is something all together different. 
    • So Jesus establishes an irrefutable test designed to utterly destroy the reasonings of their unbelief and rebellion. “Look, it is much harder to forgive sins, but it is easier to say because I can’t visibly prove or disprove it; but if I say rise … and actually display the power and authority to do it then you are left to acknowledge that I also have the authority to forgive sin, which only God can do!”
    • Therefore, the ability to heal sickness necessarily implies the ability to forgive sin, since only God has the power to do either. One implies the other and both the people and the religious leaders should have understood this (again, the connection with 8:17). 
  • “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins …” - this is the point of the miracle; to prove that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, who speaks and acts with all the authority of God, even to forgive sins, which only God can do. It to say that if Jesus has the power over the fruit of sin (sickness, disease, demons, death) then He has the power over the root of sin (guilt of the Law, corrupt heart). 
    • Put with Matt. 7:21-23 there is a comprehensive portrait Jesus’s Divine nature: He has authority to Judge sin and to Forgive sin. All of man’s future is bound to the Person of Jesus Christ. Conclusion: Jesus is God. He is Messiah. He alone can forgive sins.
  • (A) Jesus is not saying that the only thing that keeps people from believing is the amount of evidence, or the miraculous; that men only need more proof.  
    • He had already demonstrated His power over and over and over (4:23-25; 8:16; etc.). In 16:4 He will rebuke them for asking for a sign, again accusing them of being evil and spiritual adulteresses. In (John 6:30) they ask for a sign right after witnessing Him feed thousands .  
  • (B) What He is saying is this: His display of power renders all men without excuse. 
    • The issue in rejecting Jesus has nothing to do with evidence, clarity, believability, or anything of the like; it is the plainest, most reasonable thing in the world to believe in Jesus! The only hindrance to faith is the moral and spiritual rebellion of men. It is an unwillingness to acknowledge personal sin and helplessness; utter guilt and spiritual corruption.
    • God has furnished proof to all men through the resurrection (Acts 17 “all men are without excuse … furnished proof by raising Him from the dead”). Even more is the comprehensive testimony of Scripture (Luke 16 “if they won’t believe Moses and the prophets neither will they believe if someone rises from the dead”)
  • So, this is pointing us to Christ; and is showing that He is first a Savior from sin. To see in Christ anything less  than this is to miss HIm altogether. 
    • This is the heart of His mission as Messiah (1:21; 20:28). The primary purpose of His incarnation and work as the Suffering Servant, is so that He could be a substitute for His people in His life, death, and resurrection. He was headed to the cross. All the miracles the healing’s, the casting out of demons, the calming the storm, the feeding of the thousands, everything was done ultimately to point to His greater work of saving His people from their sins.
  • This is essential to understanding what He accomplished on the cross. Soon the message of repentance toward Christ, a Jewish man crucified by the Romans like a common criminal, rejected by His own people, will be proclaimed to be the hinge on which the eternal destiny of all men and even the very destruction of the world hinges. There better something to this that we can bank on. 
    • This was not simply a good man, a super spiritual man, this is God residing in human flesh. He is going to claim to accomplish a work on the cross as a substitute for the uncountable sins of millions, or billions of people.  That is a feat only God can accomplish - it better be God on that cross; not a mere man. 
    • Only God can satisfy the infinite wrath of God against so much sin; only God can satisfy the requirement of righteousness for so many countless souls. 
    • The healing’s go way beyond just making a person feel better and making this life better. It is pointing to something; it is pointing to someone; it is pointing somewhere: Jesus Christ crucified. 

“The lost will eternally suffer in the satisfaction of justice. But they will never satisfy it. Christ satisfied justice. ‘The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all’ (Isa. 53:6). He was made sin and he was made a curse. He bore our iniquities. He bore the unrelieved and unmitigated damnation of sin, and he finished it. That is the spectacle that confronts us in Gethsemane and on Calvary. This is the explanation of Gethsemane with it bloody sweat and agonizing cry, ‘O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;’ (Matt. 26:39). And this is the explanation of the most mysterious utterance that ever ascended from earth to heaven, ‘My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?’ … Here we are the spectators of a wonder the praise and glory of which eternity will not exhaust. It is the Lord of glory, the Son of God incarnate, the God-man, drinking the cup given him by the eternal Father, the cup of wrath and of indescribable agony. We almost hesitate to say so. But it must be said. It is God in our nature forsaken of God. The cry from the accursed tree evinces nothing less than the abandonment that is the wages of sin. And it is the abandonment endured vicariously because he bore our sins in his own body on the cross.” (John Murray, Redemption). 

    • Do you see this? This is God the Son in the flesh come to rescue His people from their sin, from the wrath of God, His own wrath against sin. To save the worthy - perish the thought - to save sinners; worms; rebels against an all holy, infinitely glorious God. We should be stunned. God forgives sin!
  • “Seeing this, the crowds became frightened and gave glory to God who had given such authority to men.” - they almost got it; here authority is probably best taken in connection with His ability to forgive sin. The problem is that that is not what the crowds were most interested in, nor what they saw as their greatest need. They simply did not see their sin as their greatest problem. Oppression from disease and demons, maybe; oppression from a wicked foreign government, some; but not forgiveness from sin just wasn’t as exciting. 
    • Christ is only most and rightly precious to those who see themselves as great sinners. This is why the Scribes, the Pharisees, most of the crowds, and today people reject Him, because they simply are not great sinners (“did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”). The righteous have no need to come. People will come to Christ for all kinds of reasons, but when repentance is mentioned, the cost are laid out, then the interest suddenly wanes and people then flock to a ministry that gives them the God they want, the Savior that is more useful to them, and isn’t so judgmental, demanding, holy. 
  • How tragic that many are in the same boat today, who see in Christ only His benefits in this life, and not His truest accomplishment, which is the atonement through which a man maybe reconciled to God. 
    • So, they went away amazed, but largely unforgiven; and that with the Savior so clearly displayed before them in such a dramatic demonstration of grace and power. 
  • Some believe, some rejected, some simply never got past the superficial, but all were brought under the clear display of his glory and made to see His authority to accomplish exactly what He said He came to do. 
    • He shines forth as the Messiah, the promised One, the God child of Is. 9:6, the guilt offering of Is. 53; the Priest King of Psalm 110, the gentle Savior of the incarnate Son of God, who is Lord of all. 
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