Preached @ Anchor Community Church on October 26th, 2014
Our passage today is a very important passage reminding us of the heart of the Christian message
To this, John MacArthur writes, “Clearly and unquestionably the most distinctive thing that Christianity has to proclaim is the reality that sin can be forgiven. That is the heart and the very lifeblood of the Christian message.”
Big Picture: Jesus came with the authority to Forgive sins!
Let’s not lose sight of Big Picture. As we recall Matthew arranges his material topically, with a Purpose. From chapter four through chapter nine Matthew is showing us that Jesus is the Messiah who has come to fulfill a promise to preach the gospel, and to heal those that are hurting. It’s a Kingdom fulfillment of what God is doing through Christ (See Matthew 4:23; 9:36)
The miracles in chapter eight have shown us:
- Jesus’ authority over physical disease
- Jesus’ authority over nature
- Jesus’ authority over the spiritual realm
- Jesus’ authority over sin
All of which demonstrate that God is rebooting His Kingdom plan physically, ecologically, spiritually and personally. Matthew’s purpose is to show us that Jesus is the Promised Messiah, and today he is reminding us that Jesus’ Kingdom Mission must stay in view!
In Matthew 8:18-22 Matthew connected us to the reality of what it means to follow Jesus. Today’s passage shows us the authority of Jesus to Forgive Sins, and soon we will see the commissioning of true followers to take part in the ministry (Matthew 10:5-42). His mission is in view. It is easy to allow some need or cause to co-opt Jesus’ mission, and Matthew wants to make sure that people aren’t see in His mission as one of healing physical diseases only, it is so much more.
In our passage, Jesus comes back home and many show up Matthew 9:1. Both Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26 record this story and add details. One interesting detail is that the crowd was so large that the paralytic man needed his friends to cut a hole in the roof to lower him to Jesus. This definitely gives us a picture of intercessory from faithful friends, but it is not the main point of the story.
Matthew shortens the story to stick to his main point; that Jesus forgives sin! Matthew keeps the gospel and Christ’s mission in the forefront. He doesn’t allow Christ’s mission to be co-opted by people’s demands, however, Jesus compassion is clear once again, but this is more than another Healing story:
Two Important Points in our passage today:
From the Head…
Humanities Main Problem Is Sin, Not Disease (Matthew 9:2)
Earlier we have explored sin’s relation to disease, and saw that while disease may not have a direct connection to sin (See John 9:2-3), it definitely has an indirect one. Disease and death are part of the fall. Jesus immediately perceives that this man is paralyzed, but instead of saying you are well, or get up, He tells the man his “Sins are forgiven.” Seems like a weird thing to say, but in retrospect it highlights Jesus’ mission, and the fact that sin is a more devastating problem for humanity than death and disease. There is no clarity as to whether Jesus perceived this man’s paralysis was directly related to sin, but it is clear that Jesus felt sin was his main problem.
In Matthew 8:16-17, we saw that Matthew tethered Jesus’ healing ministry to the cross, as outlined in Isaiah 53. Jesus came to heal humanities biggest problem, sin, and forgiveness is crucial to our connection to God. There is “Healing” in the atonement, but it is not the main course, since man will die anyway. It’s a reminder what God will do in eternity.
Today we either ignore or trivialize sin, or we blame it on someone or something else. We are not that sinful, so we do not need God to forgive us.
Not only is it important to recognize sin as our biggest problem, but it is equally important to know that Jesus has authority to forgive us our sin because He is God.
Jesus’ Authority to Forgive Sins Proves That He Is God (Matthew 9:3-7)
This is a major debate amongst those that hold a less orthodox approach to Christianity and those that don’t. The debate is centered throughout the past 2000 years as to who Jesus was/is. Is He a great teacher? Is He a healer, a sage, or a dangerous man?? Maybe they are all correct, but Jesus’ demands on us seem to present Jesus as something so much more, and His ability to forgive sins only complicates the matter more if your are struggling to believe He was God in the flesh.
The fact is religious leaders understood the issue before them, and accused Jesus of “Blasphemy” (βλασφεμω, to Slander). The idea behind the word is that Jesus had “Slandered” God by claiming his ability to be what only God can do; forgive sins! This is exactly what Jesus was ultimately killed for (See Matthew 26:65; Mark 14:64; John 10:33). Matthew 26:65 says, “Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.”
Jesus then asks a weird question in verse 5, “Which is easier to say, your sins are forgiven or rise and walk?” To the modern skeptic, the answer is simple, “Your sins are forgiven,” since there is no proof, and anyone can say that, but to the 1st century religious Jew the answer was “Rise and walk,” because in order to forgive sins, you needed to be God, and they didn’t believe Jesus was He. Jesus then uses the less difficult to prove his Authority on the more difficult. How could God bless Jesus if He’s a “Blasphemer?” (See John 9:30-31), “30 the man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.”
He proved His divinity through His healing, and His right to forgive sins. If Jesus wasn’t who He said He was, then God would not bless His request to heal this man, yet He did.
There is one more hint in our passage in regard to who Jesus is, and what Matthew wants us to know. Jesus’ refers to Himself as the “Son of man,” a title He often used for (See Daniel 7:13-14). What did He mean? He certainly was a “Son of Man,” coming from the loins of Mary and Joseph, but there is more to the title. The prophet Daniel uses the term to refer to the Messiah, the “Ancient” one who would reign forever; 13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
Once again Matthew points us to the eternal Jesus, the one who was from before, and who will come to judge and reign supremely in His Kingdom.
…to the Heart
How did the people react? (Matthew 9:8)? Like anyone who has seen something like this man; in fear, awe, respect and glory. It is clear that they do not know who He is, since they call Him a man, but they know He is different.
What we do know is that Matthew wants us to know that Jesus came on mission to forgive sins, and that’s what He did on His cross. Luke 23:34 reminds us that “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.”
At the heart of our faith is the “Weak” virtue of forgiveness, which always costs someone something. Forgiveness does reek of capitulation; we are giving up ground when we forgive. Jesus forgave in spite of our those that arrogantly were spitting on Him, yet we demand that forgiveness is not proper until the right conditions are met, which usually means, they have asked for it, and they have made proper amends commensurate with their crime against us.
Thanks God, that is not what God requires of us, because it is our sin that put Him on the cross, and it is our sin that contributes to the vileness in our world. Yet, in spite of our disdain for God, He demonstrated His love toward us, and took on sin on our behalf, so that we could be right once again with our creator. It is that type of forgiveness that drives us to love and forgive like Jesus did.
Questions To Ponder
- Why does Jesus forgive his sins?
- What does forgiveness of sins have to do with being paralyzed?
- Why is Jesus being accused of blasphemy?
- What do you need to know you are forgiven for right now?
For Further Reading
A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Craig S. Keener
The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, Michael J. Wilkins
The Gospel According to Matthew, Leon Morris
Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament 1A, ed. Manlio Simonetti
Sermon On the Mount; Sinclair Ferguson