Lesson: Matthew 9:1-8; Time of Action: 28 A.D.; Place of Action: Capernaum
Golden Text: “But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” (Matthew 9:8).
I. INTRODUCTION. This week’s lesson reminds us that the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit because they are spiritually discerned (see I Corinthians 2:14). The scribes in our text were familiar with the Scriptures that speak of Christ, but they did not accept Him when He came, even though He did what only God can do. The Lord has no problem with proving His authority to those who believe. Jesus displayed His lordly authority to calm winds and seas, to cast out evil spirits, to heal the body, and most impressive of all, to forgive the sins men commit against God.
II. BACKGROUND FOR THE LESSON. This week’s lesson takes place almost immediately after Jesus calmed the storm suffered by His disciples on the Sea of Galilee (see Matthew 8:23-27), and delivered two men from demon-possession (see 8:28-32). When Jesus cast out the demons, they begged Him to allow them to enter into a herd of pigs that were feeding in the area. Jesus gave them their wish and the demons entered into the pigs causing them to go berserk and dive into the sea (see Matthew 8:32). Out of fear, the herdsman ran into the city and reported everything that they had seen (see Matthew 8:33). Then the whole city came to where Jesus was to see Him. When they saw Jesus, it appears that they were more concerned about the loss of their pigs than the two previously demon-possessed men because they begged Jesus to leave their region (see Matthew 8:34). Our lesson begins with chapter 9.
III. JESUS’ AUTHORITY TO HEAL (Matthew 9:1-4)
A. Jesus returns to His home base (Matthew 9:1). Our first verse says “And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city.” After setting the two men free form demon possession, Jesus “entered into a ship,” probably the same one they were on during the storm and brought them to Gadara (see Luke 8:26-27). Upon entering the boat, they“passed over” or crossed back over, the Sea of Galilee “and came into his own city.” The phrase “his own city” refers to Capernaum, which was located on the northeastern shore of the sea. Matthew’s account does not tell us which city was Jesus’“own city,” but Mark’s account says that it was Capernaum (see Mark 2:1). If we didn’t have Mark’s information we might assume that “his own city” referred to Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. But when Jesus began His ministry, the people in Nazareth rejected Him (see Luke 4:16-30), so He went to Capernaum and made that city His base of operations for His ministry (see Matthew 4:12-13; 8:5; 17:24; Mark 1:21; 9:33; Luke 4:23, 31; John 6:24, 59). Note: It should be noted that the gospels of Mark and Luke place the events recorded here in Matthew 9:2-8 before those recorded in Matthew 8:28 through Matthew 9:1. Therefore, the healing of the demon-possessed men most likely took place after the forgiving and healing of the paralytic in our printed text. This would mean that Matthew’s arrangement of his account at this point is more topical than chronological or in order. As we study the lessons from Matthew, we may find that the accounts he writes about will have different aspects and less information than the same accounts in Mark and Luke. All three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) record some of the same events, but not all the writers include the same information about those events. Matthew tends to give the briefest or shortest accounts of some of the events than Mark and Luke do. As a result, it is important to use information from all three Gospels in order to get a complete understanding of what took place. In our study of Matthew we will also review the parallel accounts in Mark and Luke. In our study, there may be some events that may appear to be contradictory in these Gospels. But there are no contradictions in what Matthew writes compared to Mark and Luke. We must realize that different people can see the same events differently. Some will remember certain details, while others may leave out those same details completely. This would reveal that the Gospel writers did not collaborate when they wrote their respective accounts. It also confirms that the writer of each account had specific goals in mind that were governed by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (see II Timothy 3:16).
B. Jesus’ assurance of forgiveness (Matthew 9:2). This verse says “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.” In both Mark and Luke, this same account has more information than Matthew’s account. For instance, both Mark and Luke tell us that this event took place in a house (see Mark 2:1; Luke 5:19), possibly the home of Peter’s mother-in-law (see Mark 2:29-39; 2:1), but none of the gospel writers specifically say whose house it was. According to Mark 2:1, news soon spread that Jesus that Jesus was in this house teaching and preaching the word to those gathered in the house (see Mark 2:2; Luke 5:17). Mark also tells us that there were so many people gathered in this house, which was probably very small, that there was not enough room for them all (see Mark 2:2). While Jesus was proclaiming God’s Word to the throng of people in the house, this verse says “And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed.” The term “palsy” refers to some kind of paralysis. The man was paralyzed and undoubtedly couldn’t walk. Mark tells us that this man was brought to this house to Jesus by “four men” carrying him (see Mark 2:3). Here Matthew says that they brought him “lying on a bed” probably a pallet or stretcher. Although Matthew omits some information here, Mark writes that the crowd was so large that the men couldn’t get the paralyzed man to Jesus (see Mark 2:4). So these men came up with a plan to get him to Jesus. They made an opening in the roof (that is the ceiling tiles) of the house and lowered the pallet on which the man was lying so that he was right in front of Jesus (see Mark 2:4; Luke 5:19). Note: In ancient Palestine a house typically had a flat roof with an outside stairway leading up to it. These four enterprising friends of the paralytic evidently carried him up the outside stairs to the roof and made a hole in it and lowered the man to the Saviour. At this point, this verse says “and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” Both Mark and Luke’s Gospels include the words that Jesus spoke here. However, they don’t include the words “Son, be of good cheer.” But that does not mean Jesus didn’t say this. Remember, although all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) may tell the same stories, they may not have provided the same information. This is because, each writer wrote what the Holy Spirit inspired them to write (see II Timothy 3:16). All three Gospels mention that Jesus recognized the faith of these four men and the paralyzed man, so here Matthew says “and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy.” More often than not, faith is seen in our actions or what we do (see James 2:20). Even though there is no direct reference to the sick man’s “faith,” undoubtedly the words “their faith”included the sick man. All five men must’ve believed that the Lord Jesus could heal the paralytic. Most of the time in Scripture, “faith” is either stated or implied in miracle healings. If healing does not happen, this does not mean there is a lack of “faith.” Sometimes God will allow the sickness to continue to help us trust in His grace (see II Corinthians 12:7-9). After acknowledging the “faith” shown by these five men (the four men and the paralyzed man), Jesus said to the sick man “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” This does not mean that all sickness is directly caused by sin, but some illnesses may (see John 5:5-9, 14). Jesus was addressing the most important thing first—the man’s spiritual well-being. The paralytic’s most basic need was the condition of his soul rather than the condition of his body. Note: We may wonder what the paralytic thought when Jesus said “thy sins be forgiven thee.” We must keep in mind that it was a common belief of that day that sin and sickness stood in very close relationship. In fact, a popular view was that sickness always resulted from sin. Jesus made it clear that this view was incorrect (see John 9:1-3). By addressing the man as “son”Jesus was most likely emphasizing that all who earnestly come to Him will be admitted into God’s family. The term rendered“forgiven” means “let go” or “pardoned.” Only God has the authority and power to remit or send away a sinner’s transgressions. And this is the one fundamental meaning of forgiveness—to separate the sin from the sinner. By His statement, Jesus was claiming the right to forgive sins, and He could legitimately do so because He is the Son of God. Note:Christians have the authority to tell others how to be forgiven by sharing the gospel with them (see Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 2:36-41; 3:19; 16:30-34). However, we don’t have the authority or power to forgive sins the same way that Jesus declares a person forgiven. Yes, we can grant forgiveness to those who have hurt or harmed us (see Ephesians 4:32), but we can’t claim to be able to pardon or forgive sin the way God does (see Isaiah 43:25).
C. Jesus is accused of blasphemy (Matthew 9:3). This verse says “And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.” After Jesus declared that He had forgiven the paralyzed man’s sins, “certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.” According to Luke’s account, the “scribes” were experts in the Old Testament Law. Along with some Pharisees they came to Capernaum where Jesus was teaching from every village of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem (see Luke 5:17) and were sitting in the gathering. They immediately concluded and “said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.” The term rendered “blasphemeth” means “to speak evil of” or “to defame something or someone” especially God. It can include scornful contempt for someone or claiming to be divine. Some of these “scribes” only saw the fact that Jesus had made a statement only God could rightfully make. So they considered this to be blasphemy. These religious leaders knew that only God has the authority to pardon sins for Luke 5:21 says that they began to reason among themselves saying “Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” So, since they did not believe that Jesus was God, they concluded that He was slandering or blaspheming God.
IV. JESUS’ AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SINS (Matthew 9:4-8)
A. Jesus’ response (Matthew 9:4-6).
1. (vs. 4). This verse says “And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” We naturally think that no one knows what we are thinking, so it must have been shocking to the scribes that the Lord Jesus knew what they were thinking. Not only could Jesus forgive sin, as the Son of God He could also read the minds and thoughts of men. So here we are told that “Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” In the previous verse, the religious leaders had questioned Jesus’ authority and doubted His deity and Messiahship; but He demonstrated that He is God through His knowledge of the “thoughts” of the scribes. Jesus questioned these religious leaders as to why they were thinking “evil” of Him. They were not thinking, “Could this man be God in the flesh?” which would have been the opposite thought to blasphemy. This is the usual reaction of the unsaved person when they come in contact with the Scriptures or Christians or anything that would draw them to God and His salvation.
2. (vs. 5). This verse says “For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?” After asking the scribes why they had evil thoughts about Him, Jesus went right to the point asking them what was the “easier”thing to say “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” which could not be seen, proved, or disproved, or to say “Arise, and walk” which could be seen and demonstrated. Of course, a person can say almost anything whether or not they have the authority to do it, but without the authority or power to work a miracle nothing that could be seen would change. In actual fact, it is impossible for a mere human being to do either one, but only the miracle of healing can be verified by sight. But what is impossible for people to do, is easily possible for God (see Matthew 19:25-26). Note: A religious fraud would find it easier to claim that a person’s sins were forgiven than to miraculously heal a person of some sickness. Of course anyone can say that someone’s sins are forgiven since no one can really see if God has removed those sins. However, to say that a paralyzed man is healed can be seen immediately and there would be no doubt that a miracle has taken place. But if Jesus could not heal the man, it would also prove that He could not forgive sin. Many desperate people have looked for people who claim to have the gift of healing, but have been disappointed to find out that was not the case. Today, many of the supposed healings that we hear about often deal with illnesses that can’t be seen with the naked eye, so if healing did occur we have no way to prove or verify it. Most of the biblical healings could be proved immediately by sight (see John 9:1-7; Acts 3:1-10). There was no kind of deception involved. The point is that it’s okay to be skeptical of anyone claiming to have powers that they don’t actually have. The Bible reminds us that there are some people who don’t even know the Lord but may be able to perform miracles (see Matthew 7:21-23).
3. (vs. 6). This verse says “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.” Although the religious leaders didn’t ask for proof that Jesus could “forgive sins,” He gave it to them anyway. First, He said “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins…” Here Jesus referred to Himself as the “Son of man.” This title revealed the deity (see Daniel 7:13-14), Messiahship, as well as the humanity (see Mark 8:31; 10:45) of Christ. This was Jesus’ favorite way of identifying Himself. In most of the Old Testament, “son of man” usually meant “human being,” but Daniel 7:13, says “the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven.” This definitely refers to the Messiah. Jesus wanted the Pharisees and scribes to know that “the Son of man” had divine authority and “power on earth to forgive sins.” To convince them of this, Jesus commanded the paralyzed man to stand, pick up his “bed” or pallet and go home. Jesus’ point was that if He could heal the man’s physical illness, He had the same authority in the spiritual realm. Having the power and authority over sickness and disease should have made it clear to the religious leaders that “the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins…” Jesus was declaring that on earth, He alone has the special authority to forgive our “sins.”
B. Bringing glory to God (Matthew 9:7-8).
1. (vs. 7). This verse says “And he (the paralyzed man) arose, and departed to his house.” To the amazement of the religious leaders and the large crowd of people watching, just as Jesus had commanded, the paralyzed man immediately stood up took his pallet and went home. By healing the paralytic, Jesus also confirmed His claim to have divine authority to forgive sins. Unlike the religious leaders and spiritual frauds, Jesus had the ability to heal people both physically and spiritually. The fact that this man was healed immediately should not cause us to devalue the need for medical science today. However, we should not confuse miracles with other means of healing, many of which take a longer period of time for the person to return to full strength and health.
2. (vs. 8). Our final verse says “But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.” When the large crowd of people saw the paralytic get up, pick up his pallet and go home,“they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.” In other words, instead of criticizing, they praised God. This does not mean that the “multitude” realized that they were in the presence of God in the flesh. We don’t know if any people in the crowd were convinced enough to believe in Jesus and to follow Him. This proves the truth that miracles alone did not and will not convince people that Jesus was the Messiah (see Luke 16:27-31). We are only told that the“multitude” was amazed at what they saw and “glorified God” because He “had given such power unto men.” But what we should take away from the response of the crowd is that God must be “glorified” because of all the power He has given to men to do good. All power is originally His, for power belongs to God (see Psalms 62:11).
V. Conclusion. This week’s lesson has practical application for us as believers. There are people all around us who have severe physical and spiritual needs. But how will we respond to their needs? Let us not be like the religious leaders who showed no concern or compassion for the plight of the paralyzed man. Let us be like the Saviour who cared enough to make a difference in the life of a hurting person. Like Jesus, let us take the time to reach out to others in need. We will never regret such a display of Christlike love.
***The Bible Expositor and Illuminator, Union Gospel Press Sunday School Curriculum***
Bible Studies are led every Wednesday through the Spring and Fall months at 7:oop.m.