“Emmanuel’s Domain Part 3” – Matthew 9:1-8

June 28th, 2015

Matthew 9:1-8 (see also Mk 2:1-12 & Lk 5:17-26)

“Emmanuel’s Domain Pt. 3”


Service Orientation:  Do we see Jesus’ proven ability to forgive sins as the coup de grace of your apprehensions to not trust and follow Jesus?  Matthew does.


coup de grace = death blow or stroke of mercy for one suffering from a fatal injury.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. —  Micah 7:18


Background Information:

  • Matthew has already shown us in chapter 8 that Jesus has authority over disease–leprosy, paralysis, and fevers are all His servants. He also has authority over disciples, disasters, and demons.  And all this is good news for followers of Christ.  We trust in His authority over all these things and we rejoice in it.  Now in chapter 9, this portrait gets more beautiful, for we realize that we have only been touching on the surface of the real problem.  The real problem of the human condition is much deeper and much more severe than a cancer diagnosis or a tornado coming through your neighborhood.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 118)
  • Having been asked by the people of Gadara to leave, Jesus got into the boat and went to the north coast, to His residence at Capernaum, very likely with Simon Peter (implied in 8:14). This may account for the explicit details in Mk 2:1-12, as he related this story as told to him by Peter.  Since it took place in Peter’s house, he would have noticed in detail the breaking open of the roof so that the men could lower the paralytic in front of Jesus.  Matthew omits these details, concentrating less upon the faith of the friends than upon the authority of Jesus to release the paralytic by forgiving his sins!  (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 120)
  • In chapter 9 Jesus is going to be accused of blasphemy (9:1-8), immorality (9:10-13), slackness in piety (9:14-17), and being in league with the Devil (9:31-34). Thus begins his battle with the religious leaders of the day.  (Paraphrase of  William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 324-5)
  • Note verse 6: “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” That’s what this passage is about.  If you’ve missed that message, you’ve missed everything.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 235)
  • (v.2) Matthew omits here, what seems to us 21st century American Christians, a critical detail to which both Mark and Luke refer: That the four friends of the paralyzed man tear open the roof to lower the man to Jesus.  Could it be that Matthew omits this detail because he knows that his Jewish audience (Matthew was written primarily to Jews), with their legalistic tendencies, would find the destruction of the man’s house a stumbling block for the greater message of Jesus’ authority over the spiritual and moral realm with his demonstration that Jesus has authority to forgive sins.  And, I might add, I have heard Americans express this same objection.  Which betrays their priorities and their values. — Pastor Keith
  • (v.2) Aphiēmi, the verb behind are forgiven, has the basic idea of sending or driving away, of doing away with. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us,” David declared (Ps 103:12).  When God forgives sins He casts them “into the depths of the sea” (Mic 7:19).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 51-2)
  • (v. 2) The position of the Greek words makes “forgiven” emphatic. No doubt all present were much surprised, when instead of healing the bodily disease, Jesus spoke to the man thus.  (Alvah Hovey, American Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 195)
  • (v. 3) Blasphemy meant to curse, revile, or insult the name of God. Innocent persons could be accused, convicted, and killed without having a chance to defend themselves.  In fact, the public cause of Jesus’ death was blasphemy.  Those directly responsible for his execution wanted the charge posted:  “This man said, I am King of the Jews” (Jn 19:21 NRSV).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 173)
  • (v. 3) According to the Jewish teachers of that time, blasphemy was any violation of the majesty of God. Any action or word that marred or sullied the magnificence and holiness of God was regarded as blasphemy.  I believe that no sin is committed more often or more casually in Western culture today than the sin of blasphemy.  We hardly blink when the majesty of God is insulted.  But to the Jews, it was a major matter.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 264)
  • (v. 3) This is the first time in this gospel that we find Jesus in controversy with scribes and/or Pharisees, a theme which will be taken further in the immediately following pericopes (9:11-13, 14-17) and will become a central motif of Matthew’s story. Jesus’ own words in 5:20 and Matthew’s editorial comment in 7:29 have already laid the foundation for this conflict of interests, which will develop in the Jerusalem phase of the story into a serious power struggle, as the “new wine” of Jesus’ introduction of the kingdom of heaven comes into confrontation with the accepted authority structures of first-century Judaism, resulting in their mutual repudiation.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 343)
  • (v. 6) The word “authority” is in this passage so placed as to be emphatic, “the Son of man hath authority,” etc. (Alvah Hovey, American Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 197)

(v. 8) The news spreads quickly, so that the place where he is becomes overcrowded.  Included in the throng are Pharisees and scribes (doctors of the law) from every village of Galilee and Judea.  Some have even come all the way from Jerusalem.  The Master begins to bring the message.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 417)

  • (v. 8) Phobeō (filled with awe) is the term from which we get phobia and is often translated “fear.” But the most common use of it in the NT represents reverential awe, not cringing fright.  It expresses the feeling of a person who is in the presence of someone infinitely superior.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 55)
  • The earlier connection (8:17) between healing and the atonement confirms that this sin-forgiving, sinner-transforming ministry was central to everything else that he did. The same point is spelled out in the next two segments of Matthew 9; and it is decisively confirmed by the obvious fact that the movement in all four Gospels is toward the cross and the empty tomb.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 205)


Forgiveness is man’s deepest need and God’s highest achievement. —  Horace Bushnell


NASA = one of the OT Hebrews words for forgiveness.  NASA literally means to be taken up and away; to be lifted up.


The question to be answered is . . .  Why does Matthew save this healing of the paralytic and resultant interaction between Jesus and the teachers of the Law as one of the last in a long series of evidences of Jesus’ authority?


Answer: Because Jesus proves that He also has moral authority over sin and forgiveness.  This not only means He is God; but, it also means Jesus can solve all the problems of a fallen, broken world at the very core or root.


Guilt causes people to flee.  Freud’s theory is a massive attempt to escape his own guilt.  He understands that to escape guilt he must first escape God.  So much of modern thought is an attempt to escape the one who is inescapable.  (R.C. Sproul, The Consequences of Ideas, 197)


The Greek word aphientai, translated “forgiven,” means to leave or let go, to give up a debt, to send away from oneself.  When we say we have forgiven a person, we mean that we have renewed our relationship despite the wrong that the person did.  But we cannot erase or change the act itself.  But the notion of aphiemi goes far beyond our human forgiveness, for it includes the “putting away” of sin in two ways: (1) The law and justice are satisfied because Jesus paid the penalty that our sins deserved; thus, they can no longer be held against us.  (2) The guilt caused by our sin is removed and replaced with Christ’s righteousness.  We are so forgiven that, in God’s eyes, it is as if we had never sinned.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 172)


Matthew’s point is that Jesus raised the sin question because the final purpose of his coming was to deal with it, not to ignore it or treat it lightly.  How different from people today, or even some of the people in this story!  Today we do any of three things, or all of them:  (1) we ignore sin, as if it does not exist, (2) we blame it on someone else, either our genes or our environment, or (3) we pretend that it does not matter.  But sin does matter!  It is the source of all our problems, and Jesus takes it seriously.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 148)


The Word for the Day is . . . Authority


The most distinctive message of Christianity is the reality that sin can be forgiven.  That is the heart and lifeblood of the gospel, that men can be freed from sin and its consequences.  The Christian faith has many truths, values, and virtues, each of which has countless applications in the lives of believers.  But its supreme, overarching good news is that sinful man can be fully cleansed and brought into eternal fellowship with holy God.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 47)


What does this passage teach us about Jesus?:

I-  Jesus is able to recognize faith and unbelief.  The first pleases Jesus and the second offends and is evil.  (Mt 9:2-4; see also: 1 Sm 16:7; Ps 19; 139:2; Jer 17:10; Ez 11:5; Mk 2:5; Lk 5:20; Rom 1:18-32; 1 Cor 2:11; Heb 4:12-13; 11:6; Jam 2:1-26; )


To know the hearts of men was, with the Jews, a test of the true Messiah’s claims.  When Bar Cocav declared himself Messiah, the rabbis quoted Isa 9:3, and examined him to see if he could reveal the secrets of their hearts.  He failed, and they slew him.  (D. D. Whedon, Commentary on The Gospels, 115)


Like the leper and the centurion of chapter 8, these five men (the paralytic included) didn’t question in their hearts whether Jesus could heal, only if he would heal.  Thus, they took a bold step of faith, no matter the social or material cost, to see what would happen.  Jesus saw this faith, and he liked what he saw.  As we will see throughout this Gospel, faith manifests itself not so much by what one knows or feels, but by what one does in response to Jesus.  These men wholeheartedly trusted that Jesus was sufficient.  That’s why they did what they did.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 232)


The pains they (paralytic’s friends) had taken (Mark and Luke) showed their faith all the more plainly.  (Alvah Hovey, American Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 195)


Whether Jesus knew their thoughts (Mt 9:4) by some supernatural perception of his own, or simply from the rather obvious shuffling and muttering, makes little difference.  Either way he detects the malignant intent of their whispered criticism:  “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?” he asks (9:4).  It is not so much that their concern to preserve the holiness of God was wrong, as that their inability to grasp Jesus’ true identity was in part a moral failure.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 203)


When we complain, what we are really saying is, “I could have done a better job than God in this instance.  If I had made the choice, I would have done this and so…”  This is blasphemy.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 95)


Whatever we get bored with, we perceive as smaller than us.  (Peter Kreft lecture, “The Mystery of the Sea”)


II-  Jesus proves He has authority to forgive sins and thus heal.  (Mt 9:2-6; see also: Lv chps 4-6; Ps 25:11; 32:5; 51:4; 103:3, 12; 130:4; Isa 1:18; 33:24; 40:2; 43:25; 44:22; 55:6-7; Jer 31:34; Joel 2:32; Mic 7:18-19; Zech 13:1; Dn 7:13-14; Mt 1:21-23; 2:5; 26:28;  Mk 2:10; Lk 5:20-24; 7:47-49; Jn 10:33; Rom 5:6-21; 2 Cor 5:21; Col 1:13-14; 2:13; 3:13; Heb chps 8-10; 1 Jn 1:9; 2:12)


Several verses in the OT indicate that sickness and death result from humanity’s sinful condition (see, for example, Ps 41:3-4; 103:2-3; and Jam 5:13-18 for the NT parallel).  So God works forgiveness and healing together.  That does not mean that we can measure a person’s spiritual health by looking at his or her physical health.  But all sickness and death are the result of evil and sin.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 172)


He asked in effect, “do you think it impossible for Me to forgive sins?  Is one easier than the other?”  Sin and disease are inseparable, just as are sin and demons, sin and death, sin and disaster, and sin and the devil.  The One who brought the kingdom would have to deal with sin or else He could not deal with the rest; and the One who could deal with the rest could also deal with sin.  If Jesus could not deal with sin by putting it away, He could not deal with anything else related to sin.  But He could deal with both sin and its symptoms.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 54)


Since it was widely accepted that only God could forgive sin (cf. Isa 43:25), the point of view of the scribes seemed irrefutable.  Jesus, in declaring that the sins of the paralyzed man were forgiven, was blaspheming (v. 3).  The only alternative would be that Jesus was a divine being, and that was a conclusion they chose not to accept.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 82)


In Jewish law, blasphemy was punishable by death (Lv 24:16).  In labeling Jesus’ claim to forgive sins as blasphemous, the religious leaders showed they did not understand that Jesus was God.  Jesus had God’s power and authority to heal bodies and forgive sins.  Forgiveness of sins was a sign that the messianic age had come (Isa 40:2; Joel 2:32; Mic 7:18-19; Zech 13:1).  Unfortunately, it did not occur to these Jewish leaders that perhaps this man was their Messiah.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 173-4)


It’s easy to tell someone his sins are forgiven; it’s a lot more difficult to reverse a case of paralysis!  Jesus backed up his words by healing the man’s legs.  Jesus’ action showed that his words were true; he had the power to forgive as well as to heal.  Talk is cheap; our words lack meaning if our actions do not back them up.  We can say we love God or others, but if we are not taking practical steps to demonstrate that love, our words are empty and meaningless.  How well do your actions back up what you say?  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 175)


I doubt that Jesus had any formal education in philosophy, but he certainly demonstrated a mastery of the art of argument.  Here our Lord gives what philosophers call an a fortiori argument, which goes like this:  if something more difficult can be achieved, then this guarantees the validity of the claim of something less difficult.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 234-5)


Forgiveness of sin is God’s greatest gift because it meets man’s greatest need.  Sin is a transgression of God’s law (1 Jn 3:4) and defiles His image in man, staining his soul with Satan’s image (Jn 6:70; 8:44).  Sin is hostility and rebellion against God (Lv 26:27; 1 Tm 1:9).  It is ingratitude toward God (Josh 2:10-12), is incurable by man himself (Jer 13:23), affects all men (Rom 3:23), and affects the total man (Jer 19:9), body, mind, and spirit.  It brings men under the dominion of Satan and the wrath of God (Eph 2:2-3), and it is so persistent in the heart of man that even the regenerate person needs to continually fight against it (Rom 7:19).  It subjects man to trouble (Job 5:7), emptiness (Rom 8:20), lack of peace (Isa 57:21), and to eternal hell if he does not repent (2 Thes 1:9).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 52)


Only God is able to calm the wind and the waves.  Only God is able to command disease.  Only God can forgive sins.  Therefore, since Jesus does all these things, we conclude that Jesus is God.  In other words, the King is here.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 119)


It is no doubt true, that God alone has power and authority to forgive sins:  but they are wrong in concluding that it does not belong to Christ, for he is God manifested in the flesh, (1 Tm 3:16).  They had a right to inquire on what grounds Christ laid claim to such authority; but, without any inquiry, they suppose him to be one of the common rank of men, and proceed rashly to condemn him.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 395)


He has the power to forgive sins on earth; that is, if sins are to be forgiven at all, they must be forgiven on earth.  And He is the One who forgives them.  It is no use taking our sins to a priest; we must take them to Jesus.  Once we leave this life, it is too late to have our sins forgiven.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 169)


The present tense of Jesus’ assurance (literally, “Your sins are being forgiven”) reads like a performative utterance:  Jesus is not merely stating a fact, but is there and then forgiving the sins by his own authority, without any formal atonement having been made.  That is what the scribes will object to.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 345)


The charge of blasphemy, which will later become the justification for Jewish condemnation of Jesus (26:65-66), is explained in Mark and Luke by the statement that only God can forgive sins.  Matthew assumes that his readers do not need that explanation.  Jesus has taken upon himself, without explanation or apology, a divine prerogative.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 346)


The rhetorical question of v. 5 implies that if the “harder” of the two options can be demonstrated, the “easier” may be assumed also to be possible.  It might be suggested that to forgive sins is the harder, since only God can do it, but Jesus’ question is not about which is easier to do, but which is easier to say, and a claim to forgive sins is undoubtedly easier to make, since it cannot be falsified by external events, whereas a claim to make a paralyzed man walk will be immediately proved true or false by a success or failure which everyone can see.  This will be the logic of what follows:  Jesus’ demonstrable authority to cure the disabled man is evidence that he also has authority to forgive sins.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 346)


Jesus is not arguing that it is not God’s prerogative to forgive sins, but rather that he himself, uniquely, shares it.  The Son of Man, who according to Dn 7:13-14 will be enthroned in heaven to share God’s sovereignty over all peoples, is already during his earthly ministry (hence the addition of “on earth,” in distinction from his future heavenly sovereignty) authorized to dispense God’s forgiveness.  The forgiveness of sins as such was not, of course, a part of Daniel’s vision of the authority of the Son of Man.  Jesus is not expounding Dn 7, but boldly extrapolating from that vision to make a claim for his present status, as he will do again in 12:8.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 347)


Sin unforgiven is Satan’s best friend, man’s chief enemy.  The section about to be studied proves that the Great Physician is a Healer also in this respect.  While ridding man of physical illness, he also wields the power to deliver him from sin, the greatest of all evils…  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 416-7)


The inference seems altogether justified that the matter about which the paralytic was concerned more than about anything else was not the paralysis of his body but the perilous state of his soul.  Hence, before making any other pronouncement Jesus absolves him from guilt.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 418)


The scribes were right in considering the remission of sins to be a divine prerogative (Ps 103:12; Isa 1:18; 43:25; 55:6, 7; Jer 31:34; Mic 7:19).  To be sure, there is a sense in which we, too, forgive, namely, when we earnestly resolve not to take revenge but instead to love the one who has injured us, to promote his welfare, and never again to bring up the past (Mt 6:12, 15; 18:21; Lk 6:37; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13).  But basically, as described, it is God alone who forgives.  It is he alone who is able to remove guilt and to declare that it has actually been removed.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 419)


The OT tells us that Messiah’s kingdom will be marked by forgiveness and redemption (Isa 33:24; 40:1-2; 44:21-22; Ez 36).  By His forgiveness of the paralytic recorded in this passage and many others Jesus further demonstrated power that is reserved to God alone and that Scripture had prophesied would characterize the Messiah.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 48)


Forgiveness is difficult, costly, and painful.  To forgive means that the innocent one carries his own wrath at the sin of the offending one and resolves his indignation through love!  A refusal to forgive means that we keep the offending person as “beholden” to us, as obligated or indebted to us.  To forgive means that we release the other person, that we accept the loss that has come to us from their offense, and let them go free.  In forgiving we actually carry our own wrath at their sin and resolve this through love, refusing to make them feel our wrath and extending to them acceptance, love, and fellowship.  God has done just this in Christ, reconciling us to Himself, absorbing our hostility into Himself, carrying His own wrath at our sin, and speaking back the word of acceptance.  “God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, nor counting men’s sins against them” (2 Cor. 5:19).  This verse makes reconciliation central to the meaning and the message of grace. (Myron S. Augsburger; The Christ-Shaped Conscience, 28)


In The Art of Forgiving, Lewis Smedes makes the striking observation that the Bible portrays God going through progressive stages when he forgives, much as we humans do.  First, God rediscovers the humanity of the person who wronged him, by removing the barrier created by sin.  Second, God surrenders his right to get even, choosing instead to bear the cost in his own body.  Finally, God revises his feelings toward us, finding a way to “justify” us so that when he looks upon us he sees his own adopted children, with his divine image restored.  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 106)


Joseph’s brothers come shamefaced into Joseph’s presence with fear.  “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrong that we did to him?”  They repent.  Joseph weeps.

Then, to these chastened brothers, these grown-up men so desperately afraid that their younger brother will not forgive them, Joseph says words we have to hear.  “Do not be afraid!”  He says.  “Am I in the place of God?”

God, you see, can withhold forgiveness.  We cannot. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.;Assurances of the Heart, 253)


If God had not raised Him from the grave we might draw the conclusion that our Lord was not able to bear the punishment of the guilt of our sins, that it was too much for Him, and that His death was the end.  But He was raised from the dead; and in raising Him up God was proclaiming that His Son had completed the work, that full expiation has been made, that He is propitiated and completely satisfied.  The resurrection declares that, and it is in that sense that He is “risen again for our justification.”  It is there we see it clearly.  The work was done on the Cross, but here is the proclamation that it is enough.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapters 3:20-4:25, 244)


III-  “Take Heart”:  faith in Jesus’ authority produces praise and worship because everything sad will come untrue.  (Mt 9:2, 8; see also: Mt 9:2 ,8, 22; 14:27; 19:28; Mk 2:12; 10:49; Lk 5:26; Jn 16:33; Acts 23:11; Rom 8:18-25; 2 Cor 4:7-5:10; Phil 4:4-7; Jam 1:2-4; 1 Pt 1:3-9; Rv 21:5)


Jesus “saw their faith” acted out in their determination.  They knew that if they could just get near Jesus, Jesus could heal.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 171)


In the synoptic gospels and Acts the term is never used to speak of anything other than the feeling in a person’s heart when he is confronted with divine power, and it is declared to be a part of the Christian’s attitude as he seeks to faithfully serve the Lord (Acts 9:31).  Reverential awe of God is a part of the truly repentant life (2 Cor 2:12).  Mutual ministry, love, and respect, as well as powerful evangelism and proper church discipline, are all grounded in reverential awe of the Lord (see 2 Cor 5:11; Eph 5:21; 1 Tm 5:20).  It is the substance out of which all right Christian worship, behavior, and service must come.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 56)


Wherever Christ’s forgiving power really comes into a heart, life is beautified, is purified, is ennobled; and secondary and material benefits follow in the train.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 17)


“Take heart” (be of good cheer) is formula of reassurance, where we might say “It’s alright” (cf. 9:22; 14:27; Mk 10:49). (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 345)


How can I be glad if there lie coiled in my heart that consciousness of alienation and disorder in my relations to God, which all men carry with them, though they overlay it and try to forget it?  There is no basis for a peaceful gladness worthy of a man except that which digs deep down into the very secrets of the heart, and lays the first course of the building in the consciousness of pardoned sin.  “Son, be of good cheer!”  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 3-4)


Healing has confirmed Jesus’ authority to announce the arrival of the kingdom of heaven (4:23-25), and healing now confirms that forgiveness of sin accompanies the arrival of the kingdom.  Once sin is forgiven and redemption has occurred, all sickness and death will ultimately be abolished (cf. Isa 25:8-9).  (Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol 1, 62)


The paralysis will indeed be cured and the man instantly restored to normal health, but the healing itself is only a subplot, as Jesus asserts and then demonstrates his authority to forgive sins in the face of the scribal assumption that to make such a claim is blasphemy.  The healing itself is brought into the service of this overriding theme, as the visible proof of the invisible authority Jesus claims.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 343)


CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: What other lessons can we learn from the passage?:



  1. We see what we believe, not believe what we see. (Jer 17:9; Mt 9:3; Jn 20:29;  Rom 12:1-2; 1 Cor 1:18-2:16; 1 Pt 1:8)


“Seeing is not believing—instead, believing is seeing.”  — St. Augustine


“We don’t want to forgive others because it makes us even, not superior.”   — Steve Brown


For better understanding of this principle please read The Structures of Scientific Revolution by Thomas Kuhn


The point was that no one but God could either heal disease with a word or could forgive sins, and He can do both with the same divine ease.  Even their own distorted theology should have led the scribes and Pharisees to believe in Jesus’ divinity.  If, as they believed, sickness and disease were the consequences of sin, then removing disease would be connected to dealing with the sin that caused it.  In their thinking, all healing of disease would have to involve at least some forgiveness of sin–which by their own declaration only God can grant.  They were trapped in their own theology and logic.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 54)


As to which was easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up…,” do not both in an equal measure require omnipotent power?  Therefore, if Jesus can do the one, then can he not also perform the other?  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 420)


Did the scribes admit their defeat?  Did they at least acknowledge that Jesus had justified his claim?  On this point Matthew is silent.  So are also Mark and Luke.  The sequel would seem to indicate that they admitted nothing and became more and more hostile (Mt 9:11, 34; 12:2, 14, 24; Mk 2:16, 24; 3:3, 5; 3:22; 7:1 ff.; Lk 5:30; 6:2, 7, 11).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 420)


It is impossible to forgive someone if you feel superior to him or her.  (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 55)


Jesus perceived their inward reasoning and proposed a test.  Since they accepted the premise that sickness was the result of sin, if a person had the power to heal, then his authority to forgive the sin that caused the sickness would have to be accepted.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 82)


An evil…heart is a heart that plots against God (see Acts 5:3-4, 9; 8:20-22), and in saying those words to the scribes and Pharisees Jesus not only laid bare what they were thinking but exposed the wickedness behind the thoughts.  In claiming to defend God’s holiness they showed themselves to be utterly against it, because they were thinking evil of the Son of God whom they refused to acknowledge.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 54)


Often we come down too hard on these religious leaders simply because we fail to understand their perspective.  Here we must understand that in Jewish theology one thing was clear:  sin could be forgiven by bringing an offering to God in the temple.  Yet, what do we find here?  There is no sin offering, no priest, and no temple.  Thus it is no wonder these men who were schooled in the Law “question[ed] in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak like that?  He is blaspheming!  Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” (Mk 2:6, 7).  If only God can forgive sins, which the Hebrew Bible everywhere attests, then what is this man Jesus up to?  Who on earth does he think he is?  Does he think he is God (cf. Jn 10:33)?  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 233-4)


The argument which our Lord uses may appear to be not well-founded:  for, in proportion as the soul is more excellent than the body, the forgiveness of sins is a greater work than the healing of the body.  But the reply is easy.  Christ adapts his discourse to their capacity:  for, being carnal, they were more powerfully affected by outward signs, than by all the spiritual power of Christ, which related to eternal salvation.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 396)


He had given this man a healthy body but also, and this first of all, a healthy soul (“Your sins are forgiven”).  He had thoroughly refuted the accusations of his enemies.  Moreover, as to the charge that it was easy for him to pronounce absolution, well, he was able indeed to do it and he actually did it, as he here proved; but as to it being easy, was it not exactly this granting of pardon that required all the suffering he endured during his earthly sojourn, climaxed by the bloody sweat of Gethsemane, the scourging of Gabbatha, and the cross of Golgotha?  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 420)


Jesus’ approach to this man might seem astonishing.  He began by telling him that his sins were forgiven.  There was a double reason for that.  In Palestine it was a universal belief that all sickness was the result of sin, and that no sickness could ever be cured until sin was forgiven.  Rabbi Ami said, “There is no death without sin, and no pains without some transgression.”  Rabbi Alexander said, “The sick arises not from his sickness, until his sins are forgiven.”  Rabbi Chija ben Abba said, “No sick person is cured from sickness, until all his sins are forgiven him.”  This unbreakable connection between suffering and sin was part of the orthodox Jewish belief of the time of Jesus.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 327)


“If you want to know the problem in any organization, look for the ego.  There is no forgiveness where there is ego.


  1. Meekness, humility, poverty of spirit, mourning over our inability to be what we know God created us to be, hungering and thirsting to be what God created us to be, and our begging for forgiveness and mercy in light of our own sin to the extent that we are more than willing to grant forgiveness and mercy to others are necessary prerequisites to entering the Kingdom of Heaven. (Isa 61:1-3; Mt 5:1-10; 9:2; Acts 4:12)


Believers who are the most desperate about themselves are the ones who express most forcefully their confidence in grace….Those who are the most pessimistic about man are the most optimistic about God; those who are the most severe with themselves are the ones who have the most serene confidence in divine forgiveness….By degrees the awareness of our guilt and of God’s love increase side by side.  (Paul Tournier as quoted by Don Matzat, Christ Esteem, p. 42)


In a world where the only plea is “not guilty,” what possibility is there of an honest encounter with Jesus, “who died for our sins”?  We can only pretend that we are sinners, and thus only pretend that we are forgiven.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 171)


There is a direct correlation between a lack of forgiveness and a lack of self-knowledge.  When you know yourself, you will forgive.  (Steve Brown, Born Free, 184)


Today even many Christians read and say “forgive us our trespasses” as “give me a break.”  In the typically late-twentieth-century manner, this saves the ego and its egotism.  “I am not a sinner, I just need a break!”  But no, I need more than a break.  I need pity because of who I am.  If my pride is untouched when I pray for forgiveness, I have not prayed for forgiveness.  I don’t even understand it.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 264)


Because the paralytic said nothing to Jesus it is possible to conclude that the paralysis had affected his vocal chords or his tongue.  Or the man, despite his faith, may have been overcome with awe as he came face-to-face with the One who had power to heal all kinds of disease.  Perhaps he now wondered if He could also heal hearts.  In any case, he willingly and silently exposed himself to Jesus and to the whole crowd in all his physical, moral, and spiritual ugliness.  He was literally at Jesus’ feet, and in his heart he threw himself on Jesus’ mercy.  He approached the Lord in true humility, in the poverty of spirit God requires of the seeking heart (Mt 5:3).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 51)


“To be an unforgiving Christian is an oxymoron”.  (Greg Laurie, Pastor to Pastor Vol 43)


“Why should that sin be unforgivable?  What differentiates it so terribly from all other sins?   The answer is simple.  When anyone reaches that stage, repentance is impossible.  If people cannot recognize the good when they see it, they cannot desire it.  If they do not recognize the evil as evil, they cannot be sorry for it and wish to depart from it.  And if they cannot, in spite of failures, love the good and hate the evil, then they cannot repent; and if they cannot repent, they cannot be forgiven, for repentance is the only condition of forgiveness.  It would save much heartbreak if people would realize that the very people who cannot have committed the sin against the Holy Spirit are those who fear that they have, for the sin again the Holy Spirit can be truly described as the loss of all sense of sin.”   (William Barclay; Commentary on Matthew Vol 2, 52)


“It may be infinitely worse to refuse to forgive than to murder.  Because the latter (namely murder) may be an impulse in the heat of the moment where as the former is a cold and deliberate choice of the heart”.  (Alister Begg sermon, Measure for Measure – Part 1)


God will forgive anyone anything except for those who don’t forgive anyone anything.  — Steve Brown


  1. Going along with the crowd is rarely assurance that you have found the way to the Kingdom of Heaven. (Mt 7:13-14; 8:18; 9:8; 9:36; 11:23; 21:8-11; 26:47, 55; 27:15-25; Mk 15:8-15;   Lk 4:16-30; 10:15; 11:27-29; 23:1-24;  Jn 2:23-25; 7:15-27)


They knew something miraculous and amazing had just happened.  They rightly and naturally responded with terror or amazement, saying essentially, “Wow, God, this is truly awesome.  In all our lives we have never seen anything like this!”

Yet similar to the declaration at the end of other miracle stories, this seemingly positive declaration contains everything except the one thing that is necessary (the only thing Jesus is looking for)–faith.  Their response lacked faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the one to whom we now go to receive forgiveness of sin.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 236-7)


This crowd in Capernaum saw Jesus in the flesh more than any group in history.  Our Lord considered their city “his own city” (9:1).  This crowd heard his sermons live and in person.  This crowd witnessed with their own eyes his miracles. Yes, they were amazed.  Yes, they were astonished.  Yes, they were filled with awe.  But they were never filled with faith.  The crowd was never converted.  The crowd never came to Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 237)


Worship Point:  Our sin destroyed God’s perfect world.  Jesus’ death will restore it.  If this does not cause you to worship, you have failed to understand.


Is there healing in the atonement?  That is, does the forgiveness of sin by Jesus because of his atonement always lead to physical healing or good health?  The answer is yes in the ultimate sense.  All who are saved from sin by Jesus will one day be delivered from all physical manifestations of sin.  Our resurrection bodies will be free of sin’s effects.  But the answer is no, if what we mean by this connection is the right of believers to have perfect health now.  Not all do, and ultimately all of us die.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 147)


Gospel Application:  Jesus is the only One capable of putting us in a legal position to have our sins forgiven because He alone is uniquely qualified to do this.   This is the Gospel.


Forgiveness is always a matter of divine privilege rather than human right, for the price of sin must first be paid before the conditions can exist for forgiveness to become a reality.  Thus, when under the New Covenant the vicarious atonement of Christ on Calvary is appropriated personally by penitence and faith, the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin, and results in pardon, peace, and the restoration of spiritual fellowship with God.  (Geoffrey Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, 340 – red, bold emphasis Pastor Keith)


The effect of sin upon man was to estrange him from God, to lead him farther and farther away from his Maker.  Each successive sin produced a greater barrier between the two.  Now the atonement was designed to remove the cause of this estrangement and restore the former relationship between God and mankind.  This too, it has been observed, it the purpose of forgiveness, so that the atonement finds its completion in forgiveness.  (Geoffrey Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, 343)


Heidelberg Catechism questions 12-19

Q12.  According to God’s righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after:  how then can we escape this punishment and return to God’s favor?

  1. God requires that his justice be satisfied (Ex 23:7; Rom 2:1-22). Therefore the claims of his justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or another (Isa 53:11; Rom 8:3-4).


Q13. Can we pay this debt ourselves?

  1. Certainly not. Actually, we increase our guilt every day (Mt 6:12; Rom 2:4-5).


14Q. Can another creature—any at all—pay this debt for us?

  1. No. To begin with, God will not punish another creature for what a human is guilty of (Ez 18:4, 20; Heb 2:14-18). Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s eternal anger against sin and release others from it (Ps 49:7-9; 130:3).


Q15. What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?

  1. One who is truly human (Rom 1:3; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:17) and truly righteous (Isa 53:9; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26), yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God (Isa 7:14; 9:6; Jer 23:6; Jn 1:1).


Q16. Why must he be truly human and truly righteous?

  1. God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for its sin (Rom 5:12, 15; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:14-16); but a sinner could never pay for others (Heb 7:26-27; 1 Pt 3:18).


Q17. Why must he also be true God?

  1. So that, by the power of his divinity, he might bear the weight of God’s anger in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life (Isa 53; Jn 3:16; 2 Cor 5:21).


Q18. And who is this mediator—true God and at the same time truly human and truly righteous?

  1. Our Lord Jesus Christ (Mt 1:21-13; Lk 2:11; 1 Tm 2:5), who was given us to set us completely free and to make us right with God (1 Cor 1:30).


Q19. How do you come to know this?

  1. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise (Gn 3:15); later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs (Gn 22:18; 49:10) and prophets (Isa 53; Jer 23:5-6; Mic 7:18-20; Acts 10:43; Heb 1:1-2), and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law (Lv 1-7; Jn 5:46; Heb 10:1-10); finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son (Rom 10:4; Gal 4:4-5; Col 2:17).


The idea of an atonement is fundamental in the teachings of the NT (Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 5:18-21; Col 1:21).  It is very clearly implied in such terms as reconciliation and propitiation and is no less present in pardon, remission, and forgiveness.  The doctrine of the atonement is not developed by Jesus, but it is strongly hinted at and is unmistakably implied in the language of Mt 20:28; 26:28; Mk 10:45; Lk 24:46f.  John the Baptist’s salute, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29), also implies it.  In the writings of the apostles it is repeatedly and clearly affirmed that our forgiveness and reconciliation to God are based upon the death of Christ.  (Geoffrey Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, 343)


What has God done with our sins?  They are “forgiven” (1 Jn 2:12); “forgotten,” “cleansed,” (Jer 33:8); “gone,” “atoned for,” (Rom 5:11); “covered” (Ps 32:1); “cast into the depths of the sea,” (Mic 7:19); “removed as far as the east is from the west” (Ps 103:12); “blotted out as a thick cloud” (Is 44:22); “cast behind God’s back” (Is 38:17); and “remembered against us no more” (Jer 31:34).  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Freedom, 68)


Spiritual Challenge:  Contemplate the consequences of sin.  Inversely, contemplate the consequences of Jesus’ authority and salvation for mankind.  Then rejoice and live life in all of the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that Jesus suffered greatly to purchase for you to enjoy if you believe in Christ’s forgiveness.


There is nothing that so drapes a soul with darkness as either the consciousness of unforgiven sin or the want of consciousness of forgiven sin.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 3)


A guilty conscience is more terrified by imagined dangers, than a pure conscience is by real ones.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 62)


Get your conscience sprinkled with the blood of Christ from all guilt, and that will set your heart above all fear.  It is guilt upon the conscience that softens and makes cowards of our spirits:  ‘the righteous are bold as a lion.’  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 62)


Just so long as a person lives under the shadow of real, unacknowledged, and unexpiated guilt, he cannot…‘accept himself’…He will continue to hate himself and to suffer the inevitable consequences of self-hatred.  But the moment he…begins to accept his guilt and his sinfulness, the possibility of radical reformation opens up, and with this…a new freedom of self-respect and peace. —Dr. Hobart Mowrer  (John Stott; The Cross of Christ, 99)


The people of God do not serve Him in order to be forgiven but because we are forgiven.  When believers serve only because they feel guilty if they don’t, it’s as though they serve with a ball and chain dragging from their ankles.  There’s no love in that kind of service, only labor.  There’s no joy, only obligation and drudgery.  But Christians aren’t prisoners who should serve in God’s Kingdom grudgingly because of guilt.  We can serve willingly because Christ’s death freed us from guilt.  (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 115)



Quotes to Note:

Certainly Matthew believes that, through this incident and saying, Jesus reveals that the Christian congregation now has this power (v. 8).  See on 18:15-20.  The right to forgive or to withhold forgiveness was claimed by Paul (1 Cor 5:5; 2 Cor 2:10) and the church for which the Fourth Evangelist wrote (Jn 20:23).  (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 351)


Many Christian leaders today tell us that the church and its message need to be relevant.  We need to meet people where they are.  We need to discover people’s felt needs (e.g., loneliness, feelings of inadequacy, etc.) and use those needs to bring such people into a saving relationship with Jesus.  Such talk makes some sense, and it certainly sounds kind and understanding.  However, it does not reflect Jesus’ philosophy of ministry here.  His approach was quite different.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 232)


Fear is not the usual reaction to a healing miracle in this gospel, and since the explanation is in terms of “authority” we should probably understand their response as triggered not so much by the miracle itself as by the claim to have authority to forgive sins which the miracle has not demonstrated to be valid.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 348)



 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . . Get up, take your mat and go home.Matthew 9:6




Forgiver of Sins



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