The Matthew Series 7. What is easier? Forgiveness or healing
Matthew 9:1-8 English Standard Version (ESV)
Jesus Heals a Paralytic
9 And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. 2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing[a] their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
Matthew continues his telling of the miracles of Jesus, tonight he crosses over the sea again, signifying that He has crossed over to Israel again. Tonight, also connects with the question that Matthew asked three weeks back, who is this man? He answers it with this is the man who has the power to forgive.
The story is situated in the healing of this paralyzed man. We see in Mark 2 greater detail of the state of this man, the situation of the crowd and the extent that was gone to, to get this man healing.
In mark we see that this is not simply a paralyzed man, rather that he has been paralyzed from palsy which was most likely a neurological disease that he had had from four years old, in other words this poor man had been healthy and then lost the ability to walk due to some disease. Added to this we see in mark that his friends broke open a roof to gain access to Jesus and lowered this man down to Jesus to be healed.
Now, Matthew doesn’t put out these details because he is communicating something different about Jesus than Mark wanted to emphasise. Mark wanted to emphasise the power of Jesus, for gentile believers. Matthew wanted to prove that Jesus was God and Messiah for Jewish believers.
And it is from Matthew’s perspective that we will study this passage tonight. Now, the reality is that we almost always come to Jesus to meet our needs, something pressing and practical. However, Jesus always forces us to deal with the deeper need; why we actually need Jesus.
So, let’s start by looking at the;
1. The perceived problem - he needed to be healed
Now, I am not underplaying this man’s plight, and by implication not underplaying the personal crisis you might be going through. The reality is church, that our political, financial, personal, psychological problems have a deeper root.
Humanity has a deep, fatal, spiritual crisis. Jesus’ message to the world is that although we might perceive these things as the great crisis of being; these are actually symptomatic manifestations of a deeper more dangerous problem.
I’ll illustrate with the person that Jesus heals, his problem was that he was paralyzed. So, if he could just be healed so that he could walk again; his life would be okay, that was his perceived salvation. The problem all that would have enabled him to do is walk. The crises of his soul would have remained.
I don’t know what your own personal crisis is; say it is that you are worried about the country and your future. You have convinced yourself that if we could just get a stable government; or maybe if I just travel across the ocean to a more stable society my life will be okay.
The problem is that although yes, walking for this man, and a better government in our case, does make life more bearable, but church, you don’t have to look far to see miserable people who can walk, and people in perfectly stable societies tearing each other apart for the dumbest reasons.
You see church, we diagnose our pressing needs as our ultimate needs and that is not our true problem. You will discover this most clearly when you finally get what you always wanted. When you attain what you had your heart most upon and after you get it the sinking emptiness and despair at finally achieving your goal.
Jesus looks at the pressing need of this man, but heals first his ultimate need so that his pressing need can be healed.
2. The real problem - he needed to be forgiven
Church, the true crisis that humanity faces, and the real need of this paralyzed man is that we have sinned and are alienated from our God.
Now unlike us today, the common Jewish thinking at this time is that sin and sickness were intertwined. There was this idea going around that if you have a chronic problem such as blindness, palsy (as the case of this man), or some disease it was the direct result of sin of that person or the sin of their parents.
Now, on some level the bible does teach that all the problems in the world can be traced back to human sinfulness, the problem is that because the system has become so corrupt with the sin that we can no longer reduce sickness to that individuals sin.
Today we have gone to the opposite extreme, we say nothing is your fault, you are a victim of your circumstances, your genes, your upbringing, your class, you are effectively innocent, your problems are the systems fault etc.
We have moved so far to the other extreme that we have no hope of identifying that the true crisis of our existence is that it can’t be our personal fault, it is everyone else’s fault. We are guiltless and sinless in the problems of the world.
Jesus cuts to heart of both these extremes, He looks to the sinfulness of this man, and his problems and heals them.
Church, if you are a person who thinks that all your problems are a result of your sin, or you are a person who thinks that the problems of the world are because of someone else’s fault Jesus speaks to your heart. Your crisis is your sin, your problem is your sin; this is your deep and real need.
To walk or not to walk again doesn’t matter if you are separated forever from the one who created you. Your circumstances don’t really matter if you are destined to be punished for all your sins forever.
I mean if I came to you and told you; you can have R1,5million today but only for today and after that you have to spend the rest of your life being tortured and brutally beaten. I guarantee you would spend all your time and money trying to get out of that future, because what does one day of fun mean if the rest of your life is going to be unbearable.
Now, some people wouldn’t care, but that is because they have being possessed by their nihilism – and that is another message for another day.
Our problem isn’t what we perceive church, our problem is that deep down we are sinners, we have abandoned our creator and lived against him. We have gone our own way and this has had such an impact on us and the world that we are destroying ourselves and we can’t even see it.
So, Jesus not only heals us but goes deeper to heal the real problem of our sin. Which is the third point tonight.
3. Why Jesus can fix both
Jesus, turn against those who said, who is this man who thinks that he can forgive sins. Jesus looks at them and says;
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”
Jesus has the authority to deal with your issues and your sin, he has the power to forgive and in that forgiveness is the power to overcome your personal pains.
The first question we must answer is how can Jesus have the power to heal and forgive?
Jesus in the passage states that to show that he has the power (or authority) to forgive by healing. He does this to show that healing and forgiveness are interwind, because sin and alienation is the true cause of all that is wrong in this world.
All the sin, despair, sickness, alienation, fighting, all that is wrong in the world goes back to the fact that mankind has sinned against his creator and has gone his own way.
Jesus has come to restore this. How we get this restoration will only be revealed at the end of Christ’s life however, we must go back to the Prophet Isaiah who spoke these words 700 years before Christ was born he said; in Isaiah 53:4-6 Isaiah says of the coming Messiah;
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Church, this was always the plan of God; the way back to him, our restoration, our healing, everything points to the cross; Jesus the One True Son of God, the only obedient Son went to the punishment we all deserved, took the pain, the sickness, the alienation, the hopelessness that we all deserve so that God’s righteous anger could be dealt with.
I am always amazed at the arrogance of how people disagree with this; I saw someone once say, “how is it fair that God torment us forever, just because we didn’t believe in Him; this sounds like a stalker not a loving God.”
The assumptions in this, is that God just want us to believe in Him, this is so far from the truth! God doesn’t want you to just believe in Him, God want you to recognise your state; you are a desperate sinner, a being who has rebelled against its own very creation! And the very creator who is your help; you hate and despise!
Every human being is guilty, every one of us is a rebel to the only good being in creation. We are all on the side of evil; therefore there is no innocent person, there is no chance of making it on your own goodness.
This is why God doesn’t want us to just believe in Him, he wants us to humble ourselves, to own our problem (we are sinners) and to come to him and trust that He has made a way to rightfully deal with our real problem; we need to be restored back to the life giving creator!
And all this goes to the heart of the question; why does God only heal some people and not others? Some go to say it is because people lack faith; the problem with this is that then the focus of the power of healing is us, our faith, our ability to trust.
But as Jesus shows us, forgiveness is a healing, and therefore in faith we have the true healing we need the healing of our fractured relationship with God. So then, if he heals our bodies now, which he can, we give him glory and we have peace, or he heals our bodies in the resurrection, we trust and give Him glory! Our healing has taken place.
Let me put it another way; if Christ simply healed the body and not the soul, we would get sick and die anyway, and our hope would be very transient, but Christ offers true healing, eternal healing, the healing of a broken soul which will, either now in this life or finally in the life to come, will lead to ultimate healing! Our hope is secure any way, our healing is secure.
So, church, come to Christ for real healing, trust in God’s salvation and find the healing of your soul!