The Gospel of Matthew: Jesus Restores a Girl to Life. Part 2.   

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.” (Matthew 9:18-19, 23–26 ESV)

When Jesus arrived at Jarius’ house, He saw flute players and a crowd making a commotion. Flute players (αὐλητής; auletes) were professional minstrels hired as mourners. The crowd was also making a commotion (θορυβέω; thorybeo). There was loud screaming and wailing. Vs. 25 says they were in the ruler’s house for after Jesus spoke to them, they were put outside.

.” In Mark’s account, Jesus permitted only Peter, James and John to follow Him (Mark 5:37). He also told Jairus to not fear but only believe (vs. 36). “Scripture never explains why these men were sometimes allowed to witness things that the other disciples were excluded from (cf. 9:2; 14:33), but the trio did constitute an inner circle within the Twelve,” explains Dr. John MacArthur.

Jesus said to the professional mourners and the crowd, ““Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” This was a figurative expression, Jesus meant that the girl was not dead in the normal sense, because her condition was only temporary. He would reverse it (John 11:11–14Acts 7:60; 13:361 Cor. 11:30; 15:6, 18, 20, 511 Thess. 4:13–14).

“Jesus was not saying that her death was a misdiagnosis. This was a prophecy that she would live again. He made a similar comment about Lazarus’s death (John 11:11)—and then had to explain to the disciples that he was speaking metaphorically (John 11:14). Sleep is a designation for death in the NT (cf. 1 Cor. 11:30; 15:511 Thess. 5:10),” states Dr. MacArthur.

The crowd laughed at Jesus. What a mockery of unbelief. What a contrast to the synagogue ruler who explicitly trusted Jesus to bring his daughter back to life.

After the crowd had been put outside the house, Jesus went in, took her by the hand and the girl came back to life. She arose.

What a parallel to our spiritual death prior to Jesus raising us to new life in Him. New life in Christ alone is by grace alone through God-given faith alone to the glory of God alone according to Scripture alone.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—” (Ephesians 2:1–5 (ESV)

A father’s despair gave way to widespread news of what Jesus had done (Matt. 9:26). This is comparable to when a sinner is converted. They share with anyone the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and their new life in Christ. There will be some who will mock. Others will think it fine for the individual in question, but not for them. Still others will be convicted of their sin and will also trust in Jesus Christ to raise them from spiritual death. They come to know the joy of God’s gracious salvation.

In which category are you? May you have a blessed day in Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Jesus Restores a Girl to Life.   

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.” (Matthew 9:18-19, 23–26 ESV)

Matthew groups together nine stories containing ten specific miracles in chapters 8–9. There are three miracles in 8:1–17, teaching on true discipleship (8:18–22), and then three more miracles (8:23–9:8). This is followed by Jesus’ teaching on true discipleship (9:9–17), and finally three more miracle stories; one of which includes two miracles (9:18–33). Today, we examine the raising of a girl from the dead.

In the midst of Jesus’ discussion with John the Baptist’s disciples, and the Pharisees (Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39), a ruler came and knelt before Him. Ruler (ἄρχων; archon) refers to either a judge who makes decisions on the basis of law, a military commander, or even a king. Matthew does not provide any further information about this individual.

Mark states that the ruler’s name was Jairus. He was one of the rulers of the synagogue (Mark 5:21-24). Luke also affirms this (Luke 5:41).

However, by kneeling before Jesus, the ruler was deferring to Jesus’ authority. This parallels Matthew’s account of the healing of the centurion’s servant (Matt. 8:5-13). To kneel (προσκυνέω; proskyneo) means to bow down and worship a deity.

The ruler was acknowledging Jesus was God and able to raise the dead. The ruler displayed this faith and trust by saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.”  Luke states that the girl was about twelve years old and the man’s only daughter (Luke 8:40-42).

Both Mark and Luke indicate that the girl was close to death when the ruler appeared to Jesus, but that she had died before Jesus arrived at the house (Mark 5:35; Luke 8:49). The tone of the text is of a desperate man seeking a miracle from God. He seeks such a miracle from Jesus. He affirms that if Jesus were to lay His hand on her, his daughter would live again.

“Matthew’s parallel account has Jairus saying that his daughter was already dead when he met Jesus (Matt. 9:18), but that is likely due to Matthew’s preference for shorter accounts of the events in Jesus’ life. For brevity’s sake, he reports in Jairus’ first encounter with Jesus what was ultimately true of the girl, namely, that she died before our Lord could get to her (see Mark 5:35),” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

Jesus immediately got up and followed the man to his house. Both Mark and Luke refer to a great crowd following Jesus (Mark 5:24; Luke 9:42).

“As we see in our text, Jesus went with Jairus straightaway to address the need. This shows our Savior’s remarkable compassion. Even though a large and surely noisy crowd surrounded Him, Jesus still had time to address the needs of one man. We can be confident that He hears our individual needs even though millions cry out to Him,” writes Dr. Sproul.

For what pressing need are you crying out to the Lord Jesus Christ today? Know that He hears and He cares.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Old and New Wineskins.  

16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:16–17 (ESV)

In the midst of His discussion with the disciples of John and the Pharisees about fasting (Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35), Jesus introduced a parable concerning old and new wineskins (Mark 2:21-22; Luke 5:36-39). What, if anything, did this illustration have to do with fasting?

“The use of bottles made from the skins of animals is very ancient. Water or wine bottles were frequently made from animal skins (Joshua 9:4, 13; Judges 4:19; 1 Samuel 1:24; 10:3; 2 Samuel 16:1; Nehemiah 5:18; Job 32:19; Psalms 119:83; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37). Such leather vessels are still popular among the Bedouin for their durability, portability, and accessibility since they are mostly pastoral nomads and animal herding is their main occupation,” explains commentator James M. Freeman in his book Manners and Customs of the Bible.

“In our text-verse and its parallels, allusion is made to this use of skins. When the skin is green, it stretches with the fermentation of the liquid and retains its integrity. But when it becomes old and dry, the fermentation of the new wine soon causes the skin to burst. This expression is still used today to mean that it is often difficult, if not impossible, to put new things into old ways.”

Jesus was comparing His incarnation as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies and covenants. His birth, life, substitutionary death on the cross and bodily resurrection from the dead was the content and the fulfillment of the Gospel. Old rituals and the ceremonial fasting’s by John the Baptist, his disciples and the Pharisees in order to be acceptable to God had nothing to do with the New Covenant Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Jesus responded by pointing out that there was a right time for fasting to accompany repentance, but His earthly ministry was not that occasion (Luke 5:34–35). If an old garment needs patching, one does not simply sew a new, unshrunk piece of cloth over the whole. The new patch would shrink once the mended garment was washed, and it would tear away from the older cloth, damaging it (Luke 5:36). The point is that one cannot patch the new onto the old. Jesus came not to maintain everything about the old covenant but to create a new structure for God’s people,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

“One cannot put new wine into old wineskins. Old wineskins, made from animal hides, have been stretched almost to their bursting point and are brittle. New wine continues to ferment, releasing gases as it does so. If new wine were put into old wineskins, the fermentation would cause the old wineskins to rupture, and the wine would pour out and be lost. The point is that Jesus does a new work, and only a new covenant can accommodate it (Luke 5:37).”

“Some things, such as God’s moral law, are the same under the old and new covenants. Other elements of the old covenant, such as the ceremonial law of sacrifices and certain rituals, pass away (e.g., Eph. 2:15). Jesus brings something genuinely new to God’s people,” concludes Dr. Sproul.

The image of a wedding, new wineskins and new wine all describe the initiation of the New Covenant through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Rather than patching up the inadequacies of Old Testament righteousness in Judaism, Jesus offered an imputed and eternal righteousness by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. While this kingdom theology was present and prophesied in the Old Testament, it had been obscured by the Jews self-righteous religion. The two were as incompatible as old and new wineskins.

Are you endeavoring to achieve acceptance by God through your old wineskin of self-righteousness? You cannot attach Jesus to that works based, self-righteous system; although many try. True righteousness is from God and in the person and work of Jesus Christ, alone. It is accessible by God given faith alone (Rom. 3:21-26; Gal. 2:15-16; Eph. 2:8-9).

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Question about Fasting.

14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (Matthew 9:14–15 (ESV)

The Adult Bible Fellowship (ABF) my wife and I attend at our church is presently studying Ecclesiastes. We just recently examined Ecclesiastes 3.  

“Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 stands as one of the most familiar texts of Scripture in modern culture even outside the church, for this passage was famously adapted by the rock group The Byrds in 1965 as the hit single “Turn! Turn! Turn!” The focus of the passage is the idea that in God’s created order, there is a proper time for all sorts of things, from birth to death to mourning to dancing to war to peace and so on. The implication of the text is that living wisely entails discerning the proper time for every activity,” explains one commentator.

In today’s text from Matthew’s Gospel, the people who asked Jesus a question about fasting were the disciples of John. Mark indicates it was only unidentified people who posed the question, without any indication they were either John’s disciples or the disciples of the Pharisees. Luke implicitly refers to the Pharisees and their scribes (Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:30-32).

What is consistent in all three Synoptic Gospels is the question about fasting and prayer. The disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees often fasted and prayed. They wondered why Jesus’ disciples did not? Jesus spoke about the importance of, and qualifications for, fasting (Matt. 6:16-18). Fasting was to be done secretly and not with a gloomy facial expression. How would either of these two people groups know if Jesus and His disciples fasted, or did not fast, according to Jesus’ instructions?

Jesus responded by saying, ““Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”

Jesus responded metaphorically, as He often did, to His critics. He compared Himself and His disciples respectively to a bridegroom and wedding guests. While He was with them, it was a time for celebration. There was too much joy for fasting. He would leave soon enough, which would bring a time for fasting and prayer following His departure. During that time, often filled with sorrow and despair, there would be plenty of opportunities for fasting and prayer.

“Wisdom consists not only in doing the right thing but also in doing it at the right time. Often, knowing the right time to do something is the most difficult thing. The only way to attain sufficient wisdom to do the right thing at the right time is through careful study of the wisdom given in God’s Word, accompanied by prayer that He will help us understand its teaching,” concludes Dr. R. C. Sproul.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Question about Prayer.

14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (Matthew 9:14–15 (ESV)

It is wise for us to compare Mark and Luke’s account of this incident with Matthew’s. While there are similarities, there are also distinctive differences.

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.” (Mark 2:18–20 (ESV)

33 And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” 34 And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” (Luke 5:33–35 (ESV)

 In Matthew’s text, the people who asked Jesus a question about fasting were the disciples of John. Mark indicates it was only people who posed the question, without any indication they were John’s disciples of the disciples of the Pharisees. Luke implicitly refers to the Pharisees and their scribes as the questionaries (Luke 5:30-32).

There is no contradiction in these three narratives. Evidently, there were Pharisees present when John’s disciples came and these two groups comprised the people who asked Jesus about fasting. Mark’s Gospel indicates that the people in question were fasting when they asked the question.  

What is consistent in all three Synoptic Gospels is the question about fasting and prayer. The disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees often fasted and prayed. They wondered why Jesus’ disciples did not. This inquiry is significant occurred just after Jesus and His disciples attended a feast hosted by Matthew (Matt. 9:10-13). This could either be a question of condemnation or accusation regarding the holiness, or lack thereof, of both Jesus and His disciples.  Jesus spoke about the importance of, and qualifications for fasting (Matt. 6:16-18). Fasting was to be done secretly and not with a gloomy facial expression. How would either of these two people groups know if Jesus and His disciples fasted, or did not fast, according to Jesus’ instructions?

The implication in the texts is that a hypocritical standard for the discipline of fasting, and perhaps prayer (Luke 18:9-14) had become normal. The issue may have been about self-righteousness posturing and not about repentance and communion with God; which are the respective goals for prayer and fasting.

What was Jesus’ response? This will be studied tomorrow. Until then, take time to evaluate your own fasting and prayer disciplines. Are these practices done for personal and private worship and edification? Or, are they done for public display and self-exaltation, violating Jesus’ instructions?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Jesus’ Reply to the Self-Righteous.

10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10–13 (ESV)

Following Jesus’ conversion and call of Matthew (Matt. 9:9; Mark 2:13-14; Luke 5:27-28), the new disciple hosted a meal in his house (Mark 2:15; Luke 5:29). Luke describes the gathering as a great feast (Luke 5:29). It included a large company of tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:15; Luke 5:29).

The religious leaders grumbled at Jesus’ disciples. They said, ““Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” It is interesting that the Pharisees did not directly come to Jesus. The religious leaders are not interested in information as they are in making an accusation.

“Consorting with outcasts on any level—even merely speaking to them—was bad enough. Eating and drinking with them implied a level of friendship that was abhorrent to the Pharisees (cf. Luke 7:34; 15:2; 19:7),” explains Dr. John MacArthur.

What was Jesus’ reaction to the Pharisees’ criticism? How did He respond to such an obvious cultural faux pas, which is a significant or embarrassing error or mistake? The Pharisees reasoned that Jesus could not truly be a godly teacher, or a righteous man, since He associated with sinners.

Jesus said three things to the religious leaders. First, He replied, ““Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” It is often more difficult to share the Gospel with successful, morally upright and religious people than it is with addicts, the poor and diseased. Why? It is because the latter can at least understand they need help and assistance while the former, at least on the surface, believe themselves to be self-sufficient. The irony is that both people groups need Christ’s imputed righteousness before God the Father.

Second, Jesus said, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’” What Jesus wants is for people to be compassionate to other people and not just concerned about religious rituals.

Third, Jesus replied, “For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus’ mission was to invite sinners unto salvation. Salvation is not for the self-righteous because they are convinced they do not need a Savior.

“In the parallel passage, Luke 5:32, sinners are called “to repentance.” The repentant person—the one who recognizes he is a sinner and who turns from his sin—is the object of Jesus’ call. The person who is sinful but thinks he is righteous refuses to acknowledge his need to repent of his sin,” states Dr. MacArthur.

“Samuel Rutherford once said that you and I are “at the worst” sinners, and sinners are “nothing to Christ.” The reason that sinners are “nothing” to Christ is because He came specifically to call sinners to Himself, to heal us of our spiritual “disease,” to work in us that which is pleasing to Himself. No matter how dark our sins may be, we know that Jesus really is able to wash us whiter than snow,” concludes Dr. R. C. Sproul.

Thank you, Lord, for your salvation.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Jesus Eats with Sinners.

10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10–13 (ESV)

Following the conversion and call of Matthew (Matt. 9:9; Mark 2:13-14; Luke 5:27-28), the new disciple hosted a meal in his house (Mark 2:15; Luke 5:29). Luke describes the gathering as a great feast (Luke 5:29). It included a large company of tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:15; Luke 5:29).

Implicit in this scene is that Matthew owned a rather large house since he was able to host such a feast and gathering of guests. Matthew had apparently become financially wealthy as a Roman tax collector. He became eternally wealthy as a disciple of Jesus, the King of kings.   

“Matthew celebrated becoming a disciple with a banquet at which many of the guests were as disreputable as he himself had been. This took place in the house, where the article points to a particular house, probably Matthew’s own house (Mark and Luke say that it was),” explains commentator Leon Morris.

All three Gospels describe the setting as reclining or reclining at table. Reclining (ἀνάκειμαι; anakeimai) means to lie on side on a cushion in order to eat. According to Luke 5:29, this meal was a banquet that had been carefully prepared and presented. It is evident that Matthew spared no expense in hosting this meal.

Jesus and His disciples were in attendance. The sense is that Jesus was the guest of honor. Matthew wanted his friends and colleagues to meet Jesus.

“Matthew’s characteristic look makes it all so vivid: his readers are invited to see it all in their minds’ eyes. The guests were not such as might be expected where a religious teacher was the honored guest, but disreputable, tax collectors and sinners. The combination points to social outcasts,” states Morris.

The people in attendance were having a wonderful time. However, those not in attendance, the Pharisees and scribes, were not happy. Luke says that they grumbled (Luke 5:30). To grumble (γογγύζω; gongyzo) means to make complaining remarks or noises under one’s breath.

“Matthew does not explain the presence of the Pharisees, but we too readily impose modern Western notions of domestic privacy without realizing the degree to which life in Palestine was much more public than is our experience. Given the significant numbers of people envisaged, ‘in the house’ might actually be out of doors in an open courtyard area belonging to the house. Or perhaps we are to think of the contact being made as the party is breaking up,” states commentator John Nolland.

The religious leaders grumbled at Jesus’ disciples. They said, ““Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

“Consorting with outcasts on any level—even merely speaking to them—was bad enough. Eating and drinking with them implied a level of friendship that was abhorrent to the Pharisees (cf. Luke 7:34; 15:2; 19:7),” explains Dr. John MacArthur.

What was Jesus’ reaction to the Pharisees’ criticism? That is what we will examine when next we meet. Always remember that Jesus is a friend for sinners.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Jesus Calls Matthew.

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9 (ESV)

Matthew described his own call into discipleship in today’s text. Jesus’ call to Matthew is recorded here, in Mark 2:14-17 and in Luke 5:27-32. We will focus on Matthew’s personal recollection of the incident.

Today’s story immediately follows the healing of the paralytic man (Matt. 9:1-8). Jesus passed on (παράγω; paragon) or departed from Capernaum. He was traveling from there to another place.

It was while He was traveling that Jesus saw Matthew. Matthew was a tax collector (Matt. 10:3). His name means gift of God. When Jesus came upon him, Matthew was sitting at the tax booth (τελώνιον; telonion). It was the place of business where tax collectors sat to collect taxes.

“The one sitting at the toll booth in the gospels of Mark, Luke, is not called “Matthew,” but “Levi.” In Mark 2:14, he is called “Levi the son of Alphaeus”; in Luke 5:27 he is called “a tax collector named Levi,” explains one commentator.

His fellow Jews considered Matthew an extortioner, a thief and an outcast. The Roman government hired Jews to collect taxes from the countrymen to give to Rome. Matthew was working for the oppressive government. Not only that, but once Matthew met his tax quota, he was free to keep anything more he collected.  

 “Matthew’s own humility is seen here. He did not disguise his past or make any excuse for it. Whereas Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 employ his former name, Levi, Matthew himself used the name by which he was known after becoming a disciple (cf. Mark 3:18Luke 6:15). Tax collectors were among the most despised persons in this society. The money they collected was often partly extorted for personal gain (cf. Luke 19:8) and partly a tax for Rome, which made them not only thieves, but also traitors to the Jewish nation,” explains Dr. John MacArthur.

There were two types of tax collectors.  There were the Gabbai and the Mokhes.

The Gabbai collected taxes on property, income and polls. These amounts were set by Rome so there was little graft or corruption. However, the Mokhes collected taxes on everything. They set tables up at road intersections and collected on imports and exports.  They taxed everything they could. Matthew was a Mokhes.

Jesus said to Matthew, ““Follow me.” This was not a request to consider but rather a command to be obeyed. Matthew obeyed. He rose from his tax booth and followed Jesus.

“When Matthew walked from his tax table, he walked away from his career. A lot more was at stake for him than for the fishermen who left their nets. If following Jesus didn’t work for them, they could always go back to fishing – their nets and boats would still be there. However, when Matthew walked away from his tax table, the Roman government has somebody else there the next day—cutting off his career for good,” states Dr. MacArthur.

The theme through Matthew 9 is forgiveness for sin is found in Jesus Christ. Every saint in Christ is forgiven of their sin by Christ. Believers in Christ are not stained-glass saints, but rather wretched sinners who are forgiven by the person and work of the Son of God.

Have you been forgiven of your sins? Confession, repentance and forgiveness is solely found in Jesus Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Gospel of Matthew: Jesus Heals a Paralytic. Part 4.

And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 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.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.” (Matthew 9:3–8 (ESV)

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” (Psalm 130:3–4 (ESV)

“Our Savior’s first response is to pronounce the lame man forgiven (v. 2), and some commentators believe this indicates that sin is the cause of the man’s paralysis. Sin can indeed cause many illnesses, but note that Scripture never teaches that disease is always proof of transgression in a person’s life (John 9:1–3). In any case, Christ’s declaration of pardon does not sit well with the scribes. Forgiveness, it is well known, is the prerogative of God alone (Ps. 130:3–4). An ordinary man who claims this right puts himself in the Creator’s place and commits blasphemy (Matt. 9:3),” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

The scribes, and presumably the Pharisees, accused Jesus of blasphemy (Luke 5:17). Blaspheming (βλασφημέω; blasphemeo) means to insult, slander, or curse, (Matt. 9:3; Mark 3:28; 15:29; John 10:36; Acts 13:45; 19:37; Rom. 3:8; 14:16; Titus 3:2; James 2:7; 1 Peter 4:4; Jude 8; Rev. 16:9). The religious leaders were accusing Jesus of insulting and slandering God. What they did not realize was that Jesus was/is God.

They did not confront Jesus to His face, but rather condemned Him to themselves. In other words, they did not accuse Jesus out loud but rather they condemned Him in their thoughts. They did not acknowledge that Jesus was Immanuel, God in the flesh.  

Jesus confirmed this when the text says, “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” Jesus displayed divine omniscience in knowing what the religious leaders were thinking. In spite of this, there is no record that they acknowledged Jesus’ divinity.  

Jesus continued by saying, “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” Jesus claimed to be God; for to forgive sins is to claim divine authority (Isaiah 43:25). The scribes acknowledged this is what Jesus meant by what He said.

“Jesus’ response is extraordinary for two reasons. First, the man has come for healing of a physical disability, but Jesus speaks about the more profound defect of sin and about the radical healing of forgiveness of which this particular healing is a sign. Second, Jesus claims for Himself the power to forgive sins, which in all the Bible can be attributed only to God (Ex. 34:7; Isaiah 1:18; Psalm 51:4). The teachers of the law immediately accuse Jesus of blaspheming; a proper conclusion only if He is a mere man,” continues Dr. Sproul.

Jesus then said to the paralytic, “—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” In Jesus’ day people slept on mats that were laid upon the floor. These pallets served as a stretcher that were easy to carry. The paralyzed man was lying on such a mattress.  “And he rose and went home” (Matthew 9:7).

Matthew recorded the reaction of the religious leaders. What about the response by the crowd? “When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men” (Matthew 9:8).

The crowds saw the miracle, were afraid of Jesus after the miracle, and then glorified God because of the miracle. However, they did not acknowledge Jesus as God even though He performed the miracle. They only recognized that God had given Jesus divine authority, and not that He inherently and rightly possessed divine authority (John 3:1-2).

Praying for physical healing is not wrong. Seeking medical attention is not wrong either. However, the greater need is for God to forgive us of our sins; whether or not sin has caused our physical infirmity.    

Soli deo Gloria!