DUNCAN/Jesus cures the paralytic and forgives his sin
Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew 9:1-8. We continue along the theme of Christ’s divine and supernatural power. Matthew here has our focus directly on our Lord and Savior. He is reminding us again of His power, His glory, His authority. And there are many things that we learn about Christ in this passage, but I’d like to direct your attention to three things. First, we here behold the justice and mercy of Christ. Second, we here behold the hardness of some men’s hearts. And third, we here behold the power of Christ to forgive and heal.
I. We Here Behold the Justice and Mercy of Christ.
The first truth that we see in this passage is the justice and the mercy of Christ. We here behold Christ’s justice and mercy on display. We learn that the Lord Jesus Christ is both righteous and compassionate. We see it in verses 1 and 2: “Getting into a boat Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. And they brought to him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘Take courage Son. Your sins are forgiven.’” Don’t miss the first words of this passage, “Getting into a boat Jesus crossed over the sea,” because those words point you back to the end of chapter 8. The Gadarenes had come to the Lord Jesus after the exorcism of the demon from the demoniacs, and they asked Jesus to leave. One of the sad things is that nowhere in the remainder of the gospels are we ever told that Jesus went back to the region of the Gadarenes. Christ’s warm-heartedness and His tenderness towards this ill man, this sick man, this man who faces some form of disease which has left him paralyzed, is evident in His words. He says, “Take courage, my Son.” These are, on whatever account, words of compassion. These are terms of endearment. He refers to him as “His child.” He refers to him in such a way to encourage him, to tell him to be of good cheer. And Christ’s concern as this man is brought to him is to emphasize the forgiveness of sins. We are told in this passage that when the Lord Jesus saw the faith of this man and of the men who brought him, He immediately said, “Your sins are forgiven.”
We learn many things from this passage. We learn that as we contemplate our sin, as we become aware of its magnitude, and as we become aware of our need, it is very easy to be despairing. Everyone in whom the Spirit is doing a work of grace, sees their own sin, and as that need becomes apparent to them, it is very easy to be despairing about that, to be left prostrate on the floor, on one’s face, feeling like, “How could God forgive this sin? How could anyone forgive this sin?” It is precisely in that posture that the Lord Jesus Christ wants us to see the message of this passage. He has compassion for those who are in the grip of sin, and we must not put Christ off. The Gadarenes put Christ off. They said, “Go away. We don’t need this.” The scribes in this passage are going to put Christ off. But there may be no tomorrow. Just like there was no further visit of Christ to the Gadarenes.
II. We Here Behold the Hardness of Some Men’s Hearts.
There is a second thing we learn in this passage, and we see it in verses 3-5. Here we behold the hardness of some men’s hearts. Even in the face of a miracle, blind men cannot see. Verses 3-5 say: “And some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This fellow blasphemes.’ And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, ‘Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’?” These Scribes were apparently there in the house for the purpose of criticizing. They were apparently there in the house for the purpose of finding some dirt on the Lord Jesus which they could use to besmirch His reputation. And so, the minute they hear Him declare this word of forgiveness to this man, they raise an objection. Well, they are right so far. God alone ultimately have the right to forgive sins. Jesus shows that He is God in the flesh by knowing what they are thinking.
Isn’t it amazing that the scribes can sit here and watch a miracle, and still harden their hearts? Some men can harden their hearts in face of anything, no matter how dramatic. Some men can harden their hearts in the face of anything. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that it’s a lack of evidence, a lack of proof, that keeps men from coming to Christ. It’s not at all. It’s moral perversity. It is stubbornness of heart that blinds the reasoning of the mind. And we who sit under the Word week by week, must make sure that we do not allow ourselves to be hardened by apathy, by indifference to the Word of truth and its claims upon our own hearts.
III. We Here Behold the Power of Christ to Forgive and Heal.
In verses 6-7 we learn that Christ has the power to forgive and to heal. This is the focal point of this story that Matthew recounts for us. He’s warning us to behold the power of Christ to forgive and to heal in this passage. Jesus, after speaking to the Scribes, says to them, “’But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ — then He said to the paralytic, ‘Get up, pick up your bed and go home.’ And he got up and went home.” Here Jesus demonstrates His authority and His power. The function of this miracle is to prove, is to evidence, is to compel those present to acknowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ has the power to forgive sins. And so, this miracle is an attesting sign. It’s a sign that corroborates His person, His claims, His message, His authority.
We also behold in verse 8 the astonishment of the people. We learn there that it is possible to be astonished by Christ, and yet not believe in Him for salvation. Notice the words of verse 8, “When the crowd saw this, they were awestruck, and they glorified God who had given such authority to men.” The people were astonished. They were absolutely flabbergasted at what they saw, but they still did not understand. Jesus is not inviting you to embrace Him as a great moral teacher. He’s calling you to embrace Him as the Son of God who alone can forgive you of your sins. If you have not done that, do it today. Do it now.
The Rev. Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III is Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. He can be reached at 601-923-1600 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.