BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY: “…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.” Matthew 9:2 ESV
It was one of those times when the familiar became alive with new impact and meaning. Pastor Trevor Hindman was sharing from this passage during our morning prayer time that is part of the New Year fasting and prayer emphasis. His point was receiving the miracle that was unexpected or not asked for. We believe we know what we need, but the Lord knows our real need. This allowed me to focus more on the easily overlooked words and lessons in this passage.
In this account the man on the mat had an obvious need. He had concerned friends who were focused on getting him to Jesus to heal him. But when Jesus sees the faith of these friends, He responds by first speaking forgiveness. In reading slowly and looking closely at the words, it is important that Jesus says, “take heart” or “be encouraged.”
When someone is overcome with remorse and is aware of their failures and sin, it is encouraging to hear the words, “you are forgiven.” But in this case the obvious need of the man and the reason his friends went through all the challenges to get him to Jesus was his physical need. Since this is the only passage that I can remember when Jesus speaks forgiveness first, perhaps the man himself realized his sin and unworthiness as he is in Jesus’ presence.
It would be interesting to know the thoughts in the minds of the people in this story. Was the paralyzed man surprised or relieved? Did his friends think, “that’s well and good, but let’s get the reason we are here!” We know the thoughts of the Scribes. They thought, “who does this guy think He is?! Only God can forgive sins. This man is committing the sin of blasphemy, while proclaiming forgiveness of sin!” (Verse 3) (my paraphrase)
Jesus then speaks out loud the thoughts of His critics. “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?” (Verse 4) It is one thing to have a thought in your mind. It is another to “entertain” that thought in your heart. The heart is the seat of emotions. It is one thing to “think” Jesus is blaspheming, it is another to allow that judgment to stir up an emotional response. That shuts out any possibility to the truth. It stops conversation. It hinders looking at the facts. It kept the Scribes from responding with the crowd after the healing, “…they were filled with awe and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.” [to forgive and to heal] (Verse 8)
Jesus continues, “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.” (Matt. 9:5,6)
The physical healing of the man demonstrated Jesus’ authority to forgive sins. In doing so we see the priority of the spiritual over the physical. Physical healing and health are related to this life. Spiritual wholeness (forgiveness of sin) is related to eternal life. “Whoever believes in Him (Jesus) shall have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
This gives perspective to the words of the old song, “Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well with my soul.’” When our sins are forgiven. When we have spiritual life, we have what we truly need. And yes, Jesus is able to heal and answer our prayers.