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)
Today we conclude the story we began yesterday in which Jesus healed a paralytic who was carried by his friends to Jesus. Today we see the reaction of the religious leaders to this miracle.
Rather than being happy for this man who could now walk, the scribes became accusatory towards Jesus. Jesus knew exactly what these scribes were thinking to themselves – He knew their thoughts.
Jesus also knew what the scribes’ reaction would be if He forgave this man’s sins. He could have healed the paralytic without offering forgiveness as He had done for others. It seems here that Jesus uses this opportunity to reveal His deity.
In those days people considered disease and disability to be the direct result of a person’s sin or that person’s parent’s sin [Job 8:4; John 9:1-2]. And while all hardship on this earth exists because of sin (there was no disease in the Garden of Eden before the fall), it is not true that all such conditions are punishment by God.
Forgiving the man’s sins addressed this superstition and would have also removed his paralysis, according to the scribes faulty thinking. So to demonstrate that the man’s sins were actually forgiven, Jesus commands the paralytic to rise, pick up his bed and go home. Not surprisingly, this is exactly what this man does, to the shock of the crowds.
You would think when the scribes realized Jesus had read their minds and saw Him heal a paralytic right before their eyes, they’d understand Jesus had some supernatural ability and conclude, if not at least wonder, that He was actually God.
Unfortunately, as we’ll see in as we study the rest of Matthew’s gospel, this did not happen. At least not with the religious leaders who actually dug in their heels even more against Jesus eventually sending Him to His death on a cross. Today marks the first recorded incident of confrontation between Jesus and the Jewish religious elite in Matthew’s gospel. There will be many more.
As we’ve learned a few times before, many people today think that Jesus never claimed to be God during His lifetime and the idea of Jesus being deity did not come about until centuries later. Obviously this is false. All one has to do is read the Bible to see the many places where Jesus unequivocally equated Himself with God [Luke 7:48; John 8:58, 10:33 et. al].
There is a famous trilemma originated by C.S. Lewis, an Oxford scholar and a former rabid atheist. Lewis states that logically one has only three choices when it comes to Jesus. One must conclude that Jesus was either Lord (i.e. God), a liar, or a lunatic (alliteration helps us remember it).
If Jesus was a liar or was self-deluded (e.g. a lunatic) then He would not have healed anyone or been able to control the weather [Matthew 8:1-12, 23-27 et. al]. With no other option available, one must conclude that Jesus was exactly who He claimed to be: God in the flesh.
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