But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…
Many years ago, I attended a Bible study at my home church in Houston, Texas. One of the women in the small group suffered from brittle Type 1 diabetes. Because of her severe symptoms, she sought experimental treatments, which required her to take a cocktail of medications at specific times during the day. When the timer went off, she downed her pills.
One time, she shared in her testimony how three people were praying for her healing. To make it complete, based on the friends of the paraplegic in today’s passage, she counted herself as the fourth prayer. When she told this to her son, he said, “You cannot carry your own mat! I’ll carry the fourth corner.”
Although Matthew omits the expanded detail of four friends lowering a paraplegic through a tiled roof down to Jesus, Mark and Luke paint more detailed pictures, helping the reader understand the desperation of the situation. We also know from these two Gospels the house was crowded so they couldn’t get in through the front door.
Visualize all pairs of eyes diverted upward as tiles were removed and debris scattered until a full-grown man lying on a mat appeared. Amazed at their bold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, “Take heart, son. Your sins are forgiven.”
Can you hear the ticking away of seconds on an imaginary clock as the crowd jockeyed for position to see what would happen next? I have to believe some were thinking: What? That’s not why this man came.
The teachers of the law were more concerned with the letter of the law than the spiritually sick. They had their own rogue opinion—blasphemy, which carried a penalty of death by stoning.
Perceiving their thoughts, Jesus questioned them, “For which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so you may know the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He didn’t even finish the sentence but directed His attention back to the paraplegic, “Get up, pick up your mat, and go home” (Matthew 9:5-6).
While both statements are easy to say, the first would be easier in that it couldn’t be disproved. But the statement “get up and walk” could immediately be verified. So Jesus performed the healing, a verifiable task, to prove His authority as the Son of Man to forgive sins. Jesus, who has this authority, could say, “Your sins are forgiven,” and do it.
If Jesus had only healed the paraplegic’s legs and not forgiven his sins, the man would have walked away with two healthy legs, but remained spiritually sick. But out of His compassion—and to prove His deity—He forgave the man’s sins and healed his body. The former paralytic walked home healed in body and spirit.
My friend still suffers from diabetes, but received the greater need of forgiveness of sins many years earlier. She lives today by God’s grace.
Matthew West, a Christian artist, wrote a song, “Forgiveness,” which captures its work: “There is no end to what its power can do.” West’s song tells the story of a mom who, with the help of Jesus, forgave a drunk driver who killed her daughter and then asked for his early release from prison.
Matthew, the disciple, shows physical healing and forgiveness of sins intertwined. All three people had different situations but the same need—forgiveness. Indeed, there’s no end to what its power can do—for you, too.
- What do you believe was the relationship between physical and spiritual healing in this passage?
- Reread the Matthew, Mark, and Luke passages. What differences and similarities do you notice in them?
- Is there someone you need to forgive?
- Share a time you were forgiven.
- Who are four people you could enlist to pray for your healing—physical or spiritual? Give them a specific prayer request and length of time to pray for you.