Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105

Bible Study Notes

Matthew 9: 1-8

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Jesus' Authority over Sin

Jesus' Authority over Sin

General Idea: Sin is the ultimate cause of spiritual paralysis. No worse infection or illness can confine us. It will control all aspects of our life and eternity to come, unless we are redeemed from it. This passage continues the theme of how Jesus repeatedly goes out of His way to minister to we who are sinners! He seeks out we who are unworthy to receive Him, and then He forgives and heals us. Why does Jesus do this for us? Perhaps because we are sick and paralyzed, needing forgiveness. We have no way to get off our "mat" without His help! We may not be confined to a bed or have our only mobility be a wheelchair. Nevertheless, we are still paralyzed by sin, and in need of His forgiveness.

The second aspect of this passage is the reaction of the religious custodians of the people, and the people themselves. The leadership saw Jesus as a fake. Perhaps they feared His righteousness because they had none, or maybe it was His abilities and compassion, of which they also had none. The people were attracted to Him by His fame, and His demonstrations of wonder to which they sought either a show or a chance to be healed themselves. The question we need to ask ourselves is, what is it about Jesus that attracts us? Is it the show, the healing, or do we have the determination and faith to make Him our Lord so He can get us off our mat?
1.   Came to his own town. Jesus went home. Capernaum is at the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. Recent archeological evidence indicates it was not a small town, as many believed. Rather, it was a considerably large town, perhaps even a city in Jesus' time.
a.   Saw their faith. Jesus also singled out the faith of the ones who brought the paralyzed man. These four men modeled Faith, not only in what Jesus could do, but also the determination to get their friend to Him.
b.   This sick man must have done something to earn him the favor of having such passionate friends. Remember, these were friends, not relatives!
c.   Take heart, son/ be of good cheer. These are words of incredible comfort. Jesus sought to redirect the focus from the suffering to what is really important, that is, eternity.
d.   Lying on a mat. This refers to his regular bed, not a cot, or some kind of gurney. They literally grabbed his bed, with him on it, and went to seek Jesus.
e.   Remember, Matthew sometimes abridges accounts. Mark and Luke add the details of a house and how the four men took this paralytic up on the roof and let him down (Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:18-26).
                                                  i.   This house was centrally located to the roads, and had easy access to the entire Galilean region. Perhaps it was Jesus' own family home, or even Peter's house (Mark 1:29).
                                                ii.    This house was Jesus' base of operations during his ministry in Galilee (Mark 2:1; 9:33).
                                              iii.     Remember, the events in Matthew are not in chronological order. Rather, they are listed as events. Luke is in chronological order.
2.   Teachers of the law. This refers to the Scribes and Pharisees whose job centered on interpreting the law. Josephus, a first century historian, recorded that there were more than 6,000 Pharisees. Also, according to him as a Jew, many were good and godly, but they overemphasized outward appearances. Jesus did not play their game of pretentiousness (looking good with their decorative garments and long public prayers, then going out, lying, and cheating widows and orphans), and they hated Him for it. Hypocrites hate honest men with a fervor!
a.   Your sins are forgiven. This gives us the picture of our Lord as Redeemer and Deliver. Only the person who was offended has the prerogative right to offer forgiveness. You cannot forgive an offence that was not done to you.
                                                  i.   Jesus, as a mere man, could have no right to forgive sins because He would not have been offended by this man's original sin or the deeds and transgressions he had done.
                                                ii.     The Messiah, in first century Jewish theology, could not forgive sins. So, there was a lot of confusion about who this guy was.
                                              iii.      By forgiving this man, Jesus claimed His full Godhood (Ex. 34:7; Isa. 1:18; 43:25)!
b.   Sin is our root problem, our greatest pursuit, and felt need. Our real need is the cleansing of our heart (Isa. 51:21). We do not know if sin did cause this man's paralysis, but sin can and does cause physical problems, and even death (John 5:14; 1 Cor. 11:29-30).
c.   This man did not come to have his sins forgiven; he and his friends sought physical healing. We, too, get so caught up in what we think we need, that we miss what we really need. God is more concerned about our maturity and character than anything else. Sin is our greatest illness! Even if we are never physically healed, our predicament is temporary; the real need is the forgiveness of our soul.
d.   By forgiving this man's sins, Jesus was testifying to His deity. He proved His deity by also healing him.
3.   Which is easier. To the scribes, forgiving was much harder than healing. Both are equally impossible for us, and equally easy to God. They were right in a way, because in medical science it is, but God is the one who gives physicians the knowledge and tools to do medical procedures. In reality, no, it is not, as both are impossible without God. They knew only God could perform such an act of forgiveness, so Jesus was, as C.S. Lewis stated, a liar, a lunatic, or Lord.
a.   They would have been correct in their accusation of blasphemy if Jesus was a mere man, but His demonstration of power over sickness would put this to rest (John 5:36; 10:25, 38).  Only God could forgive sins and perform this healing.
                                                  i.   Blaspheming was pronouncing ones self as divine, inviting others to worship other gods, or it could be an insult to God's honor (Num. 15:30). The penalty for such an act of forgiving sins was death (Lev. 24:10-23). Jesus obviously was not guilty of this or any offence.
                                                ii.    This was also a challenge to the leaders to reconsider their mindset and judgment. Even faced with a miracle, they refused to embrace His Lordship (Psalm 41:1; Jer. 3:22; Hos. 14:4) because it would sacrifice their presumptions and authority, as well as their power and influence.
                                              iii.     Yet, in the minds of the Jewish leaders, the lesser deed of the healing proved the greater deed of the forgiveness.
b.   Knowing their thoughts is also a pronouncement of divinity, although the OT reveals that God sometimes told prophets what others were planning, which is thinking.
c.   Healing, to the Jewish mindset, was something that also only came from God.
d.   In the works of Josephus, there are numerous accounts of people in Jesus time claiming to do miracles and healing, but none of them actually came through with their promises and claims. This is true with the religious sideshows of the nineteenth century and some television preachers of today. There are lots of claims, but no actual demonstrated healing accrued (I am not saying people cannot be healed today, because they can. Its just that many people claim it, and it ends up being untrue 99.99999% of the time). It is possible that Jesus' critics placed Him in the category of all of the false prophets of the day.
4.   They were filled with awe. The effect on the people was amazement and wonder. They praised God, the ultimate reaction and response we are to make (Matt. 17:6; 28:5,10). They may have praised Him because they thought people were given such authority. For us, as Christians, our primary purpose, outside of receiving Christ, is to glorify God in all that we do!
a.   Jesus' fame had spread all throughout the land (Luke 5:17).
b.   The Gospel of Mark frequently testifies to the amazement that Jesus' teaching and actions impacted on those who observed them (Mark 2:12; 5:20, 42; 6:2, 51; 7:37; 10:26; 11:18; 15:5). In these instances, it was Christ's inherent authority that amazed people, as regular teachers just quoted one another with no authority attached. Jesus did not quote human authorities, as did the teachers of the law, because His authority was directly from God.
c.   Because of this, the religious authorities were there to investigate Jesus. Who is this guy, why is He doing this, and is He a threat, they wondered. However, their quest was not to seek truth, but rather feed their critical and hostile mindsets with more judgmental attitudes. The result was their quick accusations that He was a fake. 
d.   When ancient writers reported healings, they also included the audience's reaction.
            Take heart and hear the words of good cheer! These are words of incredible comfort, as they display our Lord's power over our sin, our weakness, and whatever stress we face. His mission is to redirect our focus from the suffering we experience, which is temporary, onto what is really important, eternity. Do not let the paralysis of sin condemn you to a bed of misery and hopelessness. Do not rely on your abilities to walk when our Lord can give you the Word. We respond with faith and the determination to be His in all that we do. He can, and will, remove our distress with a word. So, be of good cheer, get off your mat, and take hold of what our Lord has for you.
1.   Where and what does home mean to you, a place, an event, a memory or what? What makes home a home that is special to you?
2.   Do you agree that Sin is the ultimate cause of spiritual paralysis? If not, why not?
3.   Is there something worse, such as an infection or illness, that we can be confined to, other than sin? Then why do most Christians rarely acknowledge their sin or seek to deal with it?
4.   Jesus seeks we who are unworthy to receive Him, and then He forgives and heals us.  Why does Jesus do this for us?
5.   What kind of faith and determination would Jesus see in you?
6.   What was it about Christ and Christianity that first attracted you? Has it changed? How does this motivational mindset prompt your faith and behaviors?
7.   This sick man must have done something to earn him the favor of having such passionate friends. What could be some of the possibilities?
8.   If Jesus said, take heart, to you, to what would He be referring? What do you need to do to take in the reality of these precious words of Jesus?
9.   What is your mat? In other words, what holds you back? Or, wherein lies your identification? Or, what is the chief motivation in your life that drives you?
10. What did Jesus do for you to get you off your mat? Do you think you are still on your mat? If so, why?
11. Do you think you would have more passion if your attitude of the urgency of humanity's condition struck you more deeply?
12. What does it take to enable someone to have the determination and faith to make Jesus the Lord of their lives? 
13. Why do you think the religious leadership saw Jesus as a fake?
14. What do you think are the factors that cause Christians to overemphasize outward appearances?
15. Why do you think hypocrites hate honest people so fervently? Or, do they?
16. We, as Christians, tend to get so caught up in what we think we need, we miss what we really need. So, what do you really need, and on what has your focus been?
17. What are the themes in this passage that make pronouncements of Jesus' divinity?
18. Jesus challenged the leaders to reconsider their mindset and judgment. Does He have to do this to you and your church? If so, what? What will you do about it?
19. What is the ultimate reaction and response we are to make (Matt. 17:6; 28:5,10)? What do you need to do to make praise and worship (not just songs, but a life style) a daily reality and passion?
20. Jesus' earthly mission, besides redemption, was, and still is, to redirect our focus from our sufferings and experiences, which are temporary, onto what is really important, eternity (The Kingdom of God). What needs to take place to give you the mindset that looks to eternity while your feet remain on this earth? By that, we mean to be, and to learn all you can while you are here, so nothing is wasted, while at the same time, keeping your focus and hope on Christ and what is still to come.
© 2003 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries

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