Jesus has the authority to forgive sins

Matthew 9:1-8

Jerry A Collins




v                 How does Jesus healing here validate His ability to forgive sin?

v                 What did the Pharisees understand Jesus to mean?

v                 What is the meaning of the response of the multitudes?


Of course we live in a world that is full of differing religions. There are many purposes for these and one common denominator is that they devise a way to God. Whether by means of sacraments or faithful paths or religious duties or one’s morality and good deeds, a path is carved and a hope is gleaned that life can be attained with God in some way. The problem is that we can only come and hope to relate with God on His terms not ours. Those terms are that sin is paid for and we are forgiven. Other than this, religion is simply pie-in-the-sky—a preposterously optimistic goal; something good promised for the future but which one is certain not to get; an illusory prospect of future benefits. Enter Jesus who makes the claim to forgive sins! He claims to be the remedy for a relationship with God and He does it by means of a healing episode of a paralytic in an overcrowded house. The forgiveness of sins is an enormous issue in the OT where it makes very clear that only God can forgive sins (Isa 43:25; 55:7; Jer 50:20, Psa 51; Micah 7:18-19 the sacrificial system). This will help us understand the response of the teachers and also the reason for the authenticating miracle that takes place along with this claim. Jesus claim is something religions have to reckon with. We will see that the central theme of this event is that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins. And the primary need is for forgiveness of sins not the healing.


The Background 1:  Matthew begins by stating that Jesus took the boat across the lake and stepped out at Capernaum, His ministry center and this paralytic was brought to Him. But Mark and Luke record more information. Jesus was in a house—possibly Peter’s—and it was very crowded. Mark says many gathered there so there was no longer room even near the door. Luke tells us that friends were carrying this cripple on a stretcher wanting to set him down in front of Jesus and unable to find a way in, climbed up the roof and removed the tiles. Mark says they removed the roof above Him and dug an opening—possibly through the logs, dirt and brush that the tiles covered. They lowered this man through the roof right in the center in front of Jesus. So these men are determined to get the paralytic to Jesus, believing that if they did he could be healed. Mark and Luke declared that Jesus saw their faith and then stated that his sins forgiven. Matthew leaves out all of this detail and simply tells us the men brought the paralytic on a mat and Jesus sees their faith in bringing him to Jesus. So their act of belief is evident in the fact that they laid this man at Jesus’ feet. The implication being they all had the faith that Jesus could heal him.  

The Response 2:   (1) Jesus tells him to take heart my son. First, in this condition there is not much to take heart about. But also no teacher of the law would have said this kind of thing to him. It was a common Jewish belief that sickness was a caused by your sin or the sins of your parents (John 9:1-2) but that only God could forgive sin. If this man were righteous he would not be in this condition. Our response can be similar being religious we can see someone suffering and think in these terms—that some sin has caused their misfortune. Be of good cheer would not be the thing we would be saying to them either. Second, Jesus tells him his sins are forgiven. This is stated 3 times for emphasis. The forgiveness of sins and not the healing is the focus of this event. This was the last thing the people may have imagined they would have heard. These words are to render all opinions about his condition void—if this was caused by his sin then he was now forgiven. This is stated before Jesus heals him. So the basis of forgiveness was faith and that faith made him whole. For Christ to say the man’s sin was forgiven was the same as saying He was God and everyone in the room at that moment knew that was something only God could do!


They respond 3: The teachers respond to Jesus claim to forgive sins saying he blasphemes. A word that means to speak or represent God in an evil or irreverent way. Forgiving of sins is only God’s prerogative. So Jesus is claiming He is divine. From their point of view, Jesus should never have claimed to forgive sin especially, they believed, since He could not really have done this being a mere man. Of course they are correct, unless He really was God.

Jesus Rebukes them 4-5: His rebuke is to  the   point  and  should have caused them to reconsider knowing he knew what evil thots they had. There was no reason to think evil of Him. Jesus question in vs 5 connects sin and suffering and that is what Jesus meant to do. Isa 53 mentioned  in 8:17  says that Messiah would pay for our sins and infirmities but His mission was to deal first with the cause of suffering, sin, and then the healing of disease. So His healing ministry was a restoration from ruin. Things like paralytics, blind people and diseases and death were not  natural to God’s creation but a violation of it. It was ruined and cursed. Jesus was able to get behind the problem and deal with sin first, and then its effects. He will come again and restore creation completely but sin must be dealt with first. On one hand, it would be easier to say your sins are forgiven. How could you tell? That would be easy to say. But if someone said Rise and walk then he better do it or the person will be seen as a fraud. For the Pharisees, the teachers, the scribes, this statement was something they stumbled over because no mere mortal could dare say this. It might have been easier for them if Jesus had just simply said be healed—even though God’s power would be seen. The whole point here is the unbelief of these teachers in contrast with the belief of the men and the paralytic.


Jesus authority 6-7: This miracle of healing is designed to reveal that Jesus also has the authority to forgive sins. He uses the title Son of Man connecting Him to Dan 7:13-14 where Daniel saw the Son of Man coming in the clouds to execute final judgment. If He is the judge of the world then He does possess the authority to pardon and to condemn just as He claims here. Jesus made this same claim to the High Priest in Mt 26:64 affirming His divinity from Daniel’s prophecy. This healing implies that if he could heal the disease, He could also heal the cause of the disease—the sin.

The Response 8: Filled with awe and praising God, they still did not know Jesus was divine. They still thought he was a man. But Jesus had clearly demonstrated and established His authority as the Son of God.

1. Jesus is the only one whoever walked the earth who had the power and authority to forgive sins. So don’t go to anyone else or any religious system to get forgiveness of your sin.

2. Unless our sin is forgiven, we cannot have a relationship with God and we remain condemned.

3. Forgiveness of sin comes only through faith that believes Jesus is able to forgive the sin and has made provision to deliver us. There is salvation in no other name.