Questions Jesus Asked: Why Do You Entertain Evil Thoughts in Your Hearts? Which Is Easier: To Say 'Your Sins Are Forgiven,' Or to Say, 'Get Up and Walk?' - Matthew 9:4,5
By Ted Schroder,
February 5, 2017
The story of the healing of the paralytic is told in three of the Gospels -- Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:3-12; Luke 5:18-26. It is significant because Jesus pronounced forgiveness of the man's sins before he healed him of his physical ailment. This provoked a charge of blasphemy from the local religious leaders. Blasphemy is an act in which there is a perceived insult to the honor of God. The penalty was death. The local Bible teachers thought that Jesus was dishonoring God by taking to himself the prerogative to forgive sins, something only God could do. Jesus was claiming to speak and act for God. It was a question of authority. Who had the authority to forgive sins? Jesus was asked this question when he was teaching in the temple: "By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority?" He replied with another question about John the Baptist's ministry: "Where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?" They refused to commit themselves one way or another: "We don't know." Then Jesus said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things" (Matthew 21:23-27).
Yet here in the healing of the paralytic Jesus explicitly claimed divine authority. "So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." How do we know that this claim is true? It seems to be an assertion that cannot be verified. How can you know whether sins are forgiven? You are not issued a written pardon by anyone. However, there was a deeply rooted conviction in Judaism that all suffering was the result of personal sin, and that nobody could be cured until he or she was forgiven. Physical healing, therefore, would be proof that a person's sins were forgiven. If Jesus could heal this man it would be powerful evidence that he was authorized to forgive sins. When the man got up and went home healed of his paralysis the crowd "were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men."
In these stories Jesus was laying claim to divine authority. He challenged his hearers to the roots of their being. This resulted in the calling of Matthew to follow Jesus. What would be your response to such a demonstration of the power of God to forgive and to heal?
Why is this so important to us today? This man was paralyzed. Sin may not have been the direct cause of this paralysis. But there is a deep connection between our paralysis as human beings to fulfill our God-given calling as children of God, and the sin of the world. All sickness, cruelty, hatred, suffering and death in the world is the result of our sin-sickness -- our human depravity - our departure from the will of God. We may diagnose our problems psychologically, socially, politically, economically, educationally and vocationally but they are merely symptoms of the underlying problem that paralyzes the human race.
This paralyzed man is a type of the human race -- needing forgiveness and healing. Read the description by St.Paul of the world in his day in Romans 1 and 2:
"Since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think that you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance" (Romans 1:28-2:4).
Where do we go to find the remedy for this diagnosis -- the cancer of sin in the human heart? How can human depravity and its consequences be forgiven and healed? Enter the Messiah who exercises divine authority. He comes to forgive and to heal. We read that Jesus even knew their unexpressed thoughts. He asked his adversaries, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?" In his omniscience as God in the flesh, he knew the condition of the human heart -- the evil thoughts that sear our consciences and cause so much trouble in our relationships with one another. We suppose that no one knows what is going on in our minds. We forget that the Spirit of God searches our hearts and minds at all times. We are an open book to God. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts" (Psalm 139:23). Jesus exposed their malicious thoughts and put them to open shame. "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of whom we must give account" (Hebrews 4:13). Nothing can be concealed from Jesus. He sees, he knows, he records. "God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares" (Romans 2:16).
What is your reaction to his words and his actions? You can be attracted to him, as was the paralyzed man and his friends who brought him to Jesus. Or you can be threatened by him, as were the leaders of his day. You can come with trust, faith, hope, and desperation for a solution to your problems, recognizing that Jesus is adequate and able to handle your needs. You respond to his call to follow him, to turn to him in the moments of your fears.
Or you can question his authority and competence. You can refuse to acknowledge his claim on your life, your lifestyle, your worldview, and your priorities. You are more comfortable with your individualistic self-centered morality and don't want to accept a higher authority in your life to which you have to be accountable. But the whole world is held accountable to God. You can reject his claims to speak for God, to forgive sins, even though you are conscious of sin in your life.
What is the proof of his authority? The healing of the paralytic. It is when a man or woman meets Jesus and experiences his healing, his deliverance, his salvation, that his authority is confirmed. Instead of entertaining evil thoughts in your hearts, questioning the authority of Jesus as God come to save you, you experience the forgiveness of your sins and rise up to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. That is the proof of who Jesus is. Jesus came and suffered and died for you so that you may be forgiven and the cancer of sin eradicated in your life. He took upon himself the penalty of your sins in his sacrificial death upon the Cross so that you might be forgiven. He comes into your lives to heal you of your paralysis. You experience the riches of the kindness, tolerance and patience of God. Your life is changed forever.
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