This story follows a series of other incidents around the Lake Galilee, and now Jesus returns to his home town (Caperneum), and whilst he was there, some people brought a paralytic to him on a bed. This same story is also told in Mark and Luke with extra details included (such as the house being crowded and the man being lowered through the roof), but Matthew has chosen to tell the story in a particular way and this telling should be the focus of the sermon.
Straight away, Jesus comments on the faith of the people involved. Just like the leper and Roman centurion in the previous sermons, they have recognised that Jesus is able to meet their need and so have come to him with it. Jesus loves faith, and whatever the struggles in our own lives or the lives of those we care about, he longs for us to bring those struggles to him.
The response of Jesus is surprising. Rather than immediately dealing with the presenting issue of paralysis, he instead tells the man that his sins are forgiven. This is the most important issue for all of us. Whatever else might be happening in our lives, there is nothing more crucial than having our sins forgiven and our relationship with God made right.
We should note that neither the man nor his friends complained or expressed disappointment that Jesus had done this. Some of the scribes who were present were not happy at the events. They knew that since sin was committed against God, then only God has the prerogative to forgive. Hearing Jesus declare the man’s forgiveness so confidently made them rightly conclude that he was acting as though he was God, and so they charged him with blasphemy.
Jesus knew what they were thinking and addressed it immediately. It isn’t blasphemy to put yourself in the place of God if you actually are God. Jesus showed that he could do what only God has the right to do by demonstrating that he could do what only God has the power do. He asked whether it is easier to say ‘your sins are forgiven’ or ‘rise and walk’. The answer is that they are both easy to say, but only God has such power in his word that those things will come to pass at his decree.
The story ends with the man being healed, picking up his mat and going home. He was brought to Jesus by his friends in faith, and he had a life-changing encounter. His sins were forgiven. His body was healed. And God’s glory was shown through him.
Some Key Points:
- The most significant need that every human has is the forgiveness of sins.
- Only God is able to forgive our sins.
- By showing his miraculous power, Jesus demonstrates that he is the God of healing and forgiveness.
- Come to Jesus with Faith – Whatever circumstances and problems we have (or our friends have) we can bring them to Jesus in faith. Jesus loves to respond to faith.
- Opportunity For Forgiveness – The passage shows that of first importance is having our sins forgiven and things made right with God. You could give people an opportunity to respond to the gospel and have their sins forgiven.
- Physical Healing – This is another good opportunity to pray for those who are sick, that they experience healing like the man in the story.