Every human has many basic needs. There is the need for oxygen. There is the need for water. There is the need for food. But among all of these needs is one that stands above the rest. It is the need for forgiveness of sins. In Matthew 9:1-8, Jesus displays that this need for forgiveness is the greatest of all needs. In this miracle account, Jesus dramatically displays His authority over sin, while at the same time, displays His deity to the religious leaders.
Jesus is in Capernaum, teaching in a house that is so packed full that nobody can enter. The gospel of Mark tells us that four men came carrying their paralytic friend on a mat to meet Jesus. When they realized they had no option of getting into the house, they improvised by going up onto the roof, digging a hole, and lowering the man down into the middle of the room.
We can well assume that at that point, everyone thought Jesus would heal the man. Instead, Jesus looked at the man and said, "Your sins are forgiven." This was not what the friends wanted. It was not what the man expected. And it certainly was not what the religious leaders anticipated. But could there be any sweeter news to a man than this?
Of course, the teachers of the law thought Jesus was blaspheming. They understood that nobody could forgive sins but God alone. They knew that Jesus was claiming to be God. The only thing they didn't think as an option was that Jesus was in fact God. And so when Jesus perceived that they were disgusted with Him for forgiving the man's sins, Jesus gets right to the point to confirm that He is God. He says,
"Why do you think evil in your heart? For which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins--he then said to the paralytic--'Rise, pick up your bed and go home."
Which is easier to say? There is no doubt that it is easier to say something that cannot be physically verified. Nobody can look into the man's heart to see if he had been forgiven. But if Jesus had told the man to get up and be healed, that is able to be verified and it would draw a line in the sand. And so Jesus raises the tension by looking at the man and telling him to get up. All so that they would know He had the authority to forgive sins. Powerful. Amazing. Dramatic. And the man gets up.
If you want to read or listen to the rest of the account and how I applied this text to our life, you can find it HERE (sermon audio usually posted by Tuesday afternoon).