Matthew 9:1-8

1 So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city.

2 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic,“Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!”

4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?

5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?

6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

7 And he arose and departed to his house.

8 Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.

His own city (v.1) — Capernaum

their faith (v.2) — the sick man and the friends who brought him. This is the occasion when the friends lowered the sick man through the roof of the house because of the crowds.

blasphemes (v.3) — The scribes knew only God could forgive sin; so by claiming to do so, Christ was claiming to be God. This is the first recorded time He was charged with blasphemy.

The law knew no such form as an official forgiving of sins, or absolution. The leper might be pronounced clean by the priest, and a transgressor might present a sin-offering at the Temple, and transfer his guilt to it, by laying his hands on its head and owning his fault before God, and the blood sprinkled by the priest on the horns of the altar, and toward the Holy of Holies, was an atonement that “covered” his sins from the eyes of Jehovah, and pledged his forgiveness. But that forgiveness was the direct act of God; no human lips dared pronounce it. It was a special prerogative of the Almighty, and even should mortal man venture to declare it he could only do so in the name of Jehovah, and by His immediate authorization, But Jesus had spoken in His own name. He had not hinted at being empowered by God to act for Him. The Scribes were greatly excited; whispers, ominous head-shakings, dark looks, and pious gesticulations of alarm, showed that they were ill at ease … 

One who usurped the prerogatives of Deity, according to Levitical law, was to be punished by death. Christ immediately revealed that He knew the controversy raging within their hearts. He asked them, “Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? (Luke 5:23). It was easier to say one’s sins were forgiven because that statement required no demonstration. To say, “Get up and walk” necessitated a demonstration. It was, therefore, easier to tell someone his sins are forgiven because that required no evidence. If when Jesus commanded the man to rise up and walk, the man had not done so, Jesus would have proved Himself to be an impostor. In order that the company might know that He had the power to forgive sins, Jesus commanded the man, “Get up … and go home.” — Pentecost, page 153.

This account is also found in Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26.

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