Matthew 9:2-8

And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”

But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he then said to the paralytic—’stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home.

When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings. Matthew 9:2-8

There are two things about this text that jump out at me. The first is the charge that the religious leaders level against Jesus. “This man is blaspheming.” And the second is the link that Jesus sees between a man’s physical infirmity and spiritual brokenness. I think they are related.

“Blasphemy” is not a word that we use every day. It certainly isn’t a word I use every day.  A quick dictionary check says it means “directing irreverent words or actions against God.” To curse God. Or it can mean to “the act of claiming the attributes of a deity to oneself.” In Jesus’ day, the penalty for such an offense was death by stoning. (Leviticus 24:13-16)

Notice that Jesus isn’t actually being publicly charged with blasphemy. The scribes aren’t yet ready to go public. The text says “Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” They are just thinking. They are still uncertain. If Jesus is who people are beginning to say that he is, it isn’t blasphemy. They are holding their thoughts in their hearts.

But Jesus knows what they are thinking. He perceives their thoughts. In fact Jesus sees that there is really little difference between the scribes and the paralyzed man. Both are spiritually broken (as are we all) which manifests itself in how they think and act. The man on the stretcher is physically paralyzed, the scribes are mentally paralyzed. They both need to be set free.

God’s answer to our spiritual brokenness is forgiveness. God forgives us. God comes to us, in Jesus, bearing forgiveness. Not spite. Not retribution. And certainly not a crowd with stones in their hands. We might do that to ourselves and one another but that isn’t God at work. Our lack of forgiveness for ourselves or others, in fact, is the real blasphemy. God is love and Jesus loves both the paralyzed man and these internally accusing scribes.

With a word, Jesus forgives the paralyzed man and tells him to take up his bed and go home. It happens. Healing brings wholeness. The crowd is amazed and rightly attribute the whole scene to God at work.

But what about the scribes? Where is their healing? The story doesn’t say.

Sometimes our spiritual brokenness is readily apparent. But far more often, it is cloaked behind the publicly acceptable curtains of how we look, what we wear, where we live, what we drive. We maintain appearances. But God always sees our hearts. God perceives our thoughts. God knows where we are drawing lines and picking up stones. And God stands ready, always, to remind us that we live in forgiveness. What about the scribes? What about us?

Let us pray: Dear Lord, you know the connection between our heads, our hearts, and our bodies. You see the symptoms of our spiritual brokenness all around in the brokenness of our world, the brokenness of our lives. We surrender our lives to you. Heal us. Guide us. Use us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

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One Response to “Matthew 9:2-8”

  1. Sharon Boyd Says:

    May God bless you as you continue to bless us! May you and the family have a blessed Christmas!

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