Matthew 9:1-7

And after getting into a boat he crossed the sea and came to his own town. 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 9:1-7

At first glance it seems strange that the first words out of Jesus’ mouth upon seeing a paralyzed man carried into his presence are “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” That isn’t at all what anyone would suspect. Maybe a word of compassion or empathy? Maybe a heart-felt conversation – Tell me a bit about your suffering. What happened that put you on this bed? Instead, Jesus instantly offers a word of forgiveness. What do you think about that?

Suppose you were that man. Suppose that you suffered a debilitating stroke or were in a car accident that left you suddenly paralyzed. It is hard to imagine but it happens every day to someone, somewhere. What would you be thinking then?

I put myself in that position and I know that I’m no different than most people. I would be angry at God and angry at myself and angry at the world. And I also know that I would internalize that anger. I would be wondering what I did wrong that I would deserve such a fate. And if Jesus showed up at my hospital door I would be much more interested in being able to walk again – which I would see as a miracle – and much less interested in a word of forgiveness – which I largely have come to take for granted. Forgiveness, I would think, is easy. Walking again would be tough.

But the scribes aren’t seeing this scene from the point of view of the paralyzed man. They are just sniffing around for another gotcha! moment to hold against Jesus. Jesus goes against their theories about God. They are in their heads, protecting their theology, blind to the pain of the poor guy on the bed. Jesus is in their heads too. He sees just what is going on. So he backs up his healing words with a healing deed. “Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.”

Jesus has authority because Jesus is the Author of life. He is the source and the ground of our being.

Jesus sees our reality far more deeply than we do. He sees our brokenness in mind, body, and spirit. He takes our sin from more seriously than we do. What we might want to hide and deny and run from, Jesus walks straight into. He cuts through the layers of what paralyzes us and offers a new path of wholeness. Of holiness. His voice cuts through the ages. Stand up!

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, we need a far deeper faith than playing theological head games. We need a much deeper trust than mouthing words can take us. We need you at the deepest levels of what separates us from you and from others. We need healing from whatever holds us back and holds us down and paralyzes us. Say the word that we might stand up. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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2 Responses to “Matthew 9:1-7”

  1. Dave Armstrong Says:

    Excellent thoughts. I shared this devotion with people I know who need the message and to pray the prayer you prayed.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Reading this today I was struck by the (im)possibility of sin causing that man’s paralyzation. Having taught children with handicapping conditions, I was often asked, or not, whether something they or their parents had done caused the condition. I know that’s not the case but this passage brought that to me today.

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