Matthew 9:1-13 (ESV)
1 And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. 2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 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,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 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.” 7 And he rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. 9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus returned to Capernaum, where he lived at this time. Nazareth was his hometown, where he grew up, but Capernaum, near the Sea of Galilee, was the center of his ministry. A paralyzed man was presented to him, and Jesus addressed the paralytic by saying, “Take heart” or “Take courage.” Then Jesus made a radical declaration to the man in the hearing of all those present: “Your sins are forgiven.” Why did Jesus charge him to “Take courage”? Was he about to experience something painful? No! Instead, according to Jesus, even though this man was quite sick, he had absolutely nothing to fear because all his sins were taken away. When Jesus told the man his sins were erased, the crowd began to reason, “This is crazy! Jesus is claiming to be God! Only God can forgive sins!” Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking, and to prove he had the authority to release this man from his sins, he completely healed his broken body. When Jesus asks, “which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Rise and walk’?” we would think the answer would be “Your sins are forgiven.” That would be much easier “to say” because no one could verify the truth of that statement. To say, “Rise and walk” would be harder because everyone could clearly see whether or not a man was healed, right?
The real answer to Jesus’ question was that it is easier to say “Rise and walk.” Any healer can say that. But only God can pardon sin. Jesus forgave the man of his sins, and he healed his broken body. This was the sixth of ten miracles Matthew records in chapters 8 and 9. We can forget what an incredible miracle our salvation is. If we are Christians, God has chosen to release us from the punishment we deserve for our sins. Yet, we can know we are forgiven and still mope around, thinking other issues in our lives are too difficult for God to deal with. How foolish we can be! If God has freely given us the blood of his own Son, he’s not going to keep us from anything else we need in this life. God won’t withhold any truly good thing from his kids. Let’s rejoice that our sins are forgiven, and as a result, remember nothing else necessary for us is too hard for God to accomplish.