Authority to Forgive Sins: Matthew 9:1-8
“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.” Matthew‬ ‭9‬:‭1‬-‭8‬ ‭ESV‬‬
This story unfolds with a unique twist. Rather than the focus being on the power of Jesus to heal a paralytic, it shifts to the authority of Jesus to forgive sins. This is a huge change in the conversation.
Some Old Testament prophets healed people and even raised the dead, but the forgiving of sin was left to God alone. The scribes were correct, by His statement to the paralytic; “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven”, Jesus was making a claim of being God!
A casual reading of this story might miss the significance of what happened. The scribes reaction and opposition to His statement actually underlined His claim. Critics are sometimes worth their weight in gold.
These scribes focused the story back on Jesus. Without the critics we might conclude that the main subject was the faith of the paralytic and his friends. Granted, this was a noteworthy miracle, but in this story Jesus served up something far greater than a miracle. He presented Himself as the Saviour with the authority to forgive sins.
I’ve had conversations with people from many different world religions and even different Christian denominations. At some point I throw in the key question; “How does your religion remove your sins?” Another way of asking the question; “How do you know your sins are forgiven?”
Usually they ask; “What do you mean by sins?” I then say; “The wrong or bad things you have done in your life! Those things you feel guilt over.” It doesn’t take long to acknowledge personal sinfulness, but they always draw a blank when it comes to assurance of forgiveness.
The conversation usually boils down to an attempt to do good deeds to offset their sins. I then ask, “At what point do you know you’ve done enough good to cover your bad and who is the judge?” They finally admit, “I just hope I’m good enough.”
At that point they are ready for my next question; “Do you mind if I share with you how I know God has forgiven my sins?” The answer is usually, “Yes, please tell me!” I then share the gospel and why Jesus alone has the authority to forgive sins.
That’s what makes this story in Matthew 8:1-8 so significant. It begs the question; “Who is Jesus Christ, and what gives Him the authority to forgive sins and change the eternal destiny of those who believe in Him?” This story is an open door for the gospel.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global