Truth Taught- Jesus has the authority to forgive sins
It’s good at this point to be reminded of Jesus’ birth and mission…
Matthew 1:18–23 (ESV)
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).
Our Lord’s purpose in coming to earth as a human was to save His people from their sins. This is what the angel tells Joseph even before Jesus is born.
So, everything Jesus did in His ministry while incarnate was working toward that main purpose. As we’ve looked to His authority it is moving us forward to the ultimate authority that Jesus possesses, namely, the authority to forgive sins.
Last week we focused on Jesus’ authority. I mentioned that His Words have authority as we looked at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. He has authority over sickness and disease as He healed those brought to Him. We also saw that He has authority over creation as He calms the storm with just a command. Finally we saw His authority over the demonic realm, with just one word He cast out 6,000 demons. Every realm has been represented in Matthew’s account, which demonstrates Jesus’ authority, including the natural and the supernatural, the things seen and the things unseen all are under Jesus’ authority. Today we will see Jesus commands even sin and it’s consequences and as it were, they obey as well. Our Lord has the authority to forgive sin, save us from our sin and reverse the curse.
Matthew 9:1–8 (ESV)
9 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.
1. Jesus Sees Faith
9 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.”
This portrait of authority is only focused on Jesus. The disciples, while there, play no part in this account. It’s all about the authority of Jesus to forgive sin. They have nothing to contribute.
Matthew tells us that they are back in Capernaum now, Jesus hometown. This is where He had done many healing miracles already. So, when the people get word that Jesus is back they bring the sick to Him. Here we have the account of four friends bringing another who was paralyzed.
Mark and Luke tell us that this is the account where the four friends cannot get access to Jesus by any conventional means like bringing their friend up the steps and into the front door because the crowd was so thick. So, they carry their friend up to the roof, begin to remove tiles off the roof and lower their paralyzed friend down right in front of Jesus.
Jesus sees their faith. He sees the faith of all five, the paralytic and his four friends. Jesus always sees faith because faith is the main component of salvation.
There are some people who think that believing/having faith in Jesus is not mandatory for salvation. They often present scenarios where someone in a foreign country who has never heard of Jesus if they love God or live a certain way will be saved. When these questions are asked or objections to Jesus made, we must go straight to the Bible. What does God say?
What about those people who live in some far corner of the world and have never heard the gospel? Will they be saved if they “live up to” the knowledge of God they naturally have? Can they be “anonymous Christians” who somehow believe in Jesus even though they’ve never heard of him? Or is conscious faith in Christ necessary for salvation?
Paul’s answer: The apostle Paul settles this question clearly and finally when he writes,
Romans 10:13–17 (ESV)
13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Interpreting Paul’s answer: Right after stating that all who call upon the name of the Lord—that is, those who believe in Jesus Christ—will be saved, Paul asks, “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” His answer is not, “Oh, they don’t really need to believe in Jesus. They can just live up to what they know about God.” His answer is, “They can’t! That’s why we need to go and preach the gospel to them!”
Bottom line: Conscious faith in Christ is necessary for salvation.
John 3:36 (ESV)
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
The only way to be saved is to believe in the Son—to hear the message about Jesus, turn from your sin, and trust in him for salvation.
John 1:12–13 (ESV)
12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
In our passage today, Jesus saw their faith and that was the basis for His declaration that their sins are forgiven. At that moment Jesus saw their faith and forgave their sin.
They came to Jesus and received far more than they ever thought or imagined. The friends had no idea their sins would be forgiven, they just knew Jesus had the authority to heal all kinds of sickness and disease. The friend who was paralyzed didn’t think he would receive this much from Jesus either. Jesus can heal me but will He?
Beloved faith brings us into a standing with God where blessings are lavished upon us. This is a prime example of what faith brings about in our lives.
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
I’m sure this man was anxious about the entire situation. He was just lowered through a roof on a stretcher and Jesus is quick to reassure him…take heart is a way of saying hey everything is going to be fine.
Now another twist in the dialogue is that we must not forget they brought their friend to be healed and Jesus tells them that their sins are forgiven and does that first. Our Lord knows that is most important. If you stop and think about it what good would it be if this man was healed lived fifty more years and died and spent eternity in hell? Now, at least at this point, his sins are forgiven so if he remains paralyzed in fifty years, he will spend eternity in heaven with Jesus fully restored.
Our Lord sees their faith, forgives their sin and then will heal him. Faith brings so much with it.
Their faith was a determined faith. They believed so strongly that Jesus had the authority to heal their friend they were going to get him to Jesus right then and there. They were not leaving until Jesus saw their friend and in the process, He saw their faith.
Do you believe? Do you have faith to take a friend to Jesus? Are you determined in your faith?
Jesus sees faith…
2. The Scribes See Blasphemy
” 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?
While these men saw in Jesus divine authority to heal sickness and disease and while Jesus saw their faith, all the Scribes and Pharisees saw was blasphemy. Mark and Luke report that they also said only God can forgive sin. With that part of their statement, they were right, only God can forgive sin.
Luke 5:21 (ESV)
21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
The Scribes and Pharisees were right. No mere man can forgive sin that is God’s prerogative alone.
The verdict of God on man is that man is guilty and helpless and hopeless. And by all human measurements and all legal measurements, man is in an absolutely impossible situation. In fact, I don’t know if you know this but God Himself says, “It is an abomination to justify a sinner.” It is an abomination to God to justify a sinner. In fact, God says, “Justifying a sinner or declaring a sinner righteous or declaring someone guilty innocent, that kind of perversion of justice is as bad as declaring an innocent person guilty.”
And that’s what’s recorded in Proverbs 17:15. Listen to this very important verse. “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.” Either wrong verdict, either declaring the innocent just or declaring the just guilty, both are an abomination to the Lord. Not only to the Lord, but because man is created in the image of God with a built-in sense of justice and right and wrong in his heart, Proverbs 24:24 says, “He who says to the wicked, ‘You are righteous,’ people will curse him and nations will hate him.” We even have enough of the image of God in us, enough of the knowledge of right and wrong and the moral law of God to understand that it is not only to God an abomination to pervert justice, but it is to man as well. Repeatedly in the Scripture God Himself forbids anybody to declare a sinful person righteous.
Here is a situation where God alone can do something that no human can. You see all people are sinners and all people therefore deserve right punishment and God tells us that our sins are so evil that right punishment is hell. Our sins are against an eternal God so our punishment is also eternal. As deceived sinners we might think that’s too severe but the reality is we have sinned countless sins against a perfectly holy and eternal God.
God alone can forgive sinners. that is exactly what God does and that is the wonder of the gospel and the uniqueness of Christianity. Listen to Romans 4:5. God is called in Romans 4:5, “Him who justifies the ungodly.” What God will not allow us to do for the sake of justice, God Himself has done. He justifies the ungodly. And it further says the faith of that ungodly person is reckoned as righteousness. So God justifies the ungodly on the basis of faith.
Paul writes further, quoting from Psalm 32, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” That, you see, is the message of Christianity. There is one person in the universe who has the power, who has the authority, who has the right to declare guilty people innocent, to declare sinful people righteous, and that one singular person is the lawgiver and the judge and the executioner, God Himself. He justifies the ungodly, declaring them innocent, righteous, forgiven.
Now it’s one thing to say your sins are forgiven. Anyone can say that. There are people today who say that, who say your sins are forgiven my son. Anyone can say that but how do we know if the person saying it is actually telling us the truth? Here in our next section Jesus proves to everyone willing to see that He can forgive sin and when Jesus declares sins to be forgiven they really are forgiven.
Jesus has the authority to forgive because He is one Person of the Godhead. Because Jesus is fully divine He can fully forgive. Jesus has the authority to blot out our sins. But here’s the catch if that’s all He did, He would be unjust because we are all guilty of sin and to simply erase them is not right. We would cry out if a judge turned a murderer or a rapist loose without any punishment…unfair would be our cry. Yet that is exactly what God does when our sins are forgiven, we are turned loose without any punishment. The question is basically, how can God forgive us and justify us when we are guilty and He, Himself still be righteous and just?
Romans 3:21–26 (ESV)
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
So, how does God do it? He punished Jesus for our sin so He can forgive us and justify us and still be just Himself.
How does Jesus respond to the allegations that He is blaspheming because only God can forgive sin? He responds with proof…
3. The Crowd Sees Sins Forgiven and Paralysis Healed and Ultimate Authority
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.
Jesus responds with a question. His question works like this…He basically says that if the harder thing can be demonstrated (Healing the paralytic) then the easier thing is to be automatically assumed to be possible as well.
Notice He says, which is easier, to say?
The easier thing to say is, you sins are forgiven. The reason that’s easier is it requires no proof. Who’s to say whether they really are or not right? The more difficult thing to say is rise up and walk…especially to one who is paralyzed.
5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
Your sins are forgiven could be a lie who would know but rise up and walk would be immediately evident on way or the other.
The authority to heal a paralyzed man will also prove that Jesus has the authority for forgive sin. This is what the crowd sees.
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
What a visible picture of the authority of Jesus. The man who was carried in on the mat now was carrying that same mat home. Everyone knew this man. This is not like the counterfeits who engage in false healing by using people who are really not lame or sick this man was known to be paralyzed. His four friends could tell you the day of the accident. This was a legitimate God wrought healing and the crowd responds accordingly.
8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
They were awestruck when they saw the authority of Jesus…to not only heal a paralyzed man but to forgive sin. This man and his four friends walked home justified…did you catch that? Walked home, justified…oh the power of God to those whom exercise faith in Jesus Christ!!
I pray we all live in light of Jesus’ authority to forgive our sin.
Do you believe you’re a sinner? Do you believe Jesus has the authority to forgive your sin? Come to Christ today trusting in Him alone…
Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary
A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles
A Gospel of Matthew by France
Matthew by Craig Bloomberg
Matthew by Doriani
Matthew by Charles Price
Matthew by Leon Morris
Blue Letter Bible