GREATEST EVIDENCE OF THE SUPREME AUTHORITY OF JESUS
When we study a book of the Bible it is important to know a major overarching theme. And this helps to put detail accounts into an overall big picture. For the Gospel of Matthew the author wants his readers to be convinced of one central truth, namely that Jesus is Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed King. And right from the get go Matthew labors to point out convincing proofs for the kingship of Jesus. For instance, at the onset of Chapter 1 Matthew points out that Jesus was born from the direct lineage of David the king.
Then Chapter 2 points out that the birth of Jesus was no ordinary birth, but that he was divinely conceived and his incarnation was filled with divinely appointed events that need to be fulfilled. Then in Chapter 3 there are affirmations of who Jesus is and what he came to do by his forerunner, John the Baptist, and furthermore, by God the Father and the Holy Spirit. In Chapter 4 there is a further demonstration of the messiahship of Jesus when he triumphantly overcame all three temptations by the devil. Then Chapters 5 to 7, the famous sermon about the kingdom and its citizens. And finally, Chapter 8 is filled with various accounts that prove the supreme authority of Jesus. For Matthew the true messiah would have authority over all powers. Now we come to Chapter 9 and we are about to face perhaps the greatest proof of the supreme authority of Jesus. Although that is the central focus of our text there are other truths that cry out for our attention. With that in mind I want to point out five observations this evening.
I. Faith must be seen (v. 2).
This particular narrative is also found in two other Gospels, namely in Mark 2 and Luke 5. For this story to be mentioned by three separate Gospel writers clearly implies the importance of this particular event as we will see in a minute. Just like in Chapter 8 Matthew once again puts the emphasis on the importance of demonstrating faith. That means faith is neither something that is passive or private. In fact Matthew clearly implies that faith can be seen in verse 2 – i.e. “seeing their faith.”
Contrary to popular belief, faith in the Bible is never spoken as a matter of casual, passive, or something that is only practiced in private. Rather, biblical faith is active, passionate, both private and public, and clearly visible. In fact according to James faith is not a mere cognitive recognition or agreement or verbal confession, but also active demonstration.
- NAU James 2:18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
With that in mind, I would like to have you turn your Bible with me to the Mark’s Gospel, Chapter 2 (vv. 1-5). This is because Mark sheds some lights on this story that Matthew does not. Here the demonstration of faith is captured in verse 4 by the four men. Although these men could not get the paralytic man to Jesus due to the crowd, that did not stop them. They were not easily discouraged. They did not simply throw their towels.
Just like this story we’re going to have obstacles in life. That’s a given fact of life in this world. And some are harder than others. But people of faith are not easily discouraged. People of faith do not easily quit. This is because they are so focused on the object of their faith, namely Jesus Christ, the author and the finisher of faith.
- NAU Hebrews 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
What’s amazing about Mark 2:4 is the emphasis and demonstrations of how these four brought the man of palsy to Jesus in spite of their obstacles. And verse 4 clearly indicates such demonstration of faith is far from being passive, easy, and a matter of personal and private. Rather the text indicates faith is active, a hard work, intentional, purposeful, goal-oriented, intelligent, reasoned, publicly opened, and involves others. And verse 5 says, “And Jesus seeing their faith.” Jesus saw their actions in bringing the paralytic to him, and their actions testified of their faith.
Faith is not a wishful thinking. You cannot simply wish that you can have such faith. As verse 4 clearly indicates it is active, a hard work, intentional (must have a purposeful plan), reasoned, intelligent, both private and publicly visible, and involves others (i.e., needs the community of like-minded believers).
II. The priority of spiritual wholeness over physical wholeness (v. 2).
You need to keep in mind that these four men brought the palsy man to Jesus so that Jesus would heal him. What they did not anticipate to hear from Jesus is “Your sins are forgiven” to this paralytic man. They may have thought to themselves, “That’s nice but that is not why we brought this man to you, Jesus. We want you to heal him from this disease not forgiveness of sins.”
The fact that Jesus said what he said clearly implies that the greatest disease we all need healing is not any particular physical disease but the spiritual disease, namely sin. This is because sin is the cause of all deaths. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a).
This is not to imply that healing from particular physical disease is unimportant. But keep in mind that a person can have the greatest health and physical wholeness, but that cannot stop from death. Everyone will die – i.e., the physical fit and the sick.
Furthermore, a person may have the greatest health and physical wholeness, but spiritually dead. Contrary, a person may have the worst physical health (even ready to die any moment), but spiritually alive and healthy. It is better for a physically sick to die spiritually well than for a physically well to die spiritually dead. Without a doubt there is the priority of wholeness.
But not to ignore the physical wholeness, Jesus does heal this paralytic man. However, you need to see that Jesus heals this man after Jesus declared to him that his sins are forgiven. Meaning, Jesus healed this man physically after he healed him spiritually, hence the priority of spiritual wholeness over physical wholeness.
It is recommended by many health experts that we should exercise at least three times a week for about 30 minutes or more. And I think we should. After all, we want to be faithful stewards to what God has given us.
But what about our spiritual exercise? How are we doing in this area? If the implication from our exposition is the priority of spiritual wholeness over physical wholeness, then shouldn’t we put more time, energy, and discipline into cultivating spiritual wholeness? If not, what message are you giving to God? The sad reality is that disciplines and exercises for spiritual wholeness often gets ignored and neglected. And this is something that requires a genuine repentance, not just feeling bad about it. And if I can add one advice, it would be that you genuinely approach spiritual disciplines joyfully and fervently, and not out of guilt.
Do you want to know something? When you know that your sins are forgiven, that is the greatest feeling. Like this man who is paralytic there are events that may happen in our lives that may paralyze us either emotionally, physically, or both. And when that happens remember these words of Jesus: “Take courage.” In Greek this verb is imperative, not suggestion. In fact the verb is present active imperative. And the basis for such command is found in the reality that “your sins are forgiven.” It is in those words that we can really appreciate our Savior because those words are pregnant with many implications. One, this clearly implies that you have sinned. If you didn’t, then you wouldn’t need to be forgiven. However, the fact that you are forgiven clearly implies that you have sinned. Second, if you truly recognize and admit that you have sinned, then you begin to realize what you really deserve. And when you truly understand what you really deserve, and at the same time when not-so-good thing would happen to you, you wouldn’t say, “Why me?” but you would rather say, “Why not me?” But the fact of that you have received what you didn’t deserve, namely the forgiveness of your sins simply proves God’s sovereign grace and this ought to give you strength to be joyful. But most of all this brings glory and joy to your Savior when you finally realize this and live it.
III. Jesus knows all our thoughts (v. 4).
What some of the scribes said to themselves in verse 3 is partially right in that it is blasphemous to think that a man can do only what God can do, namely to forgive sins. D.A. Carson writes, “If I claim to be able to do what only God can do, then I am belittling him by comparing myself with him, and thereby dragging him down to my level.”
So they were right to think that it is blasphemous to think that a man can do only what God can do, namely to forgive sins. In fact I wish more people would think this way. Yes, it is blasphemous to think that somehow a pastor, priest, or a pope or any other individuals whether dead or live has ability to forgive sins. The implication that these scribes were thinking is that only God can forgive sins, which is absolutely true.
However, even greater sin that these scribes committed is failing to recognize that Jesus is the Messiah that forgives sins. In fact Jesus calls this action “evil” in verse 4. They literally said to among themselves, “This one is blaspheming.” And verse 4 immediately reads, “Jesus knowing their thoughts.” This clearly indicates one of the attributes of God, namely the omniscience of God, which means, God is all-knowing. And this can be either comforting or convicting. In First Samuel 16:7 God said, “For man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” And in First Kings 8:39 the text reads “For You (God) knows the hearts of all the sons of men. The fact that Jesus knows all inner thoughts of men simply suggests his deity.
IV. Only Jesus has the authority to forgive sins (v. 6)
The question that Jesus presents in verse 5 is an interesting one. In fact it is a brilliant question. To suggest to a paralytic that he can walk or that his sins are forgiven are impossible tasks for men, but only possible for God.
The point of this question is that saying something such as “Your sins are forgiven” is far easier than performing a miracle. In other words, it is much easier to make a claim that cannot be proven than to actually produce evidence.
The fact that he has the authority to forgive sins suggests once again of his deity. In fact this is the greatest demonstration of his supreme authority since who has the authority to forgive sins than God alone?
Also it is very important for me to point out that forgiveness is given, not earned. In fact forgiveness is what God sovereignly grants to whom he wills. Here’s a case in point: notice Jesus grants forgiveness to the paralytic man, but not to these religious scribes. All things equal, meaning both paralytic man and religious scribes are all sinners, yet Jesus chose to forgive the paralytic man and not the latter.
V. Understanding the authority of Jesus cause to fear him – v. 8
The NAU has it “awestruck,” NKJ “marveled,” and ESV “afraid.” The Greek word is phobeo, where we get phobia and phobic from. The meaning is being afraid or fear. According to one commentator, “It expresses the feeling of a person who is in the presence of someone infinitely superior.” And according to D.A. Carson, “They were right to be afraid: we ought to fear the one who has the authority to forgive sins.”
Without a doubt Jesus is once again the central focus of this redemptive story. As I mentioned earlier the greatest proof of the supreme authority of Jesus is that he alone can forgive sins. And if you know that your sins are forgiven by Jesus then you need to fear him, worship him, and serve him. And one of the ways in which you can serve him is bring others to Jesus Christ just like the four men who brought a paralytic to Jesus.
Bring your friends to Christ! Bring your family to Christ. Bring people to Christ. In any conversation with friends or family, lead your conversation to Christ. Talk about Jesus! Share with others what Christ has done for you, namely that your sins are forgiven. In retrospect I often regret how much of God’s time I’ve wasted in talking about the most meaningless subject to people. And now I want to bring many people to Jesus Christ as possible. I want to help people to see Jesus clearly. But if I don’t see him clearly, how can I lead others to see him clearly?
And the problem why I cannot see him clearly is because of my sin. Sin is always the issue. Hence deal with your sins first, then other things will fall through. Seek to have your sins forgiven by first recognizing and admitting that you have sinned against God. And then ask God alone for his mercy and forgiveness. And then repent. In other words, change your direction.
D.A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World (Toronto: Global Christian Publishers, 2001), 203.
John MacArthur, Matthew 8-15 (Chicago: Moody, 1987), 55.