Jesus Has Authority Over Sin – Matthew 9:1-2

In the previous two stories, Jesus demonstrated his authority over satanic powers. First, he calms the chaos of the seas and second, he commanded demons to leave two men who were living among the tombs. In both cases he is in “enemy territory” where Satan has the advantage. Now in 9:1-7 Jesus will demonstrate his authority over sin and sickness by healing a paralytic man. The one who silences the chaos of the seas and commands demons also has the authority to forgive sin. Matthew is making a clear Christological statement about who Jesus is as well as tracking a range of responses to Jesus, amazement, fear, and rejection.

Jesu Heals the Paralytic

The story appears in see Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:18–26. As is usually the case, Matthew’s version of the story is brief compared to Mark and Luke. “Matthew’s narration is surprisingly slim at this point” (Brown and Roberts, Matthew, 91). Matthew omits the situation (a large crowd in Peter’s house), the four friends who lower the paralyzed man through the roof, and the paralytic does not pick up his mat when he departs. An interesting addition is calling Capernaum “his town.”

Having returned to Capernaum, which Matthew calls “his own city” (ESV), a paralytic is brought to Jesus. In Mark’s version of the story, Jesus is teaching in Peter’s house and a crowd has gather which prevents four men from bringing the man to Jesus through the door.They are forced to dig a hole in the roof in order to lower the paralytic into Jesus’s presence. When Jesus sees their faith, he forgives the man’s sin.

It is possible the story was so well-known Matthew did not need to include all of the details since his focus is on who Jesus claims to be and the reaction of the scribes and the crowd. On the other hand, Nolland suggests the paralytic did not express faith (the other men who brought them did); since Matthew focuses on faith in Jesus as a basis of healing (see 8:10), he abbreviated the story to avoid the implication the healed man did not express faith (Nolland, Matthew, 380).

Paralysis was one of several impurities which would prevent this man from going up to the Temple to worship. The lame were not permitted to serve as priests or Levites (Leviticus 21:16-24), although they can eat from the offerings, they are not permitted to “come near to offer the Lord’s food offerings.” In the Rule of the Congregation (1Q Sa).

Deuteronomy 15:21 (ESV) But if it has any blemish, if it is lame or blind or has any serious blemish whatever, you shall not sacrifice it to the Lord your God.

1QSa 2:3-7 No man, defiled by any of the impurities 4 of a man, shall enter the assembly of these; and no-one who is defiled by these should be 5 established in his office amongst the congregation: everyone who is defiled in his flesh, paralysed in his feet or 6 in his hands, lame, blind, deaf, dumb or defiled in his flesh with a blemish 7 visible to the eyes, or the tottering old man who cannot keep upright in the midst of the assembly. (Martı́nez and Tigchelaar; see also those who are not permitted to participate in the final war in The War Scroll, 1QM 7:4)

Rather than healing the man, Jesus pronounces the man’s sins forgiven. Jesus declares the sins forgiven even though there has been no sacrifice or other means of atonement made. If the man was struck with paralysis because of an illness, then his friends may have thought he was under the judgment of God for some sin he may have done. They should have begged God forgive the man gone up to the Temple to offer sacrifices on his behalf.

For Jesus to claim to forgive sin is to claim divine authority. Only God forgive sin in the Old Testament (Exodus 34:7; Isa 43:25-26) and the literature of the Second Temple period.

Exodus 34:7 (ESV) …keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Isaiah 43:25–26 (ESV) “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. 26 Put me in remembrance; let us argue together; set forth your case, that you may be proved right.

4Q398 f14–17ii Remember David, who was a man of the pious ones, [and] he, too, 2 [was] freed from many afflictions and was forgiven.

4Q417 f2i:14 Be like a humble man when you conduct a case […] 15 grasp. And then God will see, and his anger will turn away, and he will forgive your sins [f]or before [his] an[ger] 16 no-one can endure.

11Q5 19:12-14 When I recall your power my heart is strengthened, 13 and I rely on your kind deeds. Forgive my sin, YHWH, 14 and cleanse me from my iniquity.

In a similar situation, Jesus forgives the sin of a woman in Luke 7:49. He gets a similar reaction from the witnesses: they are shocked he claims authority to forgive since forgiving sin done through the sacrifices and only granted by God.

What is Jesus claiming in this story? Is there a difference between claiming to have the authority to forgive sin and claiming to be God?

8 thoughts on “Jesus Has Authority Over Sin – Matthew 9:1-2

  1. Mr. Long, Thank you for this article. You ask the question if there is “a difference between claiming to have the authority to forgive sin and claiming to be God?” That is a good question. In John’s gospel, Jesus is always saying that He was sent by the Father and that the words He speaks are not His own, but the Father’s Who sent Him. It seems that Jesus is God’s Representative. Jesus spoke and acted as God’s Representative. As His Representative, God gave Jesus the authority to act and speak in His behalf. I do think it is different than claiming to be God. Jesus had authority to heal, cast out demons, calm storms, raise the dead and forgive sins not because He claimed to be God, but because authority had been given to Him by God because He was the Messiah, His Representative.

  2. While reading this blog post, I found it very intriguing that the faith of the man that was paralyzed was a question that may had led to an illness that caused his paralysis. This intrigued me because as Dr. Long explains in this post, Matthew left out details in this story compared to the other gospels in order to avoid the implications that this man when healed was not of faith. I had not known this aspect of the story earlier in my biblical education and had thought previously that the man was healed for his determination to have his friends take him to see Jesus. To answer the first question at the end of the blog post, I think Jesus was claiming a few things when he healed the paralyzed man – that He was above sin, that sickness/illness has no power against Him, and that miracles were more common within Him than other people. In short, people were taking notice of this man. The second question asks if there is a difference between claiming to have authority over sin and claiming to be God. I would say there is not a difference between the two. The ultimate authority over sin has to come from God as He is the only one that can truly forgive/punish those who sin. So, when Jesus claims to have authority over sin and then heals the paralyzed man and the woman later on to prove this divine authority and power over humanity, He is then in turn claiming to be God.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this blog post because it makes me ask the question: what does Jesus not have power over? If Jesus can control the weather and He can cast Demons out and they know exactly who He is as well as they do exactly what He says at His mercy; why wouldn’t He have control over the sins of the world. After reading this blog post it inevitably made me think of how Jesus died for the sins of mankind and atoned for us all past and present. This undoubtedly makes me think that Jesus indeed had control over sin. The thing that resonated with me the most from this blog post was that the faith the four friends and the paralyzed man had was questioned. I do not understand how they could not have faith in Jesus when the four friends came together to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus as well as break through the roof of a house and lower him to Jesus. I certainly think that is faith if anything at all because there were many steps these individuals took in order to have their friend forgiven of sin and if there was no faith; what was their motive in trusting Jesus. The thing that P.Long states that resonated with me the most was the statement “Jesus declares the sins forgiven even though there has been no sacrifice or other means of atonement made” (P.Long). I really like this statement because it is evidence there is a human difference between the Old and New Testament as well as God and Jesus in regard to forgiving sin and sacrifices.

  4. I think that what Jesus is claiming can best be seen through the way the scribes reacted when they hear Jesus forgive the man’s sin. It says in chapter 9 verse 3 that the scribes thought to themselves that Jesus was blaspheming because only God can forgive sins. Then Jesus knowing their thoughts drives the point home by telling the man to get up and walk and he does. Jesus didn’t call on any power or say a prayer He healed on His own authority in a way only God can. He was claiming in action (and proving in action) that He was God. I think something that should be mentioned more in relation to this story, and Jesus’ miracles in general, is that he is the only one in the Bible (if not in all of history) who healed someone on His own authority. Everyone else in the Bible who uses supernatural power calls on the LORD, uses Jesus’ Name, or a pagan power. Nobody besides Jesus simply says “let it be” and it is. This is pretty strong evidence that He claimed to be and is more than just a man.

  5. I think, like mentioned in another blog post, Jesus is not claiming to be God, but he is showing everyone that a change is coming. Like this post states, only God can forgive sin and in order for that to happen, there needed to be sacrifices that the ill man could not give because of his sickness. Jesus healing the man, without the sacrifices usually required, was astonishing because it was unheard of. It was unfathomable. Jesus is showing those that doubt, fear and reject him, who he really is.

  6. I think that this blog post shows that when Jesus forgave people of their sins in the Old Testament that he was showing that His is divine and that He is the son of God. “For Jesus to claim to forgive sin is to claim divine authority. Only God forgive sin in the Old Testament (Exodus 34:7; Isa 43:25-26) and the literature of the Second Temple period. (Long) As Long mentioned God is the only one that could forgive people of their sins in the Old Testament. So Jesus being able to forgive people in the old testament was a way Him showing that He is different and that He is the son of God. I do think there is a difference in claiming to be God and claiming to have authority to forgive sin. God had a plan for Jesus just as He has a plan for us God sent Jesus to show the love of God on earth and being people to Him in hopes of being saved. Jesus being able to heal and forgive people of their sins is Gods will, and if it wasn’t then Jesus would not have been able to do it in the first place. I feel like God allowed and gave Jesus the opportunity to heal people and forgive them of their sins so that Jesus could build relationships and bring people to know God.

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