Who can forgive?

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‘Search me God, and know my heart … See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’ Amen (Psalm 139:23a,24).

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Bible passage Matthew 9:1–8

Matthew 9

Jesus Heals a Paralytic
 1Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven."

 3At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, "This fellow is blaspheming!"

 4Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 6But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home." 7And the man got up and went home. 8When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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Cause of illness?
There was a prevailing belief in Jesus’ time that illness or disaster was a consequence of individual or communal sin (John 9:2; Luke 13:2–4). Perhaps this was in the men’s minds as they brought their friend to Jesus. Perhaps the man himself thought that his sin was responsible for his situation.

Whatever the problem, whatever the cause, the men believed that Jesus could sort it out. Who would you bring to Jesus today? What do you want Jesus to do for them?

Sin's forgiveness
Jesus doesn’t confirm the association of illness with sin, but he responds to faith in him and speaks to the paralysed man’s inner fear (v 2), then confirms and demonstrates his power to deal with illness and sin (vs 5,6).

Jesus’ authority to forgive sin is the crunch issue here. The teachers of the law knew that God alone could forgive sin (hence the blasphemy claim). What a tragedy that experts of the Scriptures failed to recognise the Messianic signs of Jesus’ ministry, so instead of bowing before the Son of God, they stood in judgement on him (v 4)! The crowd’s reaction is the right one (v 8). Jesus’ authority and willingness to forgive sin should fill our hearts with awe and our lives with praise.


Hear Jesus’ word to you: ‘Take heart, son/daughter, your sins are forgiven.’ Allow the power of Christ’s forgiveness to set you free.

Penny Boshoff

Deeper Bible study

‘For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.’ (1 Corinthians 13:12, AV)

Reading this story alone, we might think the man’s paralysis a penalty for sin. We would be wrong – but the issue is not simple. The New Testament answer is clearly ‘No!’ but the Old Testament is less clear. In the Torah, it seems harshly evident that sinners suffer God’s punishment, inflicted on their herds and crops, their families and their own bodies (Leviticus 26:15,16; Deuteronomy 28:58–61), but there is another stream running through the Hebrew Scriptures, a stream questioning the assumption that suffering is deserved. Poet and prophet cry out against innocent suffering and their plain observation that evil goes unpunished: ‘Why does the way of the wicked prosper?’ (Jeremiah 12:1), ‘Their bodies are healthy and strong’ (Psalm 73:4). These questions had no answer then, because they could not be resolved apart from Jesus, whose incarnation lay in a distant future. Only through Jesus do we know that the deep questions of sin and justice are answered only in God’s eternity.

If the man’s condition was not punishment, why did Jesus forgive him? First, Jesus always met people as they were. Jesus was born into first-century Jewish culture, living and working within their worldview. This man wrongly believed he was suffering a penalty, but he was still a sinner needing forgiveness. Jesus didn’t bother to clarify his theology, but he healed him at the deepest level of his being. Second, Jesus was purposely provoking the religious leaders, not only healing but forgiving sin as well. The leaders believed the man was suffering punishment and had no sympathy. It is hard to think other than that Jesus was claiming to be God. His critics were right about one thing – only God could forgive sin (Mark 2:7). This charge of blasphemy (v 3) would intensify into a charge of collusion with Satan (Matthew 12:24) and finally become the charge for which he would die (Matthew 26:65,66).

John Harris

Releasing the captives

‘The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ (Matthew 9:6).

Jesus’ authority to forgive sins transformed the lives of the people he met. Check out these accounts:

• Matthew 9:2–7
• Luke 19:1–10
• John 8:2–11

Jesus gives you the same authority (see John 20:22,23). You have the power to ‘set the captives’ free.

Forgiveness releases the one who has done the wrong. It gives them a new start. Forgiveness also releases the one who has been wronged. When we do not forgive – when we hold a grudge, when we focus on ourselves as the victim – we fall into a trap.

The act that has hurt us so badly takes us prisoner. We cannot love or give as freely. And if we do not love or give freely, we are no longer like our Father in heaven.

Are you are holding any prisoners? If it seems too hard, too hurtful, too much effort to forgive, remember the pain God went through to forgive you.

You hold the key of forgiveness. Could today be the day you release the captives?

Penny Boshoff

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Exodus 17,18

Matthew 24


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Jesus is Lord
Stuart Townend and Keith Getty
Copyright © 2003 Thankyou Music/Adm by worshiptogether.com songs
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.integritymusic.com

Martin Smith/Stuart Garrard
Copyright © 1999 Curious? Music UK
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.integritymusic.com

  • Ella Scott | Friday, 02 February 2018


  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Friday, 02 February 2018

    v 6. Without being the Son of Man, Jesus would never have been able to shed His blood for our sins or stand in judgment of this world (John 5:27). Thank you Jesus that because of your humanity, you are also able to be our compassionate and faithful High Priest. All praise and glory and power be to your holy name for ever and ever, Amen.

  • David Nicholson | Friday, 02 February 2018

    We had a sermon on this passage at our church recently. While the paralytic has an obvious problem he had a greater need: the forgiveness of his sins. This is so true of all those who suffer but many can’t see that. We must keep praying for them. And yes, Jesus healed the man because it’s what others can see - forgiven sins is not a physical ailment that results in an external change. So having claimed to be able to do the latter (so the teachers of the law accused him of blasphemy) he demonstrated his authority to forgive sins by healing what people could see. So if Jesus can heal, he can save too! Hallelujah!

  • Ray Skinner | Friday, 02 February 2018

    Please pray, that those Christians who understand the nuances of Quranic Arabic, will be able to persuade Muslims that the Qur'an does not deny that Jesus died on the cross. Without that - how will every tribe and tongue confess that Jesus is Saviour and Lord?

  • Roxanne Macaulay | Friday, 02 February 2018

    Jesus is Lord of all. Amen

  • Angela Munday | Friday, 02 February 2018

    'Sin' is such a small word with an 'I' right at its centre. We have been given the authority from Jesus to forgive everyone who has ever done any wrong against us; if this act is not completed by us then we cannot be forgiven for our own wrongdoing. This is such a powerful statement from our Lord. God loves us at all times and 'His law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were.......now God's wonderful grace rules instead.' ( Romans 5 20&21 ) We are a healed community of believers. Hallelujah!

  • Roger Hall | Friday, 02 February 2018

    Jesus was called a blasphemer. He died for blasphemers. He was called many things. He died that blasphemers should be forgiven!

  • Barbara Sabin | Friday, 02 February 2018

    Wonderful Grace https://youtu.be/kdugliaCXUk

  • Jack Russell | Friday, 02 February 2018

    It is interesting I think to consider that Jesus said the man's sins were forgiven not that he forgive the sins which was then picked up by the teacher of the law and made out to be blaspheming. I remember seeing a court room where a murderer was spoken to by a family member of the victim who said something along the lines of there being many who would hate the murderer but that he wouldn't and that the murderer was forgiven. I think it's ok in that light to say to someone that they are forgiven keeping in mind that Christ's sacrifice was for the forgiveness of all sins. What was it that motivated the teachers of the Law to speak this way about Jesus? Was it out of considering him to be a false messiah? Was it out of jealousy? Was it because this was their only way of coping with the event? Maybe it was all three, maybe it was none of these but what is evident is there being forces opposing what Jesus was doing as there will be with any follower of Jesus in the good they do.

  • Oakley Bookworm | Friday, 02 February 2018

    My living room looks strange now that the Nativity scene has been packed away for another year. Today is Candlemas - the official end of Christmas. This is probably why the CofE chose today to launch their #LiveLent 2018 app. For all WLrs who observe a Lenten discipline (or would like to try to) it's a very smart and accessible resource with lessons, reflections and prayers for every day of Lent. Just search #LiveLent on Google Play or the App Store.

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