1. This passage is paralleled at Mk. 2:1-12 and Lk. 5:17-26. For the first time in the Synoptic Gospels Jesus calls Himself "the Son of man." (The reference to "the Son of man" at Mt. 8:20 follows Mt. 9:1-8 chronologically.) This term was used of Jesus prophetically at Dan. 7:13.14 and Ps. 8:4. The divine nature of Jesus gave His human nature divine powers. Therefore Jesus says in all three accounts: "The Son of man (true man) has authority on earth to forgive sins." This proved that this man, Jesus, was true God. Furthermore, this God-man, Jesus, later gave the church the authority to forgive sins on earth. See Mt. 18:18 and Jn. 20:23. This is what Lutherans call The Office of the Keys, the fifth chief part in the Catechism.
2. In vs. 2 of our text we read that Jesus "saw" the faith of the four men who brought this paralyzed man to Jesus. In vs. 4 we read that Jesus "saw" the thoughts of His accusers. This shows the omniscience of Jesus, the God-man. Neither the bearers nor Jesus' accusers had said anything.
3. Jesus knew that their thoughts were wicked. He was holy. The wicked scribes and Pharisees had come from Jerusalem to Galilee (quite a trip) to trap Jesus. They had blasphemous thoughts. They denied that He was true God. Therefore, when He gave forgiveness of sins, they accused Him of blasphemy because only God can forgive sins.
4. As often, Jesus employed logic, not Scripture, to answer His enemies. He asks them: "Which is easier to say: 'Your sins are forgiven' or 'Arise and walk'?" He does not say: "Which is easier FOR ME?" but simply "Which is easier to say?" Both are equally difficult. Only God could make a paralyzed man walk. Only God could forgive sins. Jesus had already forgiven the paralytic his sins. Jesus' enemies could not see that with their eyes. But they could see the man get up and walk. Very likely these Pharisees and scribes did not believe the miracles. In Jn. 9 Jesus healed a blind man. In Jn. 11 Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. In neither case did Jesus' enemies believe the miracle. They rejected it. But in all three cases the common people rejoiced and praised God. Only the Gospel can create faith. But miracles assist the people who are weak in their faith. Read Jn. 2:11. But most important of all is the fact that Jesus first forgave the paralytic's sin. Sin is the cause of all evils. "Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world." Jn. 1:29.
5. The four men who brought this paralytic to Jesus worked very hard. First, they had to carry him to the top of the house. Then, they had to make a hole in the roof right over Jesus to let the sick man down in front of Jesus. Their faith in Jesus caused them to do this. Vs. 2 says: "Jesus saw their faith." They believed in Him.
6. Jesus healed this man very personally. In vs. 2 He said: "Your sins are forgiven." And vs. 6 says: "He said to the paralytic". Jesus deals with each one of us personally.
7. Mk. 2:6 tells us that Jesus' enemies were sitting. We know that it was a crowded room because the four men had to let down the paralytic from the roof in front of Jesus. Evidently these Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem considered themselves important and therefore were allowed to sit while others stood. They had come a long way to spy on Jesus.
8. Jn. 1:11-13 reads: "He came to His own but His own did not receive Him. But as many as did receive Him to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of a man but (were born) of God." People become Christians only through conversion which is a gracious work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of man. But man can resist this work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus' enemies refused to believe in Him. Many of the common people did believe in Him. It is still so today.
THEME: The Son of Man's Reaction To The Thoughts of His Audience
The peacher should study also the parallel accounts at Mk. 2:1-12 and Lk. 5:17-26. Jesus had returned to Capernaum. One day He was teaching. In His audience were some Pharisees and teachers of the Law who came from Jerusalem to spy on Him. While Jesus was speaking, five believers approached Him, one carried by four. They came to Him through the roof because the room was crowded.
I. THE SON OF MAN'S REACTION TO THE THOUGHTS OF FIVE BELIEVERS
A. The five believers. Four men carried a paralyzed man to the roof and let him down in front of Jesus. The text says that Jesus saw their faith. That must mean all five men. Not only did their actions prove their faith, but also the Son of man could look into their hearts. None of them had said anything. But He knew their thoughts. Jesus' divinity gave His humanity the power to know all things. We know also from the text that the Son of man had special care for the helpless.
B. What He did for them. He said to the paralyzed man: "Cheer up, my son, your sins have been forgiven!" The faith of this helpless man received the most important gift, a spiritual gift, the forgiveness of sins. The text does not say that his paralysis was a punishment for some particular sin. God permitted this sick man to come so that He could prove to people who Jesus was. Did all five men receive forgiveness of sins? Very likely they did. All of them believed. All of them received His help.
II. THE SON OF MAN'S REACTION TO HIS ENEMIES
A. The enemies. From the three accounts in Mt., Mk. and Lk. we know that these Pharisees and scribes had come eighty miles from Jerusalem to spy on Jesus. The room was crowded but these enemies were seated. The people respected these leaders and therefore gave them seats of honor. But they had evil hearts. They thought: "This man (Jesus) blasphemes. He makes Himself God. He claims He can forgive sins." But Jesus said to them: "Why do you have evil thoughts in your hearts?" First He tells them mainly about their sins. Then He asks: "Which is easier to say: 'Your sins are forgiven' or 'Rise up and walk'?" Both of these are equally difficult and only God can do them. Then He gives them proof: "So that you might know that the Son of man has the author on earth to forgive sins." He wants them to believe in His forgiveness of sins. Why did He command the paralytic to walk? To prove to his enemies that He was their Savior from sin.
B. What was their reaction? The three Gospels do not tell us how Jesus' enemies reacted. When Jesus healed the blind man (Jn. 9) and raised Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 11) Jesus' enemies would not accept the miracle. They denied that He was the Son of God, the Son of man, the man whose divine nature gave Him the very power of God. We do not know what Jesus' enemies thought and said on this occasion. But the text is written for us. What do we think?
III. THE REACTION OF THE PEOPLE IN THE AUDIENCE
Mt. says: "They were filled with awe, and glorified God, who had given such authority to man." Mk. says: "They were all amazed and were gIorifying God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this." Lk. says: "They were all seized with astonishment and began glorifying God, and they were filled with fear, saying 'We have seen remarkable things today'." The purpose of miracles was to show the glory of Jesus' divinity (Jn. 2:11). Miracles helped people believe in Jesus.
Here we see Jesus, the author and completor of our faith, the one who forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases. Let us glorify and thank Him and live for Him Who died for us!