33. What's Easier?
Read Matthew 9:1-8
Matthew 9:4-5 … “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee;’ or to say, ‘Arise, and walk?’”
Jesus came into his own city. (Remember in his own city he did not see much faith, see Mark 6:5) There He encountered a small group of people carrying a man who was paralyzed on a bed. The people carrying the man believed Jesus could help their friend. Jesus knew what was in their hearts! He was immediately moved by their faith in Him. He said to the man on the bed, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.”
That was enough.
Jesus had forgiven the man’s sins. He had the authority to do this. It was what was needed for this man to be free.
Jesus also knew the hearts of the scribes (and pharisees) in the crowd. They said within themselves, “This man blasphemeth” meaning that Jesus is claiming to be God. Which was against the law.
If Jesus could sense the faith of the friends of the sinner, He could also sense the unbelief of the scribes in the crowd. It is vitally important to remember that Jesus was aware of the people around Him, He loved them, and desired for all of them to be saved. With all of this in mind, He answers with wisdom and understanding.
Jesus knew that these men wanted to see proof of His authority. He had nothing to prove. His identity was His authority. But how could anyone there know this? Jesus decided that evidence of His authority was what the scribes desired. He would meet that challenge that they sent out from within their hearts. The folks surrounding Jesus had no idea what was going on. They did not hear the condemnation of the scribes towards Jesus. They did not know the scribes challenged Jesus to prove Himself.
In verse 4, And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” This must have sounded strange to the multitude present. They knew that Jesus had forgiven the man his sins. They saw him lying on the bed. Then they hear Jesus saying this weird question to the scribes. Jesus was now questioning the authority, and intention of the scribes.
He decides that the time is right for the faith of the first set of men to be rewarded, and for the scribes to see a miracle. He says, “For whether is easier, to say, ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee;’ or to say, ‘Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith He to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed and go unto thine house.’”
The man’s sins were forgiven already. But to provide proof of His authority here on earth, Jesus gave them a miracle to sooth their minds about the matter.
The man really had two miracles that day! And the crowds went wild with the thing they witnessed. …They marvelled and gave glory to God which had given such power unto men. Verse 8. Evidence is what speaks loudest to unbelievers. Yet even that is not always enough. The people saw it yet they still missed it. They didn’t give glory to God for the man’s sins being forgiven, but when He said to him stand up and walk, that’s when they believed. This is a question of authority. It is a question of the power to forgive. What is easier for you to believe? Does Jesus, by a word release you from your former sins, and it is done. Or do you need to see more to say it is finished?
Remember Jesus is stirred to move when He sees faith in us. There is proof in the Word in many places that Jesus marveled at the ones who had faith in Him. And He also marveled at the ones who did not have faith in Him.
Your faith stirs Him! When you got saved, you were willing to believe that Jesus had fully forgiven you when you met Him in faith and repentance?
Did that really happen? What evidence did you need to feel washed completely clean of your sins when it happened? You were convinced!
What evidence do you need today to know that you were forgiven once for all time? When doubts come in, you may think you need proof. Or someone else is pressuring you for proof. But when you met Jesus, you knew it was true.
We are not allowed to know what the man whose sins were forgiven thought that day. We know he did not stand up until Jesus told him to. So, when were his sins forgiven? at that time? or when Jesus had him stand before the crowd and the scribes? The man knew in his heart. But the exchange was so intriguing between Jesus and the scribes that I believe everyone stood completely still, holding their breath, while Jesus played His cards of authority before them. The multitudes decided Who won the game that day by their reactions. As for the scribes, we don’t know what they did. Scripture leaves out many things. If it was important to the story, we would have seen their cards too. Guess they folded their hands in defeat (for now).
This story is repeated in Mark 2, and Luke 5. Luke 5: 25-26 (The man with the palsy) And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and the glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen strange things to day.” From this we can gather that the man was very aware of all that Jesus had done for him. And that the crowds, confused at the exchange between Jesus and the scribes (and Pharisees) gave glory to God for what they saw.
What is more real to you? A physical healing? Or a spiritual healing? Why do you need evidence of a spiritual healing by a physical manifestation? Isn’t Jesus’ authority enough?
Which one is easier for Jesus to do? Which one means more to the person forgiven in the long run? Which one would you settle for if you were paralyzed? Let’s ask Joni Eareckson-Tada, a woman paralyzed from the neck down from the time she was 17, until now at 71, what is more important to her? She would say the forgiveness hands down. Although she would have liked to have been completely healed of her “palsy,” she has given her life to God to be used to show you the love of her Savior towards herself first then toward you. If you don’t know who she is, read her autobiography or watch her movie: “Joni”
God bless you as you ponder these questions of Jesus. Let Him work deep in your heart. Ask Him to help you with wisdom and understanding. He has the authority here on earth to forgive, and to heal.
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