Matthew 9:1-8

As you may remember from last Lord’s Day, the Lord Jesus had crossed over to the Gentile nations and had figuratively cast down the powers of the air and sent them into the deep.  In taking dominion of His promised Kingdom, He sent out the present rulers of this world order and pre-figured their ultimate binding and destruction.

He sent the fallen angels into the swine, and the entire herd panicked and drowned in the waters.  Then the Greek city came out to meet its Lord for the first time, and they asked Him to go away.  And that’s exactly what Jesus had to do – go away in order that the Son of God with Power could actually conquer the nations with the Sword of His mouth.  These are cosmic issues – and the economic loss of the swine was not mentioned.

So Jesus stepped back into a boat to cross back over into Israel to continue that process of separation.  Remember we said that the Lord was rejecting Israel and separating them from the covenant of God, and casting them down to destruction.  The nation had become filled with demonology and witchcraft, they were full of idolatry, the leadership were jackals and vultures – seeking their own ends rather than justice and peace for the people.  They taught their own law rather than God’s.  Widows and orphans were put into distress rather than cared for.  And the whole land had come under its fourth foreign authority (as you remember, the prophet Daniel had seen the four in a vision given to him by God.)

So, first, Jesus had to come back into this Jewish nation and complete their condemnation and separation, being manifested as the Son of Man (again as He was prophesied in Daniel) and then to become the reconciliation of God to the world!  In other words the crucifixion of Christ, which was what all of this was leading to, was the substitute sacrifice which reconciled God to the Gentile nations.  And three years from the time Jesus crossed over to claim His Kingdom, He was raised up from the dead – the reconciliation having been paid for – and with the Power to bring life and light to the wildernesses of the world!

At the same time, there were a number of God’s elect in Israel, and the mercy of God was to be clearly shown to them in Christ Jesus.  So, as an adjunct to the separation and inundation of Israel that was going on, there was also a compassionate healing and life-giving and faith-producing ministry going!  As we’re told by the prophets, there were a remnant left in Israel who didn’t play the harlot!  They are described later in Revelation as one hundred forty-four thousand – a magnification of twelve times twelve, which is a number of completion.  Every last one is what it means.

But the point is that as Jesus was separating the nation of Israel from the covenant, He was also holding on to God’s Own elect and faithful people, of whom He would lose none!

And the compassionate, healing and succoring ministry He was performing in the midst of the people was, in itself, a condemnation of the nation, for a nation called the Son of God ought to be succoring the people like this!  Its civil authorities ought not to be diminishing its own citizenry – but providing the atmosphere for Biblical freedom!  And the ecclesiastical hierarchy ought not to be hypocritically teaching false doctrine.  False doctrine is a lie.  And as religious leaders lie to the people they cause death and darkness.  There ought to be a compassionate and healing, life-giving Godliness in a nation called “the Son of God!”  And everything Jesus did – as God pitying His people – was a judgmental condemnation on this nation; both its civil and its ecclesiastical functions!  When God delivered them, He called them His “son.”  But that son failed!  The “only begotten Son” was faithful.

God the Son was merciful – the nation was not.  God the Son was ministering – the nation was not.  God the Son was full of truth – the nation was lying to the people.  God the Son was life-giving and healing – the nation was causing death and disintegration.  And the sum total was that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, revealed His Father.  But there was no similarity between the nation of Israel and God its Father.

Having been brought up to date now, let’s go to the text and see the details of this glorious ministry of our Lord.  Chapter nine is just full of this compassionate, healing ministry – all set in the same context, which is the separation of Israel from the covenant and the conquering of the Gentile nations.  Remember – at the end of this chapter Matthew closes it by saying that Jesus was going about the region preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing all kinds of illness and disease; and that’s the same thing that was said at the end of chapter four, and introducing chapter five.  So everything in between is supposed to be seen as a package!  This whole five chapter section of the Gospel details the first three days or so in Jesus ministry in Galilee!

And, as we begin chapter nine, Matthew says that Jesus stepped into the boat and crossed back over into His own city.  The pre-figuring of the casting down of the fallen angels having been accomplished, Jesus crosses over again and comes back into His Own city – and His Own country – and continues that separation process.  And already we see the acceptance by God of the Gentile nations and the rejection of Israel, which, as the apostle Paul says in Romans chapter eleven, would continue until some point in time in the future when there would be wholesale repentance of the Jews – along with a new revival among the Gentiles – and, therefore, all Israel shall be saved – quoting Romans eleven.

The apostle Matthew, who, by the way, had not yet been chosen as an apostle, is less specific in his writing down of these events than the other Gospel writers are.  He says that, having crossed over, Jesus came into His Own city.  But the others are more detailed in their accounts.  They say that Jesus came back to His Own house.  And that the events that would take place here with this paralytic would actually take place in His house!

So, apparently, Jesus did go back to His house – for what specific reason, we don’t know.  But it looks as if the whole town found out about it – along with whatever was left of the large group of people from other places who had come to witness the miracles and hear Him speak!  Remember, before He cast off to go to the other side, the crowds were pressing all around Him!

And I don’t know how long they were gone – the lake is only about six miles across – maybe a day.  And it’s not inconceivable that much of the crowd from before was still hanging around!  Besides, it wouldn’t have taken very long for the word to spread that He was back!  Remember, in all of these first few days of His activity, He was never more than a couple of miles away from home!  (Except for the trip to the Gentile shore, of course.)

And Matthew continues – “and lo….”  That means that something unusual was about to happen as Matthew writes it down.  It is a significant event in Jesus’ ministry!  “…and lo, they were bringing to Him a paralytic who had been laid on a bed….”

Now, we don’t know who “they” were.  Maybe friends – more likely relatives.  But it doesn’t really matter to Matthew that we know who they were.  And putting what we have here together with what Luke and Mark have to say about it, we find that there were four of them; and that all these people who had come into Jesus’ house, together with the crowds pressing in on the outside of the house – at the doors and window openings, precluded this four people from seeing Jesus!  They couldn’t get in!

Now, we don’t know how long Jesus had been home after crossing the lake, but apparently the crowds heard about it and came in large numbers, because these four people – with their paralytic on a bed – couldn’t get close to Jesus, and it looks as if there was no hope of getting close!  It must have been the case that waiting wouldn’t even have helped!

So they went up on the roof, which is a normal place to be for this people at that time, and started tearing their way through it!  Now, that doesn’t have anything to do with this text in Matthew, other than to give us a historical perspective of the events; so I don’t want to spend any more time on it than that.

But here’s this group of people lowering a paralytic down through the ceiling so that Jesus would heal him!  And Matthew says, “And having seen their faith Jesus says to the paralytic ‘Be courageous, son!  Remitted are your sins!’”

Now, Matthew’s reference to “faith” is the same word that is so often translated believe – Pistis.  Faith.  These people were faithing!  All of them.  Not just the four who brought the paralytic, but all of them – including the paralytic.  They had seen and heard, and they believed – they faithed – that Jesus’ preaching of the Kingdom Gospel was true.  And they faithed that His control over all the elements of creation – including illness and death and fallen angels – indicated that He was God’s Son the Messiah!  And they faithed that Jesus could make this paralytic whole again simply by saying the word and bringing life and light!  They faithed that this One was the One anointed by God – and recorded in Psalm two – to be the King of all the nations; and here He was preaching that Kingdom and demonstrating that He, indeed, did have sovereign control over it all! – including all those things which are normally considered the “natural” course of events!

And, again, let’s be reminded that Jesus is God the Son.  And there is nothing “natural” with God.  He controls all of His creation, in all of its details, for His Own benefit and His Own glory.  Nothing runs naturally by itself.  Nature is the cognate of natural. 

Now.  Having said that, these people said nothing!  At least nothing is recorded.  They faithed that what they saw was true, and their deed – their actions, their doing – was the indication that they were faithing!  In fact, it is the deed that speaks so eloquently of faith, isn’t it?

But why is this a remarkable event?  Why does Matthew include it?  Why does he begin to tell about it by writing “lo,” which always alerts us to the fact that this is an event of note?  Jesus had healed many by now, and He had even cast out demons.  He had even healed another paralytic – the centurion’s child!

And, as we’ve said before, even though we can’t relegate the event itself to a lower position, and we can’t negate the compassionate ministry of Jesus, and we can’t look past the faith itself of these five people – the fact is that there is a much more important issue here than any of those!  Even though those are the ones that most sermons concentrate on, they are not the main focus of this event in the life and ministry of our Lord!  We have to keep in our minds that these are not isolated stories; and that all of history was focused intensely on these events; and that cosmic things were happening figuratively, and affirmatively in the individually-happening-occurrences of the life of God the Son!  Remember, that in the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom, two things were happening:  the inclusion of the Gentile nations in the covenant promises of God, and, secondly, the cutting off of the nation that God for so long had called His son!  And everything that happens in the life of Christ is intensely significant!  And it was all prophesied by God in the Old Testament prophetic writings!  And, maybe most significant of all, everything here carries with it a definition of different aspects of the person and work of God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ!  Every act, and every deed and every word are indicative of, and definitive of, His Person as God, and His work, and His death and resurrection, and His Kingdom!  We have to keep all of that in mind, or we’ll lose all perspective in the text and be relegated to the insignificant.  We don’t want to lose sight of the less significant things, but we don’t want to be bound to them alone!  And we certainly don’t want to be bound to building little stories with fabricated morals to them!  Let’s keep our eyes on the Kingdom!

So, what is the focus of this event?  Why are Matthew and Mark and Luke all three including it in the text for all of the Church to read and study and be edified?  And why does Matthew use this word “lo” here at the beginning – and in verse three?

Well, it’s so important because this is the very first occasion in which Jesus deals with the issue of sin!  See what He says?  “Be courageous, son.”  In other words, your faith is justified – “remitted are your sins.”  Sent away are your sins – Psalm one hundred three, “as far as East from West.”    JESUS CHRIST is the One Who remits sin and reconciles God to the world!

Let’s shunt the insignificant off to the side, now.  It is not the point that the paralysis was or was not the direct result of sin.  Neither can we speculate about contrition and awareness of depravity in the man’s heart.  Also we can’t build big sermons and theologies on the love and kindness of Jesus for sinners from this passage.  And we certainly can’t postulate a mythical Jesus who enters into men’s hearts to find goodness and sorrow there, and, as a result, saves them!

The point is that a paralyzed and unable person received, as a gift, that which was totally unearned – a remitting of the debt against him!  In other words, God wrote off the debt!  God was reconciled!  And Jesus did it!

And in this first instance – the first is always representative of the whole – in this first instance the Lord of the Kingdom signifies and pre-figures the remittance of the mountain of eternal debt that’s heaped up against all of God’s elect!  Jesus has come to reconcile God to the world!  He has come to cut off the old, idolatrous people!  He has come to claim the whole world – creation itself – and all its nations as His rightful, inherited Kingdom!  He has come to bind and “send under” the rulers of this world order – Satan and His fallen cohorts!

The means of doing all of this He hasn’t yet revealed, at the point of this text, but He has come to do these things!  And now He reveals Himself as the reconciliation, the remittance of the depravity of men!

And as He does so, He claims the elect of God in Israel, and He continues, at the same time to separate the harlot nation from the covenant – for “lo,” in His house, watching Him exhibit His dominion over creation, and hearing Him claim to remit the sin of a man, are representatives of the leadership of this covetous nation – the Scribes!  And they are dead to the truth, and they cannot see.  And they are calling Jesus a blasphemer!  I guess they thought they were watching a magus perform magic, I don’t know; but they did not want to hear that any man could forgive sin and send it away!  And, therefore, the covenant representatives of Israel standing for the nation itself, rejected the reconciliation of God to the world which God’s Son was here pre-figuring!  And the nation was further separated from the covenant and sent another step on its way to the appointed destruction to take place!

Jesus accuses them of evil thought.  And He equates that with the heart.  As we’ve talked about numbers of times before, man is one – not many parts.  And his mind can’t be separated from the heart.  This indicates man in his depravity.  All of him!

But then Jesus humiliates them in their infinite stupidity and blindness.  He says, What’s easier – forgiving sin or healing bodies?  In other words there’s no reason at all why you should question the forgiveness of sin when the other is already done!  The priests in the temple can pronounce clean, but they can’t heal bodies!  The bodies are here already healed – why is it so hard to accept the forgiveness?

But as we said already, the Scribes were the scavengers and scorpions of Israel, and they were dead.

And here’s that word again – “and having been raised up” the man took up his bed and went away to his house.  And as Revelation chapter twenty-two, verses three and four says, there is no longer any curse in the resurrected Lord.  And as Calvin says the world is reconciled and restored in the resurrection of Jesus.

Finally, the last verse, verse eight, is an important one.  “And the crowds who saw it were fearfully impressed and glorified God Who gave authority such as this to men.”

And here is the point, people.  Here is the Gospel message.  Here is the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom:  In the context of the Son of Man coming to redeem the world, Revelation fourteen, verses six and seven says this (listen, now, and compare it to our text here in verse eight), 


“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, ‘fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come; and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.’”


“Fear God and give Him glory, for the hour of judgment is come.”  What does our text say – verse eight?  “…and the crowds who saw it were fearfully impressed and glorified God….”  The judgment and redemption of the world had come and the people were fearful and glorifying God!  These words aren’t here by coincidence.  It’s the same Revelation!  This is a mighty story – a mighty incident – a mighty historical event with great significance for the history of the world, the nation of Israel and the covenant inclusion for all of us as Gentiles.  And the free grace of God to men who are unable!

Fear God, glorify Him and worship Him.  For judgment is come and the Redeemer is here.  And He has paid the debt for sin.