“The Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins.’” (Matthew 9:6)
When Jesus told the paralytic man that his sins forgiven it would have raised quite a few eyebrows. The man and his four friends had come for physical healing but Jesus was not on earth as a medical Messiah. He came to save people from their sin and its consequences (John 1:29). Key to this occurring is people’s understanding of who He is.
The crowds often came to Jesus only for physical benefits and they missed out on the eternal gift that comes in Him through forgiveness of sin. The same is just as true today. This week a woman I spoke with rejected the existence of God on the basis that He hasn’t eradicated all the ills of mankind – hunger and disease being among them.
We can reflect on the surprise of the man and his friends when Jesus, without healing the man, told him that his sins where forgiven. Along with the scribes present (v 3) they would have understood that Jesus was attesting that He is God. They knew that only God is able to forgive sin.
The scribes, quick on the theology, immediately began whispering among themselves. They understood that Jesus was claiming deity for Himself. That is why they accused Him of blaspheme, and continued to do so until the cross.
Recently a Jehovah’s Witness spoke with me in the front yard and was more than surprised when I said that Jesus plainly revealed His deity on a number of occasions. They claim to believe that Jesus was a special created being similar to other angelic beings and with unique powers. They would have been with the scribes in accusing Jesus of blasphemy. The end of that belief was that they wanted Jesus crucified. Those who deny Jesus’ deity call Him a liar and a deceiver and therefore crucify Him afresh.
If Jesus is not God He could not forgive anyone’s sin. Since all sin is against God, only God can forgive sin. In stating this man’s sin as forgiven Jesus plainly claims deity for Himself and that is how the scribes interpreted it. Jesus did not attempt to correct their conclusion!
There are other occasions where the religious leaders of Israel interpreted what Jesus said as claiming deity (cf. John 5:18) and He made no attempt to correct them on those occasions either. This was the only true accusation they ever made against Jesus and the main reason they sought His death.
As evidence that He is God and therefore is able to forgive sin, Jesus then healed the man. This is how we should understand the physical healings by Jesus and Matthew records several healings immediately following for our benefit. Miracles are so that people would know that He is God and has power to forgive sin.