Good morning, happy Thursday, and many blessings.
Today’s Gospel, Matthew 9:1-8, reminds us about ways to cultivate compassion. The greatest benefit of compassion is hope both for others and for ourselves.
And this, of course, is the central theme or message of the passage, that Jesus has compassion and authority to forgive sin. How do we know that? Part of the answer, and the answer given here, is that He has the power to heal.
Now this will raise a fundamental theological issue that will have to be dealt with somewhere in the study, probably when Jesus is speaking to the teachers of the Law. What is the connection between healing and forgiving, or, more basically, what is the connection between sickness, disease, and death, and sin? This could become a rather involved study, but one that you need to do sometime. Good biblical theologies will provide you with basic discussions on the subject.
The point is that if Jesus can take care of the effects of sin--by healing a paralytic or a leper, or by raising a dead person--He can therefore also take care of the cause of the illness--by forgiving the sin. For Jesus, the forgiving of sins and the healing of diseases are two sides of His mission, with the forgiveness of sins being the most important.
What Jesus was doing in healing people was not simply performing miracles, which is usually defined as violating or nullifying natural laws, but rather He was showing by these healing miracles that He was restoring a lost order. Disease and death were not natural to God’s creation, they were violations of it. The natural order was what God had created but had been ruined. Jesus was able to get behind the problem and deal with sin first, and then its effects. And as we said before, these individual miracles that He performed in His earthly ministry were signs of what He would do at the second coming when He restores the lost order of creation in full.
A related point that the story establishes is the relationship between sin and suffering. I have already dealt with this and so only need at this point to mention it in passing. These men believed in Jesus and His power to make whole. They knew if they could get the paralytic to Jesus all would be well.
The application is that for the forgiveness of sins one must come to Jesus by faith, believing that He will forgive and make things well. And, for the restoration to health and wholeness, spiritual and physical, one must also pray in the name of Jesus.
The authoritative word of Jesus attacks evil at its root: in the case of the paralytic, he attacks sin that corrodes the human being in his freedom and blocks his living forces: "Your sins are forgiven you" (v.2); "Get up, take your mat and go home" (v.6). In truth, all the paralyzes of the heart and mind with which one is chained, are nullified by the authority of Jesus (9,6), the fact of meeting him in earthly life. The authoritative and effective word of Jesus awakens paralyzed humanity (9.5-7) and gives him the gift of walking (9.6) with renewed faith.