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A. After healing many in Capernaum, including Peter’s mother-in-law who lived at Peter’s house, Jesus set off on a boat with His disciples, calming the storm along the way, and landed in the area of the Gadarenes. Then, after casting out demons there and being begged to leave, He and His disciples set sail again.
B. Matthew 9:1–13 And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. 2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
C. 9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
A. 1 And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city.
1. They returned to Capernaum (Mark 2:1; Matt.4:13), which was their “home” during the time of His ministry.
2. There is something sad whenever Jesus’ home is mentioned. For Jesus was always rejected at home: his family (John 7:5), Nazareth (Luke 4:16-20; Mark 6:1-6; Matt.13: 54-58), Capernaum (Matt.11:20-24 – this story is one part of His rejection in Capernaum), the Jews, the world.
a. John 1:11 "He came to His own (home) and (by and large) His own did not receive Him."
B. 2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
1. Matthew leaves out much of the detail in this story, detail which is included in Mark 2 & Luke 5, but the details he does include align so perfectly that it’s clear that this is the story of the lame man lowered through the roof by his four friends and was then healed by Jesus.
a. (In particular, this passage does not mention the great lengths this fellow’s friends went to in getting this man to Jesus - Mark 2:3ff.)
2. Now there’s something strange about this. Jesus saw the faith behind the determination of these men to bring their friend, and He said to him, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
3. He didn’t say this to the four friends but to the lame man.
4. Presumably, the four friends brought this fellow to be HEALED, not to be forgiven, but Jesus looks into the fellow's heart and sees that the man's real crippler was guilt, that the man's most severe lameness was spiritual lameness, that not only his body but his soul was in bondage.
5. To us his most obvious problem may be his lameness, but to God, who sees even what is invisible to us, the biggest problem of every person is guilt.
6. Now that’s a radical idea in today’s world. Human pain is not the biggest problem. Oppression is not the biggest problem. The climate crisis is not the biggest problem. The biggest problem of mankind is guilt before a holy God.
7. And Jesus gives this man the greatest gift he could be given: forgiveness.
8. It’s so easy to think that our real problems are in the physical realm, isn’t it? But our biggest issues are not physical issues, but spiritual issues. Our real inadequacies are not physical inadequacies but spiritual inadequacies. Our real deformities are not deformities of the body but deformities of the heart. Our worst sicknesses aren’t physical sicknesses but spiritual sicknesses.
9. Jesus puts the peripheral things aside and goes directly to the core of the matter, even though He knew that the Jewish leaders would be offended by His statement.
C. 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”
1. What are they so upset about? Why are they so disturbed?
2. The shocking thing here isn’t that Jesus is announcing forgiveness – even I can announce forgiveness. But Christ is doing more than announcing it, He is actually accomplishing it!
3. Who else could forgive sins, besides God (since sin is an offense against God)? Jesus subtly and unashamedly proclaims Himself to be God.
4. This is why the Pharisees get so bent out of shape and accuse Him of blasphemy.
D. 4-7 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he rose and went home.
1. It is easy to say "You're forgiven." Saying "you are forgiven" requires no visible result.
2. But though it’s easy to say it, it’s impossible to do it – unless you’re God.
3. Christ did miracles to verify Who He was. This is a very good example. He proved He could forgive by making the lame man walk.
E. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
1. But why were the multitudes so shocked? They had seen many miracles in Capernaum already!
2. The source of their surprise was not the healing so much as the forgiveness.
3. This was a new aspect of Christ's power and authority being shown. He actually even had authority over sin! This was in fact the greatest power yet displayed by Christ. Power over the physical (sicknesses & storms) was helpful but only temporarily. Power over evil spirits was wonderful but only temporary – and only effective for demoniacs.
4. But Christ's power over sin and guilt represents an eternal issue and one that applies to every person. This in many ways represents the pinnacle of the revelation of His supreme authority.
F. 9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
1. The other two gospel writers call him Levi but Matthew calls himself Matthew – Luke 5:27ff.
2. This does not mean that this is the first time Matthew met Jesus. Surely every citizen of Capernaum knew Him. Matthew must have already believed in Him, and now is asked to become one of His disciples.
3. What makes the immediacy of Matthew's response so impressive is that Matthew was rich, but walked away from his lucrative job to follow Jesus. He impoverished himself.
4. But did he really? Since the beginning, the devil has been whispering in people’s ears that God is cheating them. But the fact is, Matthew spent very little – to buy the world’s greatest treasure.
a. Jesus said that anyone who gave up everything for Him would be rewarded a hundredfold – Matt.19:29.
b. His lovingkindness is better than life. (Ps.63:3)
c. No matter how big your dreams are, God's are bigger. No matter how wonderful your dreams are, God's are better. They don't always seem it or feel it – but they are! And that’s why the best dream to have, the best vision of your life is to want to follow Jesus the rest of your days.
d. “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon His beauty and inquire in His temple.” Psalm 27:4
G. 10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
1. Luke 5:29 tells us that this dinner was at Matthew's house.
2. Apparently, after Matthew received Jesus’ love, he was anxious for His friends to meet Jesus.
3. And here we see a stark contrast: On the one hand we see Matthew so eager to follow Jesus. As a tax collector, he must have felt so unworthy of Christ’s attention and invitation!
4. And then on the other hand we have the Pharisees, not only not interested in following Jesus, but offended by Him at every turn, looking for ammunition to attack Him.
5. We have seen this kind contrast before, between the humble recipients of God’s grace and those who resent it because they think they are the ones who should be favored:
a. Jonah versus the Ninevites
6. But we also have the contrast between the younger son and the older son in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15.
a. The younger one feels unworthy of his father’s favor, while the older one is resentful that his younger brother is the recipient of God’s favor when he doesn’t deserve it.
7. And now the same scene is being played out with the sinners like Matthew and the Pharisees.
H. 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”
1. There is definitely a note of sarcasm here in calling the Pharisees "healthy." Jesus obviously means that the Pharisees see themselves as spiritually healthy. And that’s their problem.
2. Jesus is making a distinction between two kinds of people:
a. Healthy — self-righteous, righteous in their own eyes
b. Sick — aware of sin, humble, contrite
3. Christ didn't come in search of sinners, as if that would have been hard to find. He came in search of people who were aware of their great sinfulness. And they ARE hard to find!
4. “This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit & trembles at my word.” – Is.66:2b
5. “You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” – Ps.51:16-17
6. Blessed are those who mourn. Luke 6:21, 25 “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh... Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”
7. The sick ones are those who are blind to their miserable condition. In Rev.3:17 Jesus describes them in this way: "You say, 'I am rich, I have acquired wealth, and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked."
8. Christ is willing and eager to restore. There are no other qualifications - all you need is to know your need, all you need is to recognize that you’re sick. You don't need money or fame, you don't need intelligence or education, you don't need a history of good living or a wholesome upbringing. All you need to receive the Physician's services is "to own your need of Him."
9. God doesn't look for talent or personality or flashiness or self-confidence or brilliance or beauty or dynamism. You don't have to be something you’re not.
10. Christ didn't come to save those who are better than everyone else. He came to save those who know they’re just as bad as everyone else.
I. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
1. Jesus does not merely rebuke them for their blindness concerning their own sin but also for
a. their lack of compassion toward those who were ensnared by sin,
b. and their preoccupation with empty religious rituals.
2. God hates hypocrisy. Sacrifices are detestable to God when they are done with an empty heart, or when they are a substitute for real love and obedience.
a. This story shows how the Pharisees neglected showing mercy to the lost and focused only on the external practices of religion.
3. But a follower of Christ must be willing to get his hands dirty just as Jesus did in touching the leper, the lame man, the demoniac, the bleeding woman. We become His assistants, aiding Him in His work as the Great Physician.
a. If someone is unwilling to get His hands dirty in ministry, it is a sure sign that he doesn't recognize his own sickness from which he has been healed. And if that is the case, then there has been no healing, for the Physician only came to heal the sick, not the healthy. And if we think of ourselves as healthy, then we prove we are not yet the objects of the Physician's healing touch.
4. Jesus came to call sinners. He despises the proud but gives grace to the humble.
III. As we look at this passage as a whole, I’d like to send you home with five brief takeaways:
A. We are all paralyzed. We are all lame.
1. Remember that each healing is a picture of Christ’s salvation.
2. And each malady is a picture of our sin.
3. This man’s paralysis is a picture of how helpless we all are apart from Christ.
4. "Apart from Me you can do nothing." John 15:5
5. Rom.3:10-12 “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
6. Apart from Christ we are paralyzed; we can't even move.
B. However, when people are oppressed, they are always impressed by the sin of the oppressor.
1. It’s easy to think of a victim as sinless, especially when you’re the victim.
2. But all people are sinners. Even people who can’t walk are sinners.
3. When this man was brought to Jesus,
4. When the messiah came, the people of Israel expected Him to go after their oppressors, the Romans. But instead, He went after them.
5. Jesus wasn’t as worried about the sins of the Romans as He was about the sins of His people.
6. He never wept over Rome; He wept over Jerusalem.
7. This is so important for us to realize. We also focus on the sin of our oppressors, instead of realizing that we are sinners just like them. We always complain about how we’re mistreated. But we don’t think much about the way we mistreat others, or about how we wrongly react when we’re mistreated.
1. This man was not forgiven because he did more good things than bad. He was forgiven in a moment, irrespective of what he had done.
2. Forgiveness is a declaration, not a quest. Forgiveness is not something you achieve, but something you receive.
3. You may not always feel forgiven. But the question is whether you believe God's declaration that you have been forgiven! Over and over again God promises in His word that He will forgive the sins of those who repent and come to Him.
4. If you’ve truly done that, you can “draw near to the throne of grace with confidence...to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
1. These two stories both give us good models of believers bringing their friends to Jesus.
a. Four men went to great lengths to bring their friend to Jesus.
b. And Matthew invited his friends over for dinner to meet Jesus.
2. Who brought YOU to Jesus? Someone reached out, someone cared, someone spoke, someone prayed, someone put forth effort, someone introduced you to Jesus.
3. Without someone to bring them most people will never come.
4. We know the lame man was saved, but we don’t know if Matthew’s friends were.
5. You can't guarantee whether they will come. All you can do is try to bring them to Jesus, try to help them get over the obstacles that prevent them from coming. If no one tries, if no one loves, if no one prays, it’s almost certain they won't come.
6. Think about your friends and neighbors and associates. Who can you reach out to? Who can you try to bring to Jesus? Or who can you befriend in the hopes of being able to bring them to Jesus?
7. The four friends gave up a major part of their day. Matthew had a big mess to clean up after his dinner.
8. It takes time, it takes zeal, it takes love, it takes faith to put forth the effort that’s usually required to get over the obstacles. If we just wait for it to be convenient, it hardly ever happens.
E. There are people who often don’t have many friends because they have little to offer.
1. The poor, the disabled, the deformed, the foreigner, the elderly,
2. This kind of person is often more open to the gospel because they are aware of their need. And they know you’re not loving them because you’re trying to get something from them – which is a perpetual problem for the rich and beautiful. Everyone wants a piece of their time.
3. But the outcast, the discarded, the despised, the disregarded. They are the ones who desperately need friends who will carry them to Jesus.