Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic
Matthew 9: 1-8
1 So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city.
It means Jesus and His Twelve disciples crossed over the Sea of Galilee, the north end. The distances aren't huge, they could have walked it, but the fathers say that Jesus does this in order to not be constantly swarmed by crowds, and constantly hounded to perform miracles. St John Chrysostom says "it was His will not to be always doing miracles, that He might not do damage to the doctrine of His humanity." "His own city" means they were returning to Capernaum, not Nazareth or Bethlehem. It's called "His" city, because this is where Jesus and His disciples established their "home base" in Peter’s house, on the shores of the Lake.
2 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”
So, who are the "they?" They are the paralytic’s devoted friends, who had great faith in God and in Jesus. According to the fathers, the paralytic himself shows a similarly strong faith. XC responds to the request for healing based on their faith. It says: "When Jesus saw their faith." He wants His disciples and the rest of the people present to see the power of prayer when accompanied by faith. As He tells them in another place: "And all things, whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive." (Matthew 21:22) This is part the Gospel read for a General Service of Prayer, called, in the Russian Church, a Molieben.
Jesus then says to the paralytic: Son (teknon), be of good cheer! Your sins are forgiven you!
This word "son" is actually "child." And "Be of good cheer" sounds like “Cheer up!” But that’s wrong. The Greek word is "Θάρσει!" It’s taken from the Greek word "θαρσέω" meaning “to take courage.” So He is saying: "My child, take courage! Your sins are forgiven you!” St. John Chrysostom says: "The Lord Jesus didn't immediately hurry to heal the visible body, but instead, He takes His cue from the invisible but powerful faith of the paralytic and his friends; and He healed first the invisible part of the man, his soul, by forgiving his sins; which then, in turn, healed his body." It is the removal of sin which heals the body, the opposite of which happened in Paradise, i.e. the introduction of sin brought about disease and death.
3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!”
Who are the Scribes again? They are the professional interpreters of the Law. Lawyers of Religion. By the time of Christ, they were very much aligned with the sect of the Pharisees. These "said within themselves" means they were too chicken to say it out loud, since a miracle was happening before their eyes. Also, it means that the temptation for them, the "conversation," went on within their hearts and minds.
"this man blasphemes!" The Scribes are inspired by thoughts coming right from the devil, suggesting that Jesus is a mere man, nobody special, and putting himself in the place of God. The English word "blaspheme" is taken directly from the Greek "Blasphemei" meaning his speech is evil, irreverent, impious.
4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?
Jesus knows their thoughts because He is God. He can hear both the thoughts suggested by the evil spirits, plus the thoughts generated by the Scribes after embracing the thoughts or logismoi, placed in their minds by the demons. Only God, and those possessing the divine gift of "knowledge" or what the fathers call "diakrisis" or spiritual discernment, can read the thoughts of others. Satan and the evil spirits cannot. They can place thoughts, images, ideas, dreams, but they can't actually see what happens. They do, however, possess a keen ability to guess as well as to create the outcomes they are hoping for. They know how we think. They know our weaknesses. They are thousands of years old.
" Why do you think evil in your hearts?" The heart is where Satan wants to be. With these Scribes he has attained his goal.
5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?
St John Chrysostom says: What (Jesus) is saying is something like this, “Which seems easier to you, to bind up a broken body, or to unbind the sins of a soul?" It seems clear that for you it is to heal a body. But the truth is, a soul is greater than a body, and the doing away of sins is a greater work than physical healing; but because the one is invisible, and the other visible, I add the other, which, although an inferior thing, is nonetheless more easy for you to perceive.”
6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 7 And he arose and departed to his house.
Jesus uses this term “Son of Man” of Himself, in order to avoid the more inflammatory "Son of God." But He means Son of God, and that the Son of God has the power to forgive sins. He proves it by raising up and restoring the paralytic to full health.
Why did he have to carry his bed? Theophylact: Jesus commanded him to carry his bed so that the event would not appear to have been an illusion, and also, so that the multitudes would see clear evidence of the miracle.
"and departed to his own house." Jesus doesn't tell everyone to sell all they have and follow Him. The paralytic He simply sends home. Each person has their own calling from Jesus.
8 Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.
The crowds are not so totally overrun with demonic logismoi. They recognize the miracle as being given by God. They don't concern themselves too much with the protests of the Scribes and Pharisees. But they still think that Jesus is only a man. May God deliver us from such delusions, and instead, heal us in soul and body in accordance with our faith. Amen.