Matthew 9:1–13: The Authority to Forgive Sinners
As we enter the ninth chapter of the Gospel, Matthew continues to spotlight the nature of Jesus’ authority. We have previously seen Matthew highlight the manifest authority of Jesus in his teaching (Matt. 7:29), cleansing (Matt. 8:3), healing (Matt. 8:13), bearing away our sins (Matt. 8:17), calling disciples (Matt. 8:22), calming a storm (Matt. 8:26), and casting out demons (Matt. 8:32). Little by little, Matthew is filling out our understanding of Jesus’ radically unique authority on earth. Now, Matthew shows that Jesus’ authority stretches even into the things that God alone can do: Jesus has the authority to forgive sinners.
1. Why do you think that Jesus begins his conversation with the paralytic by telling him to “take heart,” and assuring him that his sins are forgiven (v. 2)? How does their “faith” play into this forgiveness (v. 2)? Why do the scribes think that Jesus is blaspheming by pronouncing the forgiveness of his sins (v. 3)? What do the scribes get right in this about human authority to forgive sins? What do the scribes get wrong in this about Jesus’ authority to forgive sins?
2. Why does Jesus charge the scribes with “evil” (v. 4)? Why is Jesus’ question so difficult to answer: “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” (v. 5)? How many different angles might someone answer this question? What point(s) is Jesus making by this question? How does healing the paralytic prove the authority of Jesus to forgive sins (v. 6)? What do the people learn about Jesus’ authority from all this (v. 8)?
3. Why do you think all the Synoptic Gospels narrate the call of Matthew immediately after the healing of the paralytic (Matt. 9:9–13; Mark 2:13–17; and Luke 5:27–32)? How do these two stories relate? Why does Jesus then recline at a table with other tax collectors and sinners after calling Matthew to be his disciple (v. 10)? How does this demonstrate the absolute authority of Jesus to forgive sins?
4. What does Jesus’ response to the Pharisees in vv. 12–13 tell us about his mission? Whom did Jesus come to call as his followers (v. 13)? Whom does this mission exclude? Why does Jesus permit us to approach him when we recognize that we are sinners, but not when we believe we are righteous? Why is it so hard for us to admit that we are sinners? Does this authority and assignment of Jesus to forgive and call sinners give you comfort? Why or why not?