Text: Matthew 9:1-8
Lord, Thee I love with all my heart; I pray Thee, ne’er from me depart, with tender mercy cheer me. Earth has no pleasure I would share. Yea, heav’n itself were void and bare if Thou, Lord, wert not near me. And should my heart for sorrow break, my trust in Thee can nothing shake. Thou art the portion I have sought; Thy precious blood my soul has bought. Lord Jesus Christ, my God and Lord…forsake me not! I trust Thy Word.
The words of our hymn were written around 1567 by the pastor Martin Schalling. Martin served many years as a pastor and was removed not once – but three times – from his office for refusing to compromise his Lutheran beliefs. Through it all, he trusted in the Lord’s mercy and grace. The same could also have been sung by the paralyzed man and his friends in the Gospel text.
When they heard that Jesus was in the area preaching, teaching, and healing, some men brought their paralyzed friend to also be healed by Jesus. Recognizing faith in their and the man’s hearts, Jesus declared to the man, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then, as a demonstration of His great love, and His authority to forgive sins, Jesus healed the man. The man picked up his mat and went home, leaving the crowds to glorify God.
We see in this text Jesus’ great love and compassion, and His great desire to heal. The order Jesus did things in the text can also teach us something. First, He diagnosed and healed the man’s greater affliction: his sin. Then, Jesus also healed his body. He does the same for us. Jesus heals our souls of sin now through the Gospel, and in the resurrection, our bodies, too.
Our text from Matthew 9 continues in a string of teaching and miracles from our Lord. Just before our text, Jesus crossed over to the east side of the Sea of Galilee. That was when He calmed the storm. While He was on the other side, He cast the demons out of two men. The demons went into a herd of pigs and drowned them. All the people of that city came out and begged Jesus to leave them. So, He did. He crossed back over to the west side, to His home base in the town of Capernaum. Jesus did many miracles there: healing Peter’s mother-in-law, raising a girl from the dead, and just generally healing many people. Thus, in our text there was a great crowd around Jesus. This was a standing-room only situation.
As Jesus was teaching, some brought to Him a man who was paralyzed. St. Mark and St. Luke tell us that, because the house was so crowded, and they couldn’t otherwise get to Jesus, they actually cut a hole in the roof of the house and lowered the man down. St. Matthew writes, “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, My son; your sins are forgiven.’” What an odd thing to say. And yet, maybe not. The men approached Jesus in faith, seeking healing. Jesus the Great Physician diagnosed and healed the man’s greater illness: his sin. As great as the man’s physical affliction was, his paralysis had an expiration date. When he died, he wouldn’t be paralyzed anymore. In the Resurrection, the full use of his body would return. There’s one thing that could de-rail that though, sin and its fruit.
See, we’re more than just our bodies. As Christians, we recognize from Scripture that all we see is not all that exists. You might have this memorized, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” We believe that when God formed each of us in the womb, He gave us not just our body, but our soul as well. Which of these two lasts longer? Well, our soul, of course. And, just like our bodies, our souls are prone to sickness, too. The illness of our soul is sin. When we die, the sickness in our body dies; not with our soul. Sin, which separates from God, unless it is forgiven, clings to our soul forever. And, those whose sins are not forgiven or those who reject that forgiveness, have their sins bound to their souls forever in hell. Therefore, Jesus first healed the man’s greater illness, his sin.
St. Matthew at this point writes, “Some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’” St. Mark tells us that, in this standing-room only situation, the scribes were sitting. This marks about the beginning of serious opposition to Jesus. Their charge was this: that Jesus was committing blasphemy by forgiving the man’s sins. Blasphemy is when you take the glory that belongs to God and ascribe it to anything else. Blasphemy in general is breaking one of the first three Commandments. So, they accused Jesus of blaspheming by forgiving sins, which only God can do. This line of thinking Jesus called evil.
St. Matthew continues, “Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…Rise, pick up your bed and go home.’” Jesus asked them why they were thinking evil. Then, He turned the tables and asked them question. Which is easier to do? To say he is forgiven, or to tell him to walk? Obviously, it’s saying your sins are forgiven. How can you really measure from the outside if someone’s sins are forgiven? When sins are forgiven there’s isn’t an external change in the person. But, if you say, “get up and walk,” and that doesn’t happen…that’s pretty quick proof of something. So, to demonstrate that He has the authority to forgive sins, Jesus told the man to get up, and he did. Jesus healed the man’s soul and his body.
Jesus did this because of His great love for the man and for us. We are all weighed-down and beset by sin. It clings to us, pressing in on us from every side. Were it not forgiven, it would drag us all down into the eternal pit of hell. So that that might not be the case, Jesus took on flesh to suffer and die for you. Through His Word and Sacraments, He offers healing, peace, and pardon to you. In Baptism, your sin was washed away, and you received the Holy Spirit. Through the preaching of the Word, the Holy Spirit strengthens you in the faith and daily declares to you that your sins are forgiven for the sake of Christ. In the Lord’s Supper, we partake of Christ’s very body and blood, which purifies and heals us from the inside. By these things, our souls are healed, and we receive passage into the eternal kingdom of heaven.
Every Sunday we confess our faith not just in the forgiveness of sins, but also in the life of the world to come. In the text Jesus healed the man’s soul and in the Word and Sacraments, He heals our souls. Jesus healed the man’s body and, in the Resurrection, will fully restore ours as well. Jesus’ great love doesn’t just cover our souls, but our bodies, too. Otherwise, God wouldn’t have given us bodies or continued to care for them throughout our earthly lives. Just as the man was healed in the text, we all will be healed in the Resurrection. When Christ returns, He will raise the bodies of you, me, and all believers. We will together be changed. Our bodies will no longer bear the effects of sin, but will be as God created them to be.
In our text, we see Jesus’ great love for all mankind demonstrated. When a paralyzed man was brought to Him seeking healing, Jesus recognized His greatest need – the forgiveness of sins. Jesus forgave the man, healing His soul. Then, Jesus also healed the man’s body. Through the Word and Sacraments, Jesus has healed and continues to heal our souls of sin. And, in the Resurrection, He will fully heal our bodies, too.
 “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart,” stanza 1.
 Mt. 9:2, English Standard Version.
 Mt. 9:2.
 Heb. 11:1.
 Mt. 9:3.
 Mt. 9:4-6.