Almost two years ago, my retina in my right eye (my one good eye) detached. I was laid up for about 2 weeks after the surgery unable to see well at all. In fact, initially, I was blind as a bat. I was blessed to have a great surgeon (Dr. Trent Wallace) do an excellent job and I am now able to see pretty much like I could before. The Pharisees, though, had a blindness that even my friend Dr. Wallace couldn’t cure. They could see fine, physically. Spiritually, however, they were blind to the truth even though Truth Himself, Jesus Christ, was staring them right in the face.
Now, remember that Jesus has just performed an amazing miracle here—He has just forgiven a man of his sins based on faith. What an amazing, beautiful thing for these people to be privileged to witness. However, the reaction of the scribes was not one of praise and thanksgiving to God. Rather, they were incensed that Jesus would proclaim this man to be forgiven.
Actually, the principal behind their indignation was actually correct. For someone to declare to a person “Your sins are forgiven” would be blasphemy, as they correctly observe in verse 3 of this chapter. I mean, I couldn’t make that statement. You couldn’t do that. Oh, we can forgive people when they wrong us and we can declare to someone that has trusted in Christ that their sins are forgiven because the Bible says so. But we can’t ultimately forgive any person for their sins eternally—only God can do that.
However, Jesus is God. “Maybe they didn’t know it” one might argue. I would invite you to look at the parallel account of this story in Mark 2:1-13. Mark includes some details for us that Matthew wasn’t inspired by God to record (such as the homeowners got a brand new skylight [v. 4]). Notice in verse 2 that Mark records that Jesus was “speaking the word to them”. Christ was preaching and they heard Him. Now, I dare say that it is more than reasonable to assume that as He spoke it was obvious who He was. I cannot imagine someone hearing Christ preach and not having sufficient evidence just in His words that He was God in human flesh. Further, this was not the first miracle recorded in Matthew’s gospel nor was it the first one that Jesus had performed. His forgiving of this man’s sins was one of many miracles that had no doubt been talked about all around the land of Palestine. Therefore, these men had plenty of evidence of who Christ was and they chose to reject it. Their spiritual eyes were blinded to the truth.
Jesus, because He was God and omnipotent, knew what they were thinking. In fact, even someone who wasn’t omnipotent could probably have read their facial expression and gotten a pretty good idea of what was in their heads. Christ called their thoughts what they were in verse 4—“evil”. They had taken a work of the Holy Spirit, this man being forgiven of his sins, and called such a proclamation an offense against God when it was God Himself doing the forgiving.
He then sets before them a pretty imposing question in verse 5— "Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, and walk'? Now, I think you could understand this question in two ways. Which would be easier to say and actually have the power to do or which would be easier to say and not be able to prove it. Well, one could say the words “Your sins are forgiven” and not be able to back it up but it would be hard to have tangible proof that what you said wasn’t true. If you said “Get up and walk” and the person couldn’t do it, well, everyone would know then that you were a shyster. But as miraculous as being able to heal someone who could not walk would be, the ability to cleanse someone from their sins and declare them righteous before a holy God is infinitely more imposing a task. To prove to them that “the Son of Man [had] authority on earth to forgive sins” He healed the man of his impotent limbs. Not only was the man spiritually whole, which was by far the greater miracle, he now could walk. He wasn’t dependant on having other people carry him everywhere anymore. He was now able bodied and could do things for himself that he was not able to do before. Notice, those of you who claim that physical healing comes with spiritual healing, that the healing of his legs took place after his sins were forgiven and it took place only to prove a point.
Now, it’s easy for us to look at the religious leaders of the day and say “How could they miss it?” Brothers and sisters, how could we miss it? We have all the evidence we need to convince any sane person to follow Christ as Lord. Do we really do that? Are we willing to follow a Savior who has so graciously performed in our lives the greatest miracle of all—He has forgiven our sins? We dare not count such a blessing as cheap. Let’s take note of the spiritual blindness of the scribes and Pharisees and follow Christ as if our spiritual eyes have been opened…because they have been.