A Paralyzed Man Forgiven and Healed: Matthew 9:1-8

The paralyzed man is first forgiven and then healed. The purpose of the miracles was to serve as a testimony to the identity of Christ, and it is interesting that forgiveness has priority in the discussion.

Forgiveness of the paralyzed man most bothers the teachers of the law. The teachers of the law represented the religious people of the day and much can be learned from them—usually an antithetical lesson of what not to do. The law of these teachers (not the true law of God, the one Jesus came to fulfill, but the one they had distorted, added to, and turned into rules of men) was about limits, control, a hierarchy of goodness, and a sense of entitlement from God.  The love of God and the love of neighbor was absent Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18. It was religion at its worst—a structure created and designed by its practitioners to control man and God. This sort of religion has zero tolerance for the mystery that Jesus brought. Jesus was disruptive to their world. If I believe in a living God, if I seek a relationship with him instead of religion, there will be surprises. There will be mystery. Religion cannot tolerate mystery because it cannot tolerate what it cannot control.

If I have little peace and find myself tense and angry because God isn’t doing things the way I think he should, I’m probably practicing religion and not a relationship with him. Faith is never about control. It is always about trust, Hebrews 11:1. When I reflect upon Psalm 131, is this my experience of my relationship with God? If not, it is time to abandon religion and get to know Jesus.

As long as I am living religion, I will continue to be a paralyzed man. I will never know the peace Jesus offers. If I find I am entertaining evil thoughts, I must immediately confess them and ask God to heal my thoughts. My relationship with him demands it. If I think I can continue to think the way I always I have and glaze if over with religious practice, once again I’m practicing religion and not relationship.

The irony is that the teachers of the law were paralyzed inside and less able to help themselves than the paralyzed man because they could not recognize their sickness.

Read Matthew 9:1-8

Questions:

  1. Am I experiencing peace in my relationship with God like that of Psalm 131?
  2. What occupies most of my thought about religion or relationship? External expressions of religion or internal submission, understanding, obedience, and prayer?
  3. Who do I most closely identify in this story? Have I ever put procedure or practice ahead of doing the right thing?
  4. Would I describe my experience as God obedient or performance based?
  5. Why does the modern church frequently gravitate toward a performance based religion?

Passage for Meditation

“Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?” Matthew 9:4b

Prayer

Father, I confess that too frequently I have spent too much time thinking about what I’m doing or need to be doing instead of listening to you and being obedient to you. Help me to remember that your burden is light and your yoke is easy, and when I feel a heavy burden it is either from man or there is some sin I need to confess and repent of. Help my life to reflect the peace of Christ so that my life will be an effective testimony to you.

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