Monday, June 9, 2014

Challenging Accepted Ideas

Matthew 9:2-13

“And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” (Matthew 9:2)

Jesus had returned across the Sea of Galilee then proceeded to Nazareth.  While he was there, surrounded by the multitude they brought a man sick of the palsy and because of the crowd had to let him down from the roof to get him close, as recorded in Mark 2 and Luke 5.  When he saw the demonstration of the faith of those who brought him, Jesus told the man his sins were forgiven.

“And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.

And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?  For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?  But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.  And he arose, and departed to his house.” (Matthew 9:3-7)

The people of Nazareth knew Jesus as the son of the carpenter, who they had known since he was a small child.  They had just accepted his miracles as something he did with little or no thought as to what they meant.  When Jesus said the man’s sins were forgiven, the religious leaders thought he had gotten carried away and gone too far. 

As Jesus pointed out, it would have been easier to just say arise and walk.  He had deliberately chosen his words to call their attention to the fact of his power and force them to consider who he really was.

“But when the multitude saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.” (Matthew 9:8)

The religious leaders wre so caught up in their own ideas of what God was like they didn’t realize the power to heal had to come from god, but the common people were far more alert to what had happened and glorified God that Jesus had been given such great healing power to a human being. 

“And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9)

Matthew was working when the man with palsy was let down from the roof, but he heard the talk and was familiar with what Jesus had done other times.  When Jesus told him to follow him, he didn’t hesitate. Just walking away from his job as a tax collector. 

“And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (Matthew 9:10-11)

It is always interesting to go to a political or religious meeting and see how everyone flocks to the most powerful and best known people there.  The big wigs are so busy talking to each other that ordinary people can’t get a chance to talk to them at all except to get a picture for the news.  Jesus invited people to eat with him that were considered unfit to even associate with; employees of  the hated Roman government, and people with bad reputations. 

The Pharisees questioned the disciples why Jesus would associate with such people instead of those who were more influential and genteel. 

“But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.  But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Matthew 9:12-13)

When Jesus heard what eh Pharisees were saying, he pointed out that the people who would benefit from his attention were the people who had problems, rather than those who thought they had their lives under control.   While they didn’t realize or acknowledge it, the very Pharisees who were complaining were no better than the people they condemned.  They thought that the sacrifices they offered would make up for their hypocrisy and prejudice, but God would have preferred they showed a forgiving spirit.

Proverbs 21:2 says, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.” It is human nature to assume we are right, and the Jews were just guilty as other people.  They had modified their interpretation of the Law to make what they did seem acceptable, but God compared their intentions with the original intent of the law, and their ideas were not nearly as good as they assumed. 

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