17One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. 18Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."
21The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
22Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 24But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." He said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 25Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today."
27After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, 28and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
29Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
31Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (NIV)
1. Jesus honours active, determined faith. (vv. 17-20).
The efforts made by the men to bring their paralytic friend to Jesus gives us a picture of the perseverance (in the face of many obstacles) that we must continually exercise to keep our hope and trust in God (Mt 26:41; Eph 6:10-18; 1 Tim 6:9-15).
- Question for reflection: Can you think of an examples in your experience where you determined to trust the LORD in the face of many obstacles? What particular things did you do out of faith? What was the outcome?
2. Jesus' divine authority is confirmed by His miracles (vv. 21-23).
Jesus' deity - and, therefore, his authority to forgive sin - could not be verified just by a claim. However, his immediate, instantaneous healing of the paralytic made His authority indisputable (Jn 3:2; 9:31-33; 10:37-38).
- Question for reflection: Why are miracles important in Jesus' ministry? On the other hand, in what ways can people - at that time, and today - go too far in their interest in miracles?
3. Jesus' divine authority is confirmed by His knowledge of people's thoughts (vv. 21-23).
Jesus' ability to read the minds of his opponents reminds us that "nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account" (Heb 4:13). Also, it brings to mind Ps 139 ("O Lord, you have searched me and you know me") and many other passages speaking of God's penetrating knowledge of our hearts.
- Question for reflection: How is the truth of God's omniscience comforting to us? How is it convicting?
4. Jesus is pleased to call the the scorned and rejected of the world into His kingdom (v. 27-28).
By calling Matthew - whose job as a tax collector was among those held in greatest contempt by Jewish culture at the time - Jesus reminds us that He will often choose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.... the weak things of the world to shame the strong." (1 Co 1:27).
5. The joy of knowing Jesus should compel us to make Him known to the people we know (v. 29).
Immediately, it seems, after Matthew believed, he held a great feast in Christ's honour, and invited many of his fellow-tax collectors - people he presumably knew.
- Question for reflection: Are we as eager to share Christ with the people we know as Matthew was? If not, what things prevent us from doing so? How can we work on overcoming them?
6. Jesus came to seek and save those who know of their need for a saviour (vv. 27-28, 31-32).
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick". Jesus's statement here should not be taken as meaning that there were actually righteous people who existed, because we have seen from other Scripture passages (most notably Romans 3) that no one is righteous before God (Rom 3:9-20). Rather, what Jesus means is that there are some people who think they are righteous (e.g. many of the Pharisees and their scribes!) so Christ holds out no good news for them. A helpful illustration of the contrast between the "righteous" and "sinners" and how they respond to God is found in Luke 18:9-14 (The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector).
- Question for reflection: What attitude - that of the "righteous" or the "sinner" - do we find ourselves exhibiting most often before God and people?