THE MANIFESTATION OF THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS STIRS UP REACTIONS OF BOTH AWE AND REJECTION
Leon Morris: For the second time in this section of his Gospel Matthew brings three miracles before his readers. He is emphasizing the authority and the power that were manifest throughout Jesus’ ministry.
Charles Swindoll: The Bible is filled with amazing scenes and stories that almost take our breath away. When we picture ourselves being there, seeing through our own eyes the incredible events as they take place and wondering how everything will turn out, we’re held in the grip of our imagination. The disciples of Jesus occupied front-row seats throughout His earthly ministry. How often they must have stared in amazement at what they saw and heard —mouths wide open, shocked beyond words!
R. T. France: The second group of miracles are linked both geographically and thematically. Geographically they are grouped around the crossing of the lake, which was signalled in v. 18. The first miracle takes place during the crossing, the second on arrival on the other side, and the third on their return to Capernaum. The explicit mention of the boat in 8:23 and 9:1 reinforces this connection. . .
The thematic connection between these three miracles is in the unparalleled authority displayed by Jesus, which is the explicit focus of the third (9:6–8), but is also expressed in the reaction of the disciples to the first (8:27) and of the people of the Decapolis to the second (8:34). The miracles in the first group were physical healings (though exorcisms were also included in the general summary in 8:16). In this group the third (9:1–8) is also a physical healing, but that is not the main focus of the pericope which contains it. Rather we now see Jesus’ authority revealed in three new ways, different from one another but all equally astounding. He has authority to quell wind and water, to expel demonic spirits, and to forgive sins. The question “What sort of person is this?” (8:27) thus becomes ever more insistent.
Warren Wiersbe: The persons involved in these three miracles all had a need for peace, and Jesus provided that peace.
- Peace in the storm (8:23–27).
- Peace in a community (8:28–34).
- Peace in the conscience (9:1–8).
Richard Gardner: What the three stories in this unit do have in common is their focus on the dramatic scope of Jesus’ power or authority. In one instance Jesus demonstrates authority over the elements. In another it is authority to destroy demonic powers. And in the third account Jesus confronts us with his authority to forgive sin. The question that all three stories raise for the reader is the question found in 8:27: What sort of person is this, who commands such authority?
I. (8:23-27) AUTHORITY OVER NATURE — CALMING OF THE STORM
William Barclay: When the cold, bleak wind of sorrow blows, there is calm and comfort in the presence of Jesus Christ. When the hot blast of passion blows, there is peace and security in the presence of Jesus Christ. When the storms of doubt seek to uproot the very foundations of the faith, there is a steady safety in the presence of Jesus Christ. In every storm that shakes the human heart, there is peace with Jesus Christ.
Grant Osborne: There is in general a four-part development:
- the appearance of the storm (vv. 23–24),
- the interaction between Jesus and the disciples (vv. 25–26a),
- the stilling of the storm (v. 26b),
- and the shocked reaction of the disciples (v. 27).
Still, the chiastic outline of Davies and Allison has merit:
Jesus boards (v. 23a)
The disciples follow (v. 23b)
A storm arises (v. 24a-b)
Jesus is sleeping (v. 24c)
The disciples address Jesus (v. 25)
Jesus addresses the disciples (v. 26a)
Jesus arises and rebukes the storm (v. 26b)
The storm calms (v. 26c)
The disciples are amazed (v. 27)
Jesus disembarks (v. 28)
A. (:23) Setting
“And when He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.”
B. (:24-25) Crisis
- (:24a) Agitated State of Nature
“And behold, there arose a great storm in the sea,
so that the boat was covered with the waves;”
Warren Wiersbe: The storm came because they obeyed the Lord, and not because (like Jonah) they disobeyed Him.
Michael Wilkins: The lake’s low elevation (at least 636 feet [212 meters] below sea level) provides it with relatively mild year-round temperatures. However, encompassed with mountain ranges to the east and west that rise over 2,650 feet from the level of the lake, especially infamous is an east wind that blows in over the mountains, particularly during the spring and fall (cf. 14:19, 24; John 6:1–4). The lake’s low-lying setting results in sudden violent downdrafts and storms (cf. Mark 4:37; Luke 8:23; John 6:18) that can produce waves seven feet and more, easily able to swamp a boat.
William Barclay: On the west side, there are hills with valleys and gullies; and, when a cold wind comes from the west, these valleys and gullies act like gigantic funnels. The wind, as it were, becomes compressed in them, and rushes down upon the lake with savage violence and with startling suddenness, so that the calm of one moment can become the raging storm of the next. The storms on the Sea of Galilee combine suddenness and violence in a unique way.
John Nolland: Matthew identifies the cause of the problem as a σεισμός. This word means ‘a shaking’, and is normally applied to an earthquake rather than a storm. He has most likely chosen the word because its generality allows readers to think in terms of the many kinds of disturbance that may threaten their own lives. The choice of the word may also make it possible, retrospectively, to see anticipated here the eschatological turmoil of the period through which the disciples will be called upon to live out their discipleship (24:7). It is further possible that the general language allows the evocation of mythical images of the sea as a frightening monster, once roused. The sea is being shaken up, and so there are large waves; but only with the mention in 8:26 of the presence of the wind will it become clear that the likely cause is a storm. The danger is that the boat will be swamped and sunk. . .
There is a curious relationship between the present account and the story of Jonah’s sea voyage. The strongest verbal links are between v. 24 and Jon. 1:4-5. But there are also verbal links between Mt. 8:25 and Jon. 1:6, 14; Mt. 8:27 and Jon. 1:16 (much stronger for the Markan account at this point). Further content parallels can be noted between Mt. 8:23 and Jon. 1:3; Mt. 8:26 and Jon. 1:15. . . In very different ways Jonah and Jesus are both presented as figures through whom God manifests his power over nature.
- (:24b) Peaceful State of Jesus
“but He Himself was asleep.”
Leon Morris: But has adversative force and introduces what is contrary to what might have been expected. And it is certainly surprising that in a storm of the magnitude of that described by Matthew anyone could stay asleep. But Jesus had had a very heavy day with healing and teaching, and dealing with potential disciples. Wearied as he was with all his labor, he fell asleep and remained asleep despite the magnitude of the storm.
Grant Osborne: In the OT sleep in difficult situations symbolized a deep trust in God (Job 11:18–19; Ps 3:5–6; Prov 3:24–26); that is the likely message here, as the calm of Jesus is in absolute contrast with the deep anxiety of the disciples.
- (:25) Agitated State of the Disciples
“And they came to Him, and awoke Him, saying,
‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing!’”
Daniel Doriani: All-consuming dread is another matter. Irrational fear resists comfort. It forgets the power and goodness of God. It extinguishes faith. Godly fear recognizes the threat at hand, but it is tempered by confidence in God. When dangers loom, we should remember that God masters storms. We should remember the story of Jonah. Although Jonah was in a state of rebellion and the Lord had a different agenda with him, he raised the storm, placed Jonah in it, and delivered Jonah from it, all for his good. He will do the same for us.
C. (:26) Miracle = Calming the Winds and the Sea
- Rebuke of the Disciples
“And He said to them, ‘Why are you timid, you men of little faith?’”
John Nolland: The situation may be terrible, but the disciples’ terror is a mark of little faith. It indicates that they have lost sight of the reality of the power and presence of their Lord. When this happens, appropriate action on the basis of faith becomes impossible. The present episode illustrates, however, the point already made in 6:30, that God does not withhold help even from those whose faith is small.
R. T. France: A significant contrast with Mark’s telling of the story is the different order of events: in Mark the appeal is immediately followed by Jesus’ remedial action, only after which does he comment on their fear and lack of faith, whereas in Matthew the comments immediately follow the appeal—Jesus deals with the disciples before he deals with the storm. This order is perhaps intended to underline Jesus’ control of the situation (there is no need for panic action), but also serves to highlight the significance of the disciples’ failure in trust.
Grant Osborne: Jesus, who so trusted God that he slept through the storm, is aghast at the low level of faith on the part of the disciples. Matthew uses “you of so little faith” (ὀλιγόπιστοι) often (6:30; 14:31; 16:8) to describe the inadequate God-centeredness of the disciples. It is always the result of a basic self-interest and an earth-centered perspective, thus producing fear. It must be remembered that they cry out to Jesus for help and so at the deepest level do have a basic trust, but they also feel they are about to perish, and so it is terror rather than faith that drives them.
- Rebuke of Nature
“Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea;
and it became perfectly calm.”
Walter Wilson: When Matthew reports how Jesus “rebuked” the winds and the sea in 8:26, he employs a verb (ἐπιτιμάω) found elsewhere in accounts of exorcisms. Within the author’s cultural context, such a tactic would have made sense, given the common belief that demonic forces (“the spirit of the wind,” “the spirit of the sea,” etc.) were responsible for violent weather. In this respect, 8:23–27 anticipates 8:28–34, which is itself an exorcism story. Looking at the stories in terms of genre, it appears that a nature (or sea) miracle with exorcistic features segues into an exorcism story with a feature borrowed from nature (i.e., the sea), the implication being that the same godlike power that informed Jesus’s quelling of the demonic sea is now manifested in his subjugation of demonic men. An important item linking the two stories rhetorically, then, is their shared adversarial dynamic. In both narratives, Jesus overcomes active demonic opposition, which (as such) is associated with the power of death, symbolized in the former by an adversary that emerges from the sea and in the latter by adversaries who emerge from tombs, only to be destroyed in the sea.
Leon Morris: Jesus turned to the boisterous winds and the troubled sea and rebuked them (for addressing the waves of the sea cf. Job 38:11). This is a somewhat surprising verb and perhaps indicates that Jesus saw an evil force in the tempest that put him and his disciples in peril. He deals with that force as sovereign over it. The result of the rebuke was a great calm (“it became perfectly calm,” NASB). Matthew does not describe a gradual diminution of the force of the winds and the waves, but a sudden cessation of all the storm’s activity, so that everything was peaceful. We are not to think that the storm had blown itself out, but that Jesus had power over the elements and replaced tempest with calm.
D. (:27) Response to Manifest Authority of Jesus over Nature
“And the men marveled, saying,
‘What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’”
Craig Blomberg: There are implications for discipleship here, to be sure; we must turn to Jesus as the one to trust in all circumstances of life. But the focus of this passage remains squarely Christological—on who Christ is, not on what he will do for us. One who has this kind of power can be no less than God himself, worthy of worship, irrespective of when and how he chooses to use that power in our lives. Sometimes he leaves storms unstilled for good and godly ends (cf. 2 Cor 12:7-8).
II. (8:28-34) AUTHORITY OVER DEMONIC SPIRITS — EXORCISM OF TWO DEMON-POSSESSED MEN
A. (:28a) Setting
“And when He had come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes,”
Michael Wilkins: The “other side” is often a reference to the movement from a Jewish to a Gentile region. “Gadarenes” refers to both the village of Gadara, located about five miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee, and to the surrounding region, which probably included a little village that lay on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee called Gerasa (modern Khersa or Kursi), the traditional site of the exorcism.
Warren Wiersbe: This dramatic incident is most revealing.
- It shows what Satan does for a man: robs him of sanity and self-control; fills him with fears; robs him of the joys of home and friends; and (if possible) condemns him to an eternity of judgment.
- It also reveals what society does for a man in need: restrains him, isolates him, threatens him, but society is unable to change him.
- See, then, what Jesus Christ can do for a man whose whole life—within and without—is bondage and battle. What Jesus did for these two demoniacs, He will do for anyone else who needs Him.
B. (:28b-29) Crisis
- (:28b) Agitated State of Demon-Possessed Men
“two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs; they were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road.”
John Nolland: Coming out from the tombs probably represents a connection with the aberrantly supernatural, but it may also suggest a hiding place from which to emerge and attack travellers.
Walter Wilson: Matthew is alone in stating that the demoniacs “were so fierce that no one could pass that way [ὁδός]” (8:28; cf. Mark 5:2). According to b. Pesaḥ. 109b–112a, in a passage that explains how pairs of different kinds can be associated with demonic activity, the need for wariness in dealing with such phenomena is said to arise “especially when one is setting out on the road” (110a). This concern, in turn, reflects the notion, common in Jewish folklore, that demons can often be found lying in wait to ambush travelers, a belief that may be applicable to the scenario depicted in our text, where Jesus encounters a pair of demoniacs while abroad in a strange land.
William Barclay: The ancient world believed unquestioningly and intensely in evil spirits. The air was so full of these spirits that it was not even possible to insert into it the point of a needle without coming against one. Some said that there were 7,500,000 of them; there were 10,000 of them on a person’s right hand and 10,000 on the left; and all were waiting to do harm. They lived in unclean places such as tombs, and places where no cleansing water was to be found. They lived in the deserts where their howling could be heard. (We still speak of a howling desert.) They were specially dangerous to the lonely traveller, to the woman in childbirth, to the newly married bride and bridegroom, to children who were out after dark, and to travellers by night. They were specially dangerous in the midday heat, and between sunset and sunrise. The male demons were called shedim, and the female lilin after Lilith. The female demons had long hair, and were specially dangerous to children; that was why children had their guardian angels (cf. Matthew 18:10). . .
We must try to visualize what happened. The men were shouting and shrieking (Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28). We must remember that they were completely convinced that they were occupied by demons. Now it was normal and orthodox belief, shared by everyone, that when the Messiah and the time of judgment came, the demons would be destroyed. That is what the men meant when they asked Jesus why he had come to torture them before the proper time. They were so convinced that they were possessed by demons that nothing could have rid them of that conviction other than visible demonstration that the demons had gone out of them.
Grant Osborne: There are two important aspects of the message: demons always torture the people they possess, and they are entirely under Jesus’ control. There is a spiritual battle here, but it is one-sided. . .
When the demons add the title “Son of God” (Mark/Luke—“Son of the Most High God”), they are not acting as Jesus’ PR team, telling everyone who he is. In the ancient world it was believed that everyone had a hidden name that expressed their true essence. To discover that name was to gain a certain power over a person. Twelftree notes that “the demons attempted to disarm Jesus by exposing his allegiance and special relationship with God (Ps 106:16; Sir 45:6; b. Pesaḥ. 112b).” At the same time, they knew his absolute lordship as God’s Son and had to acknowledge his superiority. Throughout the gospels the highest Christology occurs in the mouth of demons; they know who Jesus is! Realizing the absolute authority of Jesus as Son of God, the demons realize they have already lost.
- (:29) Agitated State of the Demons
“And behold, they cried out, saying,
‘What do we have to do with You, Son of God?
Have You come here to torment us before the time?’”
John Nolland: The demons know themselves to be doomed, but the time has not yet arrived. However, since with the coming of Jesus the forces of the kingdom of God are freshly stirring, we might expect action that is anticipatory of the final judgment of the demons. The demons ask not to be tormented, but they will be. βασανίσαι (‘torment’) has a literal sense of ‘torture in judicial examination (to establish the truth)’. That is not quite what we have here, but the discomforting of the demons in being sent into the pigs (though there is also an element of concession in this) will reveal their utter destructiveness. Jesus has come to ‘torment them before the time’, but not with the full intensity of what will come afterwards.
Craig Blomberg: To the demons his arrival seems premature; Judgment Day has not come. They overlook the “already” of the “already-not yet” equation. The end times were breaking into human history with Jesus’ exorcisms, demonstrating the inauguration of God’s kingdom (cf. 12:28), even if he still granted the demons limited freedom for a time.
C. (:30-32) Miracle = Casting Out the Demons into the Swine
- (:30-31) Entreaty of the Demons
“Now there was at a distance from them a herd of many swine feeding.
And the demons began to entreat Him, saying,
‘If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.’”
John Nolland: What are we to make of the affinity between demons and pigs? We could think in terms of the role of pigs as sacrificial animals in the wider world beyond Judaism and make a link here with the Jewish conviction reflected in 1 Cor. 10:20 that worship of pagan gods is worship of demons. We could content ourselves with a link between the Jewish ritual uncleanness of pigs (Lv. 11:7; Dt. 14:8) and the uncleanness of demons (reflected in the designation ‘unclean spirit’).
Grant Osborne: Mark 5:9, 13 tells us that their name was “Legion” (many spirits—a Roman legion contained six thousand soldiers) and that the herd numbered two thousand, probably the combined herds of an entire village.
- (:32) Exorcism Performed by Jesus
“And He said to them, ‘Begone!’ And they came out, and went into the swine,
and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea
and perished in the waters.”
Grant Osborne: Jesus speaks for the first and only time in this story. It was normal for exorcists to prattle on and on, finding out the name of the demon and its territory of operation, and using various incantations to try to get it to leave. Jesus’ great authority is forcefully presented, for he needs only one word, “Go” or “Be gone” (BAGD), and the demons must instantly obey.
Craig Blomberg: Readers concerned about the destruction of animal life and the loss of the farmers’ livelihood exhibit a contemporary sentimentality not shared by a Jewish audience who knew these pig farmers should not have been raising animals whose meat was forbidden to eat. Human sanity and salvation, moreover, must always take priority over financial prosperity.
Daniel Doriani: The story of the demoniac teaches that even if a life is far out of control, Jesus can bring restoration. This episode is a miracle, a direct, immediately effective act of God. Our restoration usually is not so rapid. But Jesus is the same and his power is the same. He has power over demons because he has power over all the forces of evil, over Satan, and over our sins.
E. Michael Green: The destruction of the herd of pigs served as a graphic assurance to the men in question that they really were free at last and that the evil spirits would never return. Jesus is Lord over all the forces of Satan.
D. (:33-34) Response to Manifest Authority of Jesus over the Spirit Realm
- (:33) Shock and Fear
“And the herdsmen ran away, and went to the city,
and reported everything, including the incident of the demoniacs.”
- (:34) Separation and Opposition
“And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus;
and when they saw Him, they entreated Him to depart from their region.”
Leon Morris: For the third time in this story and the fifth time in this chapter Matthew has his vivid And look. It is a good story, and he does not let his readers miss its dramatic force.
William Barclay: Here is human selfishness at its worst. It did not matter to these people that two men had been given back their reason; all that mattered to them was that their pigs had perished. It is so often the case that people in effect say: ‘I don’t care what happens to anyone else, if my profits and my comfort and my case are preserved.’ We may be amazed at the callousness of these people of Gadara, but we must take care that we too do not resent any helping of others which reduces our own privileges.
R. T. France: Whereas Mark gives a touching account of the rehabilitation of the former demoniac, of his wish to join Jesus’ party and of his commission instead to tell his own people about Jesus, Matthew is concerned rather with the impression left on the local population by Jesus’ awesome authority. This is not a story about mission but about power. But whereas among the Jews his miracle-working power has attracted people to follow Jesus, here in the Decapolis they want to get rid of him. For them he is not a messianic figure, but a wandering Jewish “holy man” whose activities have already caused a great deal of damage; he will be safer back among his own people. It is a strangely unflattering ending to the story, but it has reinforced Matthew’s message that Jesus is not like other people. Before long we shall hear of similarly unflattering reactions to Jesus’ exorcistic activities even among his own people: his power is not doubted, but its source is called into question (9:34; 12:24).
D. A. Carson: This ending of the pericope bears significantly on its total meaning. If the story shows once more that Jesus’ ministry was not restricted to the Jews but foreshadowed the mission to the Gentiles, it likewise shows that opposition to Jesus is not exclusively Jewish. To this extent it confirms earlier exegesis that showed that opponents in Matthew are not selected on the basis of race but according to their response to Jesus.
III. (9:1-8) AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SINS — HEALING OF THE PARALYTIC
Richard Gardner: To appreciate the story, one must keep in mind two tenets of Jewish faith that govern the discussion.
- One is the belief that sin and sickness are connected in some way (cf. John 9:2; 5:14).
- The other is the belief that only God can forgive sin (cf. Mark 2:7).
Grant Osborne: All the action revolves around the central aspect, the forgiveness of sins, showing that spiritual healing has precedence over physical healing and that the two are indissoluble. Behind it all, of course, is the authority of Jesus to provide both spiritual and physical healing. The conflict is part of the rejection of God’s new work by the leaders.
A. (:1) Setting
“And getting into a boat, He crossed over, and came to His own city.”
Walter Wilson: The introductory verse (9:1) links the pericope to the preceding narrative by explaining how Jesus returned from his journey to the Decapolis, thus completing the sequence that had begun in 8:18. As for the healing story itself (9:2–8), Matthew follows a familiar pattern, both abbreviating the Markan account and doing so in a way that makes the element of dialogue more pronounced.
Michael Wilkins: Jesus “crosses over,” which marks the transition from the Gentile to the Jewish regions surrounding the Sea of Galilee. He comes back to the town explicitly named Capernaum in Mark’s narrative (cf. Mark 2:1; 5:18), which is now “his own town,” the home base of Jesus’ ministry in the Galilee region (cf. 4:17; 8:5; 11:23).
Charles Swindoll: As we work through this next section, we witness a strange phenomenon, already foreshadowed back on the other side of the lake in the response of the Gadarene pig herders. Some people’s reaction to Jesus’ miraculous power was negative: They didn’t want Jesus around, disrupting their everyday “normal,” as mundane as it was. They preferred the status quo to bowing to the intrusive power of the Lord God.
When we travel with Jesus back to the other side of the lake, we see the same kind of simmering resentment by the “powers that be.” As Jesus continues to perform miraculous healings, bring spiritual restoration, and provide deliverance from unrighteous living, some rejoice in the Savior, but others harbor feelings of jealousy and lash out in criticism. As those who presumed to have a monopoly on righteousness and a cornered market on spirituality, the scribes and Pharisees slowly begin turning against Jesus, seeing Him as a threat to their illegitimate claim on the hearts and minds of the people.
B. (:2a) Crisis
“And behold, they were bringing to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed;”
Grant Osborne: Matthew moves straight to the main event, skipping Mark’s details (Mark 2:4) about lowering the man through the flatbed roof, with “look” (ἰδού) pointing to a dramatic turn in the action. Jesus has already healed paralyzed people (4:24), so a group of men feel he can do the same for their friend. The man cannot move, so they have to bring him on a mat or stretcher, probably something like a modern bedroll.
C. (:2b-7) Miracle = Healing of Paralytic
- (:2b) Greater Miracle = Spiritual Healing of Paralytic / Forgiveness of Sins
“and Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic,
‘Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven.’”
Leon Morris: Then Jesus said, “your sins are forgiven,” words that must have astounded everybody. It is interesting that Jesus begins by ignoring the man’s physical need and grants him forgiveness. The tense points to a gift now: Jesus is not pointing to a future time when the forgiveness would take place. Sins is a comprehensive term, including all the man’s departures from the way of righteousness. Now the man has nothing to fear — all his sins are gone. In the early part of this Gospel we were told that Jesus would save his people from their sins (1:21), but this is the first occasion when we read of his giving anyone forgiveness. Indeed, it is the only occasion in this Gospel when Jesus forgives a specific individual.
- (:3-7) Lesser Miracle = Physical Healing of Paralytic
a. (:3) Charge of Blasphemy
“And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves,
‘This fellow blasphemes.’”
John Nolland: The NT uses ‘blasphemy’ much more loosely than does later Jewish discussion. Here the objection is to Jesus’ declaration of forgiveness of sin. While Judaism had clear provision for forgiveness with temple sacrifice and more broadly, in an ultimate sense God was thought to have reserved to himself the declaration of forgiveness on the day of judgment. The expectation of eschatological forgiveness was built up on the OT promises of forgiveness linked to the assurance of restoration beyond the period of the Exile. Forgiveness at the human level was always possible, but only God could have the last word on the matter. Here the scribes see Jesus as claiming to speak from God in this ultimate manner.
b. (:4-5) Challenge of Jesus
1) (:4) Exposing Their Evil Thoughts
“And Jesus knowing their thoughts said,
‘Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?’”
Craig Blomberg: Jesus simply stresses that their objections issued from evil hearts (cf. 7:15-20). Their internal disposition is rebelling against God’s will.
Grant Osborne: Their hearts are guilty of “evil thoughts” (πονηρά), which connotes an attitude of malice toward Jesus. It was important to test teachers/leaders to see if they were truly from God (1 Thess 5:21; 1 Cor 14:29; 1 John 4:1), but the scribes were not concerned to find out the truth. They had already rejected Jesus and so wanted only to condemn him; that is where the malicious “evil” lay. In turning against Jesus, they were turning against God.
2) (:5) Exposing Their Malicious Condemnation
“For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise, and walk ‘?”
Grant Osborne: In reality, of course, forgiving sins is much more difficult than healing the sick, for only God can do it. But from an earthly perspective, it is easier to pronounce forgiveness, the effects of which can neither be seen nor authenticated. So Jesus is speaking from the human perspective of the scribes. So Jesus offers apologetic proof of his power and authority, something that can be empirically confirmed, something they can “know” has happened.
Walter Wilson: We encounter yet another interpretive puzzle. This is because the appropriate answer to the question varies depending on one’s point of view. From the perspective of external proof, it is easier to declare that a person’s sins have been forgiven than to declare that a person’s illness has been cured, because the latter is subject to observable verification in a way the former is not. In this case, Jesus is making an argument from the greater to the lesser: if he can accomplish something that is demonstrably more difficult (healing the paralytic), then logically he can accomplish the easier task as well (forgiving his sins). The ensuing healing, then, serves as visible proof and public validation of the claim that Jesus makes in 9:2.
From the perspective of internal actuality, it is easier to cure someone’s illness than to forgive someone’s sins, since the former conceivably falls within the scope of human ability (Jesus, after all, was not the only charismatic healer), while the authority to absolve individuals of their guilt belongs to God alone. Thus the act of forgiving the paralytic represents the more difficult and momentous accomplishment, since it is something that could be accomplished only if Jesus were acting on God’s behalf.
c. (:6) Crux of the Controversy
“’But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ — then He said to the paralytic—‘Rise, take up your bed, and go home.’
John Nolland: Though Jesus’ authority has been central to the three linked miracle accounts, the word ‘authority’ now occurs for the first time since 7:29; 8:9. ‘The Son of Man’ picks up language from 8:20 (see there). Where the emphasis there was on the human marginalisation of this figure of dignity and authority, here his authority as such is in focus. The Son of Man in Dn. 7:13-14 is given authority (ἐξουσία in the Greek texts as in Matthew); the Daniel links for Matthew’s use of Son of Man will become clear as the story progresses.
R. T. France: Jesus is not arguing that it is not God’s prerogative to forgive sins, but rather than he himself, uniquely, shares it. The Son of Man, who according to Dan 7:13–14 will be enthroned in heaven to share God’s sovereignty over all peoples, is already during his earthly ministry (hence the addition of “on earth,” in distinction from his future heavenly sovereignty) authorized to dispense God’s forgiveness. The forgiveness of sins as such was not, of course, a part of Daniel’s vision of the authority of the Son of Man. Jesus is not expounding Daniel 7, but boldly extrapolating from that vision to make a claim for his present status, as he will do again in 12:8.
d. (:7) Conclusion of the Interaction
“And he rose, and went home.”
D. (:8) Response to Manifest Authority of Jesus over Forgiveness of Sins and Disease
“But when the multitudes saw this, they were filled with awe, and glorified God,
who had given such authority to men.”
John Nolland: As with the two preceding miracle accounts, the unit ends with a collective response to what has happened. The interest is sharply focussed on Jesus’ authority to forgive, not on the physical restoration.
Leon Morris: The effect of the miracle on them was that they were awe-struck. They reacted as in the presence of God. The healing of a man who had to be carried by four others was not to be taken as commonplace, and the crowds recognized this. They recognized the hand of God in it all, and they glorified him. They saw that the power that had raised the man from his bed was divine, not human. But they also recognized that God had given this authority to men.