1 And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. 2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
The miracle accounts in the gospels all have something in common: the power and glory of God is demonstrated in them as is His love for humanity. Even so, it seems that with each miracle we learn something new as well. It is as if God’s miraculous work is like a glorious diamond or emerald that, when turned this way and that, shows new and previously-hidden treasures within as its various angles are illuminated.
One can see this especially in Matthew 8 and 9, two chapters that contain three series of miracle stories. David Platt does a nice job of laying out the structure of these two chapters.
…Matthew has arranged chapters 8–9 to work together. By seeing this relationship, we can understand better what Matthew is trying to tell us. There are three sections containing three miracle stories each (8:1-17; 8:23–9:8; 9:18-34) and two sections that each contain two descriptions of discipleship (8:18-22; 9:9-17). Chapter 8 ends two-thirds of the way through the second section of miracle stories.
Taking that outline into account, we can break down the two chapters like this:
Miracle Section 1 8:1-17
Miracle 1 Healing of Leper 8:1-4
Miracle 2 Healing of Centurion’s Servant 8:5-13
Miracle 3 Healing of Peter’s Mother-in-Law 8:14-17
Discipleship Section 1 8:18-22
Miracle Section 2 8:23-9:8
Miracle 1 Calming of Storm 8:23-27
Miracle 2 Healing of Demon Possessed Men 8:28-34
Miracle 3 Healing of Paralytic 9:1-8
Discipleship Section 2 9:9-17
Miracle Section 3 9:18-34
Miracle 1 Healing of Ruler’s Daughter and Woman 9:18-26
Miracle 2 Healing of Two Blind Men 9:27-31
Miracle 3 Healing of Demon Possessed Mute Man 9:32-34
What is interesting about this is the way that the two emphases on discipleship are situated in the midst of the three miracle sections. It is almost as if by so structuring these stories Matthew is saying, “Now remember: these stories of miracles are not here to amuse or even dumbfound you. They are here to help you follow Jesus better and worship Him more fully! They are here to make better disciples of us!”
I think that is certainly the case with our text this evening: the healing of the paralytic at the beginning of Matthew 9. It is an important story for the new angle it reveals as well as for the truths that have already been expressed in chapter 8 and are seen here yet again.
Leon Morris interestingly points out that this story “is found in both Mark and Luke, and characteristically Matthew’s account is the shortest.” Matthew, he reveals, “has 126 words, whereas Mark has 196 and Luke 212.” What is a bit curious is that in those 70 more words that Mark has, he reveals one of the really cool parts of this account that Matthew chooses to leave out: that in this episode the paralytic’s four friends lower him down to Jesus through the roof!
Who knows why Matthew leaves that out? Maybe it is because he thinks that the words of Jesus should be amazing enough for us without that intriguing detail. And, he is right. What is truly memorable about this story is not how the friends get the man to Jesus. What is truly amazing about this story is what Jesus does when they do!