These two chapters record an array of miracles performed by Jesus including cleansing a leper, healing a centurion’s paralyzed servant, Peter’s mother-in-law, casting out demons, subduing instantly the wind and waves that created a tempest on the sea, making blind men see and a man who was mute to speak. But the pinnacle of His work recorded here is a girl restored to life. A summary statement about all these compassionate acts of Jesus is found in verses 16 and 17 of chapter 8 where we hear Matthew’s words that “they brought to Him many who were demon possessed and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick just as Isaiah had predicted the Messiah would over 700 years earlier.
We see beyond the compassion of Jesus for human suffering a deeper concern for their spiritual welfare which He proved He knew something about by the performance of physical miracles He performed on nature and man. The 9th chapter shows us a paralyzed man lying on a bed brought to Him by others since he could not come on his own. Here Jesus surprised those present by his pronouncement, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven.” Thus demonstrating the greater reason He had healed people, cast out their demons and controlled the natural world, He had power to forgive sins! In fact, Jesus put this question to the surprised group assembled around the bed of the paralytic “Which is easier to say, Your sins are forgiven you, or to say Arise and walk?” Then he told the paralyzed man to take up his bed and go to his house which he proceeded instantly to do. “The multitudes saw it…marveled and glorified who had given such power to men.”
Not to “men” but to this man Jesus was such power given. Jesus would later grant these powers of miracle working to His chosen apostles who presented the path to forgiveness, not by pronouncement, but commands to be obeyed. No man has the right to do what Jesus did, that is forgive sins. Every man has the right to tell others what Jesus said must be done by everyone who would obtain forgiveness of sins (Mark 16:15,16).
I once worked where one of the elders of the congregation said he thought the elders should stand before the congregation each Sunday and pronounce forgiveness over the congregation. Can you believe that one could rise to that level of service and be so wrong? The same false spirit that gripped that man is the one that has befallen many through the centuries. Some of the same men who believe Peter was never married and was the head of the church. Ignorance in religion abounds, but it doesn’t need to if one reads carefully the accounts of what Jesus did and said. Our bodies may or may not receive healing from the providential hand of God today. No man or men have been given the healing power of Jesus or the apostles, prophets or those on whom the apostles laid hands because those powers were intended to confirm the message which they also received miraculously and preached and wrote in what is now the New Testament. What was revealed and confirmed was revealed and confirmed for all time. Men who claim to have those powers today often preach some of their messages differently from Jesus, the apostles, prophets and first century “gifted” Christians. Because of what the eye witnesses, such as Matthew, have provided us in the documentation for work of Jesus, we believe it is He who has the power to forgive sins even now. And is still eager in His compassion to do just that. Trust only Him and those He sent and no other man or message and the same success that accompanied Jesus’ powerful works will be effective in healing our broken spirits.