Matthew 9:1-13: Not Righteous, But Sinners
January 22, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Sin is a word that is rarely used in contemporary culture. We do not “sin”; we make “mistakes”—“my bad,” “whoops.” And when it is something more heinous that we have done, we are rare, if at all, to use terms such as evil, sin, wickedness. Yet when we avoid that kind of language, and when we avoid the reality that the language represents, we are not in a position to accept what we all need most of all: forgiveness from our sins by the only one who can declare us forgiven before God.
When the paralytic is brought to Jesus, Jesus does not say “you are healed,” he says “your sins are forgiven” (9:2). Clearly, in this instance the man had some relation between his illness and his sins, though that is by no means always the case. The scribes who hear Jesus say this are shocked. The reason they are shocked is because he was claiming to be able to forgive sins. Think about this carefully: if someone sins against you, then you can forgive them. But if someone sins against someone else, you have no right to offer them forgiveness. But here Jesus is saying to the person who has sinned against God, “I forgive you,” thereby claiming to be God. The scribes understood this logic and were offended by it, not realizing that Jesus was God. The crowds were appropriately afraid and gave glory to God when they saw the healing (9:8). But they did not realize that the Son of Man was God incarnate thereby, as they concluded that God had given this authority to man, rather than that only God himself could so forgive.
Then Jesus calls Matthew, another “sinner”: “‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him” (9:9). Would you follow Jesus today, without hesitation, simply follow what he has told you to do? As is so often the case, one new disciple begets new opportunities for evangelism, so Jesus is now with many other tax collectors and “sinners” (9:10). This incenses the Pharisees. It seemed to them that Jesus was impugning his own purity by hanging out with these lowlifes. But it is the sick who need a doctor, not the well, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (9:13).
Of course, the Pharisees were sinners too, but they did not know it, or would not admit it. Would you admit before God now that you are sinner? Would you follow his call?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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