Day 73: Matthew 9:4

Why are you thinking such evil things?

Jesus has just told a paralyzed man that his sins are forgiven, even though Jewish law says forgiveness can be officially pronounced only by the priests.  Some teachers of the Law witness this and are shocked by this blasphemy.  Jesus perceives what the teachers of the Law are thinking, and he challenges them with these words.

So who were these “teachers of the Law,” sometimes referred to as “scribes” in other translations of the Bible?  The teachers of the Law were kind of like today’s lawyers.  They were experts on the Law of Moses and they made a living drafting legal documents for things like loans or sale of property. Every village had to have a scribe.

Jesus knew the teachers of the Law were watching his every move.  He knew they heard what he said.  The scripture also says Jesus knew their thoughts.  Some think this is a sign of Jesus’ supernatural psychic powers.  I think it was probably pretty obvious.  Jesus knew that they would disapprove of what he just said because he was fully aware that he had made a shocking, rebellious, illegal, inflammatory statement.  He had just challenged the whole sacrificial system. (See Day 72).

Then, instead of just ignoring these legal experts who weren’t saying a word or interfering in any way, he called out to them.  He said, “Why are you thinking such evil things?” He challenged them.  This is confrontational, antagonistic behavior.  He was on the attack. He was ready to debate what he’d just said.

Of course they didn’t think they were thinking evil thoughts.  They were thinking what they had been trained to think.  Their automatic response to Jesus’ apparent blasphemy was disapproval and offense.  It was a trained response.

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I think Jesus wasn’t necessarily condemning them or accusing them.  He was trying to get them to think and question their training.  He was, I think, trying to get them to understand that their thoughts were flawed because their training was flawed.  The system was flawed.  The institution was pagan. And…. evil.  He wants them to see beyond their indoctrination.  He wants them to engage their brains and stop operating on auto-pilot; he is trying to deprogram them.

He wanted them to see beyond the Law, beyond their programming.  He wanted them to see a paralyzed man in need of forgiveness and healing.  He wanted them to see this man through God’s eyes, a man in need of restoration, a precious creation worthy of love who had endured great hardship and shouldn’t have to suffer for another minute.

Jesus believed that it was wrong for institutional religion to position itself between this man and God.  Jesus knew that forgiveness was freely available from God.  He was ready and willing to debate this issue with all of the religious authorities of his day.  He wanted to trash the system and its remnant pagan practices and let forgiveness and healing flow unfettered.

So how will the teachers of the Law respond?  What will happen to the man?  What will happen to Jesus?   What next?

We’ll have to wait and see what tomorrow brings.  If the suspense is killing you, you can always pick up your Bible and check it out.

What does this scripture say to you?

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