Day 74: Matthew 9:5-6

Is it easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say “Get up and walk?”  I will prove to you, then, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.

The Story of Jesus and the Paralyzed Man (Part 3 of 4)

Some teachers of the Law accuse Jesus of blasphemy because he has told a paralyzed man that his sins are forgiven.  This is his response – and it’s a bomb.

ImageKa-boom!

In Jesus’ day there was a belief that sin and infirmity are always interconnected.  The assumption is that if you are sick or injured, it is because you have sinned.  They did not believe that bad things happened to good people.

In the Law of Moses there are no rules regarding healing ministry or healing prayer. Healing is a little questionable because of the link between sickness and sin. There is a possibility that if Jesus somehow caused someone to get well he may in fact be interfering with God’s punishment.  Nevertheless there was no law against Jesus healing the paralyzed man.  He could have simply healed the man and walked away and it wouldn’t have been against the Law of Moses (a sin).

Forgiveness of sin, however, is an entirely different matter.  Sins, under the Law of Moses, can only be forgiven by a priest after all of the appropriate sacrifices and offerings have been performed.  When Jesus tells the man that his sins have been forgiven, he is then overstepping his boundaries. According to the Law he has no authority to do this.  Only a priest can do this, and only after proper procedures.

Now, here’s the kicker.  He says he is going to prove that the “Son of Man” has the authority to forgive sins.  So what does that mean, “Son of Man”?  It means Jesus, right?  The Messiah, the Christ, right?  The Anointed One.  The Savior.  The Lamb of God.  Jesus.  That’s what I thought until I did a little research.

Not so.  The term Son of Man is used throughout the Old Testament.  Here is the definition according to the Jewish Encyclopedia:

The rendering for the Hebrew “ben adam,” applied to mankind in general, as opposed to and distinct from non-human relationship; expressing also the larger, unlimited implications of humanity as differentiated from limited (e.g., national) forms and aspects of human life.

Here’s another definition from Wikipedia:

The Hebrew expression “son of man” (i.e. ben-‘adam) appears one hundred and seven times in the Jewish Bible. This is the most common Hebrew construction for the singular and appears 93 times in Ezekiel alone and 14 times elsewhere. In thirty two cases the phrase appears in intermediate plural form “sons of men”. As generally interpreted by Jews, “son of man” denotes mankind generally in contrast to deity or godhead, with special reference to their weakness and frailty.

And a little more from Wikipedia:

“Among Jews the term “son of man” was not used as the specific title of the Messiah. The New Testament expression is a translation of the Aramaic “bar nasha,” and as such could have been understood only as the substitute for a personal pronoun, or as emphasizing the human qualities of those to whom it is applied. That the term does not appear in any of the epistles ascribed to Paul is significant.”

In the Gospels the title occurs eighty-one times. Most of the recent writers (among them being II. Lietzmann) have come to the conclusion that Jesus, speaking Aramaic, could never have designated himself as the “son of man” in a Messianic, mystic sense, because the Aramaic term never implied this meaning.

For centuries, the Christological perspective on Son of Man has been a natural counterpart to that of Son of God and just as Son of God affirms the divinity of Jesus, in many cases Son of man affirms his humanity.

When Jesus talks about the Son of Man he is specifically stating that he is NOT special, that he is NOT anointed.  “Son of God” is divine, but the “Son of Man” meant all mankind, in all of its frailty.  When he refers to himself as the Son of Man, it says that he regards himself as an ordinary man, a regular guy – Everyman!!

Image

Therefore when Jesus says that he is going to prove that the Son of Man can forgive sins, he is saying that anyone (or everyone), including an ordinary guy like himself, can forgive sins.  That’s what he’s saying.  Not just priests.  Not just messiahs.  You, me, everyone.  All humanity in all of its frailty.

To me, this is an important distinction.  He is saying that if he (Jesus) can forgive sins, so can you and I and everyone else.  He is saying “power to the people!”  Ka-Boom!

So he says he is going to prove that this is true….how is he going to do this?  We find out tomorrow.

What does this scripture say to you?

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2 thoughts on “Day 74: Matthew 9:5-6

  1. John- Good clarity on “Son of Man” title being a reference to Jesus being fully a human being. I had some clarity on this long ago when I learned that this was a patronymic expression or way of conveying lineage. In my case Hudson is a patronymic. Sometime in the past a son was born and was of the lineage of Hud. In the case of “Son of man” this means that the lineage is humanity.The Contemporary English Bible confirms this and translates the term as “the human one”. I always have winced whenever I heard it said that of course Jesus could do what he did because he was “God”. That edges close to the docetic view that the human Jesus was just an illusion, that Jesus only seemed to have a physical body, that he was incorporeal and pure spirit. If there is any one thing of which modern Christians have been certain it is that Jesus was a true man, bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, in all points tempted as we are. All docetist also known as Eutychean or Monophysite views which explain away the humanity of Jesus don’t represent the Gospel accounts. We need only read the Gospels to attest to the fact of Jesus’ genuine humanity. Jesus shared in every aspect of human life. He got hungry. When at the well of Samaria he asked the woman who was drawing water for a drink. When he grew tired, he needed rest and sleep. He grew in stature and spirit, in the way we do. He had a sense of humor. He struggled with the incomprehension of his disciples. He had no magic to make his case. He extended love to others. He wept over the death of Lazarus and over the city of Jerusalem. At Gethsemane he experienced agony as any human would. When on the cross he felt bereft of the presence of God. He died and was buried. What is and was at play in the time since was and is how to talk about the transcendent presence of God or the revelation of God particularly made known through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Various metaphors have been offered over the centuries but we are best left perhaps with the words of Albert Schweitzer as a helpful guide to our situation: “He comes to us as one unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side, he came to those men [and women] who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: ‘Follow me!’ and sets us to the tasks that He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And, to those who obey, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings that they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”

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