Defending the deity of Jesus

By David A. Liapis

Thoughts on Matthew 9:1-8

There are some people who deny the deity of Jesus Christ, and will even state that Jesus never claimed to be God. They twist, misinterpret and ignore the Scriptures – to their own destruction – in vain attempts to prove Jesus was just a man. This passage is one clear example of many that soundly contradict the heresy described above.

When Jesus showed up in Capernaum after healing the demoniac and being sent away by the Gerasenes, some of the townspeople grabbed up their paralyzed friend and laid him before Jesus. Their simple act of bringing the invalid to Jesus for healing was reckoned as faith and elicited a response from Jesus. However, it was not quite the response they were anticipating. Rather than hearing, “Be healed! Rise up and walk,” Jesus said, “Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven.”

Two notable things are happening here. First, Jesus, as always, cuts right to the heart of the issue – the need to be saved from sin and death. By pronouncing forgiveness over this man instead of first healing him reveals what Jesus knew to be of paramount importance – to be cleansed from sin. This is a reminder to us that we can, and should, seek and glory in salvation in spite of any circumstance we may encounter in this short life. What we are saved from and for – eternally – is of so much more significance.

The second notable thing taking place in this narrative is that Jesus is indisputably implying his deity. The Jews rightly believed there was only one who had the authority to forgive sins, and that was the one true God, Yahweh. That is why the Scribes quickly judge and condemn Jesus as guilty of blasphemy – a crime with a death sentence, which would eventually be carried out about three years later. They knew exactly what Jesus was saying, and Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking.

In order to contradict their doubt – and ours – that he was, and is, in fact God, he poses a question: “What is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’?” Jesus then implies his power to heal the paralytic is sufficient proof of his ability to forgive sins – and by extension, validate his deity.

What does this mean for us today? It means we can have assurance that Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man, qualifying him alone to be our substitute – both living the perfect life we cannot, and bearing the unmitigated wrath of God and dying the death we deserve. It means he is our “Great High Priest” who can sympathize with us in our weaknesses because he has “in every respect has been tempted as we are,” yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). It means we should reject any teaching that Jesus Christ is anything less than Yahweh, the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Find joy, hope and rest in these truths. Soli Deo Gloria!

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