Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”
Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.
Yesterday we considered how we do (or don’t) read the Prophets. What about the Gospels?
Now this we can answer more confidently. If we’ve read anything in the Bible, it’s likely Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. We often use the Gospels as four sources for our own research project on Jesus. That’s reasonable: they are the only books we have about the Son of God, God-made-flesh! But we forget that the authors sat down to write a story—and structured their books in a particular way to convey a particular set of truths about Jesus and God’s kingdom. The stories aren’t interchangeable; we will best understand Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John’s inspired testimony when we read these books as books.
Right now, we’re studying Matthew, both in our daily reading as well as in our sermon series. So what is Matthew doing in his book?
Matthew 8 (and tomorrow in chapter 9) is written in snippets, short snippy accounts one after the other. They follow a pattern: Jesus enters a place, someone has a need, Jesus declares authority over that need. Did you notice this when you read this morning? It makes for stark, abrupt storytelling. Authors don’t write like that unless they’re using the style to make a point.
I believe the point Matthew is making is this: Jesus holds authority over all things. These chapters begin just as Jesus finished teaching His Sermon on the Mount. Matthew thinks we might wonder why we should bother to listen, not to mention obey.
If we read Matthew as a book—not just taking bits and pieces out of context and sewing them together with bits of John, Luke, and Mark—we hear this God-ordained message coming through loud and clear: Jesus has authority over health, over hierarchies, over legal situations, over demons and the spiritual world, over salvation and forgiveness of sins, over spiritual practices and religion, and more. And if Jesus has authority over all this, then we should listen to what He has taught us in His sermon.
We ought to not only listen, but change our lives and follow, no matter what it costs us—for Jesus is Lord over all.
Which, as it happens, is close to what the Prophets are teaching us, too.
Questions for reflection and discussion: How does the truth of the Bible come through when we look at each book as a book? What does it mean for your life that Jesus has authority over everything? What in Jesus’ previous sermon is a teaching you would like to submit to?