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Healing and Forgiving a Paralytic

After getting into a boat[a] he crossed to the other side and came to his own town.[b] Just then[c] some people[d] brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher.[e] When Jesus saw their[f] faith, he said to the paralytic, “Have courage, son! Your sins are forgiven.”[g] Then[h] some of the experts in the law[i] said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming!”[j] When Jesus perceived their thoughts he said, “Why do you respond with evil in your hearts? Which is easier,[k] to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know[l] that the Son of Man[m] has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then he said to the paralytic[n]—“Stand up, take your stretcher, and go home.”[o] So[p] he stood up and went home.[q] When[r] the crowd saw this, they were afraid[s] and honored God who had given such authority to men.[t]

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  1. Matthew 9:1 sn See the note at Matt 4:21 for a description of the first-century fishing boat discovered in 1986 near Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.
  2. Matthew 9:1 sn His own town refers to Capernaum. Capernaum was a town located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, 680 ft (204 m) below sea level. It existed since Hasmonean times and was a major trade and economic center in the North Galilean region. The population in the first century is estimated to be around 1,500. Capernaum became the hub of operations for Jesus’ Galilean ministry (Matt 4:13; Mark 2:1). For more information, see the note at Matt 8:5.
  3. Matthew 9:2 tn Grk “And behold, they were bringing.” Here καὶ ἰδού (kai idou) has been translated as “just then” to indicate the somewhat sudden appearance of the people carrying the paralytic. The Greek word ἰδού (idou) has no exact English equivalent here, but adds interest and emphasis (BDAG 468 s.v. 1), especially in conjunction with the suddenness of the stretcher-bearers’ appearance.
  4. Matthew 9:2 tn Grk “they”; the referent (some unnamed people) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  5. Matthew 9:2 tn Traditionally, “on a bed,” but this could be confusing to the modern reader who might envision a large piece of furniture. In various contexts, κλίνη (klinē) may be translated “bed, couch, cot, stretcher, or bier” (in the case of a corpse). See L&N 6.106.
  6. Matthew 9:2 sn The plural pronoun their makes it clear that Jesus was responding to the faith of the entire group, not just the paralyzed man.
  7. Matthew 9:2 sn The passive voice here is a divine passive (ExSyn 437). It is clear that God does the forgiving.
  8. Matthew 9:3 tn Grk “And behold.” The Greek word ἰδού (idou) has not been translated because it has no exact English equivalent here, but adds interest and emphasis (BDAG 468 s.v. 1). Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events in the narrative.
  9. Matthew 9:3 tn Or “some of the scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 2:4.
  10. Matthew 9:3 sn Blaspheming in the NT has a somewhat broader meaning than mere utterances. It could mean to say something that dishonored God, but it could also involve claims to divine prerogatives (in this case, to forgive sins on God’s behalf). Such claims were viewed as usurping God’s majesty or honor. The remark here raised directly the issue of the nature of Jesus’ ministry, and even more importantly, the identity of Jesus himself as God’s representative.
  11. Matthew 9:5 sn Which is easier is a reflective kind of question. On the one hand to declare that sins are forgiven is easier, since the forgiveness is unseen, unlike telling a paralyzed person to walk. On the other hand, to declare sins forgiven is harder, because for it to be true one must possess the authority to forgive the sin. Jesus is implicitly claiming that authority here.
  12. Matthew 9:6 sn Now Jesus put the two actions together. The walking of the man would be proof (so that you may know) that his sins were forgiven and that God had worked through Jesus (i.e., the Son of Man).
  13. Matthew 9:6 sn The term Son of Man, which is a title in Greek, comes from a pictorial description in Dan 7:13 of one “like a son of man” (i.e., a human being). It is Jesus’ favorite way to refer to himself. Jesus did not reveal the background of the term here, which mixes human and divine imagery as the man in Daniel rides a cloud, something only God does. He just used it. It also could be an idiom in Aramaic meaning either “some person” or “me.” So there is a little ambiguity in its use here, since its origin is not clear at this point. However, the action makes it clear that Jesus used it to refer to himself here.
  14. Matthew 9:6 sn Jesus did not finish his sentence with words but with action, that is, healing the paralytic with an accompanying pronouncement to him directly.
  15. Matthew 9:6 tn Grk “to your house.”
  16. Matthew 9:7 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the implied sequence of events in the narrative.
  17. Matthew 9:7 tn Grk “to his house.”
  18. Matthew 9:8 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  19. Matthew 9:8 tc Most witnesses (C L N Γ Θ 0233 ƒ13 565 579 700 M) have ἐθαύμασαν (ethaumasan; “marveled, were amazed”) instead of ἐφοβήθησαν (ephobēthēsan) here, effectively turning the fearful reaction into one of veneration. But the harder reading is well supported by א B D W 0281 ƒ1 33 892 1424 lat co and thus is surely authentic.
  20. Matthew 9:8 tn Grk “people.” The plural of ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos) usually indicates people in general, but the singular is used in the expression “Son of Man.” There is thus an ironic allusion to Jesus’ statement in v. 6: His self-designation as “Son of Man” is meant to be unique, but the crowd regards it simply as meaning “human, person.” To maintain this connection for the English reader the plural ἀνθρώποις (anthrōpois) has been translated here as “men” rather than as the more generic “people.”