Reflection on Matthew 9.1-8 (DEL Week 13: Thursday; Ordinary Time)

A reflection for 6 July 2023 (DEL Week 13: Thursday) on Matthew 9.1-8

Matthew 9.1-8

And after getting into a boat Jesus crossed the water and came to his own town. And just then some people were carrying a paralysed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’ Then some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ – he then said to the paralytic – ‘Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.’ And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.


Some of the scribes said to themselves: This man is blaspheming.

To gain a better understanding of the message in today’s reading we need to begin by making sure that we understand what it means to blaspheme. To blaspheme is to speak contemptuously of God. Those who witnessed the earthly incarnation of Jesus lived in a world where the scribes were considered to be the authority on how to live the religious life. The scribes were the ones who would have known what was blasphemy. But, the religious laws and traditions in which the scribes were so expert were man-made. Yes, they were rooted in the teachings of the Hebrew scriptures (our Old Testament) but, as the centuries had passed, they had become distorted and oppressive. Jesus’ mission was to restore the balance and to reset the relationship between God and humanity.

Today we witness Jesus working another miracle of healing and wholeness. The healing is revealed as the paralysed man stands up and walks; the wholeness is made plain as Jesus says: Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven. As Jesus brings the love of God into the life of the paralysed man it is in the reaction of the scribes that we see the true blasphemy. For the scribes, Jesus’ difference from them meant that he must be the one in the wrong; he must be the one who is blaspheming!

Too often we are like those scribes. We are suspicious and contemptuous of those whose approach to life differs from our own. But, Jesus’ way was God’s way. It was the scribes, those religious experts, who were in the wrong. The certainty of Jesus’ way is as true today as it was some two thousand years ago. If we are not in tune with Jesus’ way it is we who are in the wrong! Human nature dictates that we struggle with change and difference. We do not easily allow others to breach the defences we build around ourselves … even if the challenge comes from Jesus himself.

Today we are challenged, yet again, to put self to one side and follow Jesus. We are challenged to turn our backs on worldly wisdom and our desire to receive the plaudits of those amongst whom we live. We are, in fact, challenged to challenge those who claim to know better than Jesus, those who are so quick to cry ‘Blasphemy!’ Let us pray that we might find the strength to allow God to forgive us and to give us the strength to walk forward in his name.