Jesus did things, so the Gospels tell us, that were unlike anything the Israelites had seen before. Take a look at the story of the paralytic whom Jesus healed.

Matthew 9:2-8

They brought to him a man who was paralysed, lying on a bed, and Jesus, seeing their faith, said to paralytic, “My child, be of good courage; your sins are forgiven you.”

 Certain of the scribes said within themselves, “This man blasphemes.”

But  Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil thoughts in your hearts? For which is easier to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven you’ or  ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins…” (then he said to  the paralytic) “Get up, pick up your bed, and go to your house.”

 And he got up, and departed to his house. But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

Jesus’ claims here are extraordinary, but they are supported by the fruit of His ministry. In claiming to be the “Son of Man” from Daniel 7, Jesus was asserting that He was the Messiah, Yahweh in human flesh. “Son of Man” was a familiar construction that meant “human”, but the particular Son of Man that Daniel saw in his extraordinary night vision was different. This person was riding the clouds, and only one Person in Israelite theology did that: Yahweh. The people of Jesus’ day knew this, and that is why the scribes had such an adverse reaction to His claim: they could not believe that this carpenter from Nazareth, surrounded by disciples taken from the lowest echelons of society, was their God and Saviour, the One who had appeared to Moses in the burning bush.

In our modern setting, we misread Daniel: we see simply an elevated human. This is not how that text was understood by contemporaries of Daniel or Jews of the Second Temple Period. Consider the following texts:

And Yahweh appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud: and the pillar of the cloud stood over the door of the tabernacle. (Deuteronomy 31:15)

There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides upon the heavens as your helper,  and in his splendour on the sky. (Deuteronomy 33:26)

Sing to God, sing praises to his name: extol him who rides upon the heavens by his name Jah, and rejoice before him. (Psalm 68:4)

…who makes the clouds his chariot: who walks upon the wings of the wind… (Psalm 104:3)

Behold, the Lord rides upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it. (Isaiah 19:1)

Yahweh has the authority to forgive sins. He is goodness itself, righteousness itself. He knows the thoughts of the heart, our motives, and our circumstances. As the covenant-God of Israel, offences against Him could mean exclusion from the covenant community. He expressed His forgiveness to those who repented in a variety of ways, including through the sacrificial system.

It is in the context of this theology that Jesus heals the paralytic. This story shows us who Jesus was, and why He came. He came to forgive us our sins, to announce and achieve reconciliation with God. The miracle of healing was an expression of his love for mankind, but was also a sign that He had the authority to forgive sins and to restore a person’s standing before God.

Jesus is the God of Israel come in the flesh.

 

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