2And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. 3And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, ‘This man blasphemeth.’ 4And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? 5For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? 6But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7And he arose, and departed to his house. 8But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men. ~ Matthew 9:2-8 (Also in Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26)
Qualifications for the Kingdom, Part 3: Salvation vs. Miracles: How do you see Jesus?
After confronting the scribes (the religious elite) for their impotence, Jesus distinguished himself from them, and established His deity (v. 6), by healing the palsied man (vv. 6-7). In so doing, Jesus clearly defines the purpose for miracles: “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins” (Matt. 9:6). The whole purpose of Jesus’ miracles (and all miracles) was to reveal Jesus as SAVIOUR. In other words, miracles were to help those who saw/experienced them to turn to Jesus for Salvation. That means miracles are never to be an end in themselves.
To grasp the importance of this concept, consider the reaction of the people to Jesus miracle, “they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” (Matt. 9:8). As awesome as the miracle was, though they glorified God, they still failed to recognize Jesus as Saviour! They still only saw him as a man; a man imbued with great power, but still only a man, not The Saviour. They glorified God, but they failed to recognize (that Jesus is) God. This was the central issue obstructing them from accepting Jesus as their Saviour and Lord: they could see God in the miracles because they had tangible (physical) results, but they did not see God as Jesus because that required faith (spiritual engagement).
This pattern is also repeated elsewhere in the Gospels. For example, after Jesus fed the five thousand He warned his awestruck followers they focused on the wrong message from the miracles:
“Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.” ~ John 6:26-27
Instead of the miracles showing them Jesus as the source of everlasting Salvation, they only saw Jesus as the source of everlasting food. The rest of John 6 shows that they abandoned Jesus because they were frustrated that He wouldn’t agree to accommodate their fleshly fetish for free food. Jesus wanted them to put their faith in Him and receive salvation by Grace; but they were unable to look past their physical circumstances.
The purpose of the miracles was to identify Jesus as Saviour, but (like most of the people in Judea) most of us miss that point completely. Instead, it is far too easy to see only what Jesus can do for us physically, while being completely unaware/unconcerned about our far greater spiritual needs (for Salvation, for Restoration, for Righteousness).
We often seek miracles to obtain personal relief from medical, emotional or financial problems in our lives or the life of a loved one. However, physical benefit is only a byproduct and not the purpose of miracles. When God performs a miracle, the goal is to transform us spiritually. Indeed, there is a real danger that when God does perform a miracle in our lives that we will stay the same spiritually.
For all the miracles Jesus performed, the people of Judea still crucified Him! For all the miracles Jesus performed, many Judeans were still lost! If our attention is focused on our problems instead of our Saviour, miracles won’t really help us. If our physical crisis is miraculously solved, but our spiritual crisis is left unattended, then God will have touched our lives, but our souls will not be the better for it.
Finally, the greatest demonstration of Jesus as Saviour, the one that no one can miss/misunderstand/misinterpret, comes from the lives of everyday faithfulness that believers (should) lead as salt of the earth and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16); as a body of believers that share His love and live in unity.
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” ~ John 13:34-35
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. ” ~ John 17:20-21
There is no ambiguity in the message spoken by love and unity. And Jesus has chosen this way, above miraculous displays, for His disciples to make Him known as Saviour and Lord to a world full of problems.
Those who are qualified for the Kingdom of God look to Jesus and see their Saviour: one to fix/secure their eternal future. Those who are not qualified for the Kingdom only see a miracle worker: one to fix/secure their earthly present.
Therefore, the question is, How do we see Jesus? Is Jesus our Saviour onto eternal life in fellowship with God? Or, Is Jesus a tool to fix problems in this life? When faced with life’s problems what do we want from Jesus? Do we want exercise our faith or ease our flesh? Do we want His “strength to be made perfect” in our “weakness”?
This is the 3rd installment in a 3-part series on Qualifications for the Kingdom given in Matthew 9:2-8, Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26