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Matthew 9:1-8 (NIV)
1 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 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.” 3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”

4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 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.” 7 Then the man got up and went home.
8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.

What does Matthew 9:5 mean? Taken literally, it doesn't seem to make any sense at all. What is the verse trying to say?

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6 Answers

It's rooted in the idea that the man's affliction was a result of a past sin. Exactly what or why, we aren't told. But when people questioned Jesus for presuming to forgive the man's sin (which only God has the authority to do, and they weren't convinced of his divinity,) he pointed out that it's just as easy to say "your sins are forgiven" (thus implying that the punishment is rescinded) as to say "get up and walk," and that the two are basically equivalent.

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Do you mean to say that if Matthew 9:15 is rephrased un-rhetorically, it would be along the lines of: ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ is just as easy to say as ‘Get up and walk’ ? –  Pacerier Aug 23 '11 at 23:37
    
@Pacerier: Yeah, basically. –  Mason Wheeler Aug 23 '11 at 23:42
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No, no, no, no, no! –  DJClayworth Aug 30 '11 at 3:35
    
@DJ: Umm... would you mind explaining your point of view? It's a bit unclear at the moment... –  Mason Wheeler Aug 30 '11 at 3:41
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1. It's nothing to do with sin being the cause of sickness (a link which Jesus contradicts elsewhere). 2. Jesus point is that his ability to heal is indication of his power to forgive sins, not that they are "just as easy". –  DJClayworth Aug 30 '11 at 18:02
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Christ is using his ability to perform miracles as evidence that he is God, and therefore has the right and the ability to forgive sins.

He is saying, anyone can say "Your sins are forgiven," without any evidence that they have the authority to do so. But only God can heal a paralytic. So by performing such a miracle, Christ is proving that he has the authority of God both to heal and to forgive sin.

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Sorry I must admit that I must be really dull here. Because this answer has 16 upvotes and I still do not understand how does it answer the question. Is Christ trying to say that ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ is as easy to say as ‘Get up and walk’ ? Or is Christ trying to say that ‘Get up and walk’ is harder to say than that ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ (because only he can do so) ? –  Pacerier Sep 30 '11 at 4:24
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@Pacerier: Maybe read the answer again? I think it's pretty clear. Both sentences are easy to just say, but you need to look beyond the act of speaking and look at what Jesus is doing. –  styfle Jan 12 '12 at 5:16
    
@Pacerier - Your second option seems closer. The pharisees questioned Jesus' authority to forgive sins, so he showed his authority by healing the paralyzed man. –  Bryan Rosander Jan 12 '12 at 18:46
    
The key phrase, which explains the meaning of Christ's words here, is: "'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.'" –  synaptik Jan 15 at 20:10
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You must take verses 5 and 6 together, as they're a single statement. Christ has just told the paralyzed man that his sins are forgiven, and the teachers around Him that saw it believed His statement of forgiveness was blasphemy as only God can forgive sins. They failed to recognize that Christ was God. So, He then makes a point of showing them that it's just as easy for Him to heal a body as it is to forgive sins. He then solidifies His position by healing the man, proving that He does have power over the physical, removing their doubt of his power over the spiritual.

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It is vitally important that you look at the previous few verses in order to get context. Let's take the whole passage in the NIV:

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.

Jesus has pronounced forgiveness of the man's sins. The Pharisees object, saying that "only God can forgive sins". The Pharisees would agree that forgiving sins is easier than having the man walk again, so Jesus makes him walk again as a clear demonstration that he has the power to do both.

It has nothing to do with the sickness being caused by sin. Jesus clearly breaks that connection elsewhere.

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+1 for bringing in context. thanks. –  user116 Sep 2 '11 at 12:03
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He's saying they are the same. That illness is psychosomatic, emotional, and contextual. Sins represent the man's relationship to his social world, that directly or indirectly produces his illness.

That we are interdependent and relationships determine individuals.

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This answer would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. Remember that "I believe it means..." isn't an acceptable answer, since this site isn't about personal interpretation. See How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Mar 4 at 0:11
    
There is nothing in this passage to suggest the illness was caused by anyone's sin. (Other than Adam's in the most distant sense.) –  curiousdannii Mar 9 at 22:32
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If I knew I was going to die on the cross for your sins than forgiveness of sins would be the most difficult. The Question posed to the Pharisees is postured in a way that they should be the ones to understand that the forgiveness of sins is from God alone and that Jesus is the Messiah. The Pharisees are the ones who know everything about the Messiah and fail to recognize that He IS. Jesus is once again proving His Diety to the ones who should know Him best but they have there spiritual eyes closed. This is not an exercise in futility this is for the purpose of showing the world that He is the One for whom God is well pleased. Are you?

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Hi, and welcome to the Christianity.SE! I come to tell you that this answer does not meet the website's standards for answers. In order to make an answer acceptable, you must be able to cite your sources or state the denominational viewpoint from which you speak. –  Anonymous Mar 9 at 16:10
    
My doctrine is the doctrine of Christ. My denomination is the way, the truth and the life. I am pretty sure that is the whole point that is missed by the Pharisees –  Robert Flaaskog Mar 9 at 18:22
    
I think you should read this Meta page and understand the community's guidelines for writing responses. Although you can personally believe that your doctrine is the doctrine of Christ and your denomination is the way, the truth, and the life, for practical purposes on this website, you must write your earthly denomination and its pertinent teachings. Thank you for your consideration. :) –  Anonymous Mar 9 at 18:30
    
@Anonymous don't be too hard on him - none of the other answers have given their denominational background. –  curiousdannii Mar 9 at 22:30
    
@curiousdannii Well, I think I shouldn't be too hard on Robert Flaaskog, because he is a newcomer. If he weren't a newcomer, and other people have failed to meet the guidelines, then there should be no excuses. I'm just trying to live up to the site's standards, that's all. You know, a Christian's relationship with God is the same way. Just because everyone else does it does not make it right; following God is right. ;) –  Anonymous Mar 9 at 23:34
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