Have you ever heard of the “Mandela Effect”? It really weird and fascinating at the same time, essentially the premise is that there are some inaccurate memories that a large number of people have. Check out this link for some different examples. In Jesus’ time there were many misconceptions about life, sin, and God that people over time began to have that was just false. So in Matthew 9 we find two stories in which Jesus takes the opportunity to dismantle those false ideas.
If you read Matthew 9:1-8 we find a story of a paralyzed man whose friends brought him to Jesus and it was their faith that moved Jesus to heal him which reminds us that faith in Christ is both personal and communal. Sometimes we need someone(s) to help carry us when we are down and help lead us to the feet of Christ. While our faith in Christ is DEEPLY personal, if it doesn’t lead us to live in community, we likely haven’t really given ourselves to Christ completely.
Now Jesus first response after He was moved wasn’t to physical heal this man (although eventually He does) but rather to heal His soul through the forgiveness of sin. He says in Matthew 9:2 “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Which in the original language would have translated more like, “Take heart my little boy, your sins are forgiven”. What a beautiful and deeply personal response, but the question is why would He say this first? Why wouldn’t he heal the man’s physical brokenness? Back to the idea of misconceptions. If you read in John 9:1-12 we find a story that gives a bigger picture into that culture’s view of sin, God, and illness. Check this out in verse one through three, “ As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” You see in that time and culture people had this false view that if someone had a physical issue that it was punishment from God because of sin of their own or their families. Jesus forgives this man’s sins first because He wants to dismantle this idea that sin is cause the issue but to also show the people that the soul is more important than the body. God deeply cares about both but the body has an expiration date, the soul does not.
Now the rest of this story centers around the fact that the religious leaders of the time are mad that Jesus is saying He can forgive sin. This is for a few reasons. First they don’t believe He is the messiah, aka they don’t believe He has that authority. Secondly they won’t let go of tradition that involves going to the temple and making a sacrifice, this is a tradition they like and are comfortable with. Third eliminating the temple as they knew it would be loss of power and money for them. In this moment Jesus shows that He has authority to forgive because He is both the temple and the priest we go to and He is the perfect lamb needed whose blood is shed for us. Jesus uses His authority to love, to heal, and to forgive.
Now a second story that we find in Matthew 9:9-13 is the calling of Matthew. Matthew is the author of The Gospel of Matthew and one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus. Prior to His calling Matthew was a tax collector which in that time and culture made you a person who was deeply hated and isolated. In fact in multiple places in scripture we find language like “tax collectors and sinners”, the fact that they distinguish the tax collectors from the “sinners” give us a good indication of how people felt about them. It is that exact type of person that Jesus calls to help advance His Kingdom.
Now after Jesus called Matthew the story picks up, “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” It’s from this we learn that The Kingdom is for all. Jesus is a friend of sinners and that's good news for me and you. Jesus didn’t come for perfect people but for all people. He does want us to just follow rules and be religious but rather He wants us to give our hearts and that our hearts would become more like His.
Jesus doesn’t what us to perform for Him. He wants us praise Him and surrender everything to Him. Trust Him because He is good and He loves you.