And after getting into a boat he crossed the sea and came to his own town. And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed 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.Matthew 9.1-8
The doubts of the scribes in Jesus’ hometown weren’t completely unreasonable since no human can forgive sins in the Jewish Law—it is a prerogative belonging to God alone—and nobody could possibly tell if what Jesus declared was true. It could’ve well been a baseless assertion and everybody present would’ve been none the wiser. Of course, it seems that the scribes’ sentiments went beyond mere doubt to malice, hence Jesus’ accusation: “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” Since having one’s sin forgiven isn’t something perceptible to anyone, Jesus proceeded to miraculously heal the paralytic as a demonstration that God’s power was really at work in him, that he has the authority over both physical and spiritual infirmities. The healing of the man’s paralysis became a sign that his sins were indeed forgiven.
It also became a sign that justified Jesus’ claim of being the Son of Man. This term “the Son of Man” has its precedence in the Old Testament and could mean two things: he could’ve meant it as a third-person reference to himself as a human being—the greek literally means “son of a human being”; he could’ve also meant it as a title that harks back to the vision in Daniel chapter 7, and is a reference to the mysterious human person “given dominion and glory and kingship” by God so “that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.” It seems that both understandings is incorporated by the author here since Jesus is truly a human with divine authority, and he has this authority precisely because he is that Son of Man mentioned in Daniel 7 who is given this authority by God.
Interestingly, the final verse plays on the term “Son of Man” when it refers to the authority to forgive sins given to human beings in the plural. There’s more to this verse than meets the eye since the author is not merely referring to the crowd rejoicing that a mere human like Jesus has this divine authority. The author is likely making an oblique reference to the authority given to church ministers to forgive sins, which is explicitly mentioned later in 18.18 and elsewhere in John 20.23. Just as Jesus was given this authority by God, he has also delegated this authority to the ministers of his church who act in his Spirit. Through the preaching of the Word and through the administration of the Sacraments, the church continues to declare the forgiveness of sins to all who are penitent and desire to place their allegiance in Christ. What was once the sole prerogative of God is now had by humans through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, so that all may be reconciled to him. This is certainly something to glorify God for.
Absolution of Penitent by Minister in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in him, of his great mercy forgive you all your offenses; and by his authority committed to me, I absolve you from all your sins: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Declaration of Forgiveness to Penitent in the Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Common Worship: The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting. I declare to you, in the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven. May the God of mercy, who forgives you all your sins, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.