What does Matthew 9:4 mean?
ESV: But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts?
NIV: Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?
NASB: And Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, 'Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?
CSB: Perceiving their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts?
NLT: Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, 'Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts?
KJV: And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?
NKJV: But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?
Verse Commentary:
Jesus has responded to a paralyzed man's arrival by telling him his sins have been forgiven (Matthew 9:2). Some scribes—teachers of the law—accused Him between themselves of blasphemy. Jesus now responds to them. Though what they said wasn't audible to Jesus, He knows exactly what they're thinking. He says, "Why do you think evil in your hearts?" Mark and Luke phrase the question as, "Why do you question in your hearts?"

It's important to realize that these men are not being condemned for simple skepticism. Later encounters will show their opposition to Jesus is intentional, hardened, and unfair (John 5:39–40). This is why their sin is described as that of "unbelief." Despite the displays of power and authority they have seen Him demonstrate, they have prejudiced themselves out of pride. They have failed to recognize the truth of His identity in His authoritative teaching. Ignoring the signs and evidence, they prefer to believe Jesus is a mere mortal under their authority. He will show them once more that He is not.

Part of Jesus' strategy here is to begin with a claim that's "easier" to make, since it's hard to test: the authority to forgive sins. Once His critics respond, Jesus will prove His power by making and fulfilling a claim which is impossible to falsify (Matthew 9:5–7).
Verse Context:
Matthew 9:1–8 finds Jesus teaching in a crowded house. The friends of a paralyzed man bring him to see Jesus. The gospel of Mark indicates that the crowd is massive, so the men make a hole in the roof and lower him down on his bed (Mark 2:3–4). Jesus tells the man his sins are forgiven. Some scribes in the room call this blasphemy. Jesus, though, demonstrates that He has the authority on earth to forgive sins by showing that He has the authority to tell the paralyzed man to stand up and walk home. The man does exactly that.
Chapter Summary:
Matthew 9 continues to show how Jesus authenticated His claims to be the Messiah by powerful miracles of healing and casting out demons. He heals a paralyzed man after telling the man his sins are forgiven. He calls Matthew to follow Him and eats dinner with Matthew and other tax collectors. He answers questions from Pharisees and others. A woman who touches His cloak is healed from a 12–year illness, and Jesus raises a dead girl back to life. He restores sight to blind men and speech to one who is demon oppressed. He is filled with compassion for the crowds.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 9 follows the same pattern of Matthew 8, showing through miraculous works of healing that Jesus is truly the Messiah. Christ forgives the sins of a paralyzed man and heals him. He calls Matthew to follow Him and eats with tax collectors and sinners. A woman is healed by touching His garment and a dead girl is given life by the touch of His hand. Two blind men see, and Jesus casts out a demon, restoring speech to its victim. Finally, Jesus declares that the harvest is plentiful and tells His followers to pray for workers. Chapter 10 builds on this compassion as Jesus commissions the Twelve to go and deliver His gospel to the people.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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