“Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? ..." (Matthew 9:4-6)

At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”
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 so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." [to the paralytic] “Get up, take your mat and go home." (Matthew 9:3-6)

Who is entertaining 'evil thoughts?'

Jesus is responding to “some of the teachers of the law" making offensive statements about Jesus after he said to a paralyzed man:
"Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." (Matthew 9:2)
These “teachers of the law” were questioning Jesus' authority to forgive sins. Why? Because these “teachers of the law” were envious of Jesus.

This is confirmed by Jesus' statement:
“Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?"
Here "evil thoughts" comes from the Greek phrase, πονηρὰ ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν. The word πονηρὰ refers to "bad, of a bad nature or condition: 1) in a physical sense: diseased or blind; 2) in an ethical sense: evil wicked, bad."

And the word καρδίαις or kardia, means "the heart" as well as "denotes the center of all physical and spiritual life; 1) the vigor and sense of physical life; 2) the center and seat of spiritual life."

From this, we derive the common expression that relates to the heart when we discuss love. Jesus used the heart symbolically to refer to the state of one's spiritual consciousness - "the center and seat of spiritual life."

Can Jesus forgive sins?

Why didn't Jesus say: "I have the authority on earth to forgive sins"? Instead, he speaks in a third-person sense - about the "Son of Man." Why not just say "I"?

Because Jesus is referring to "Son of Man" as a role - not strictly himself. If he was the only "Son of Man" then it would be useless to say this. He would just say "I" - or "me."

Jesus is not stating directly that he can forgive sins. He is using the third person - that the "Son of Man" has authority to forgive sins on earth:
"But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins."
This means that Jesus is speaking of a role - not solely himself. We might compare this to a statement a military officer might make: "A general has authority to give orders." Such an authority is given not to an individual, but to a role.

Otherwise, Jesus would have said, "I have the authority to forgive sins." This would imply that Jesus has the sole authority. But using the third person means that his role has that authority and that Jesus was not the only person to have been given that role.

In fact, we know that God called Job "Son of Man," and he called Ezekiel "Son of Man." And David referred to himself as the "Son of Man" in multiple Psalms.

What gives the Son of Man this authority?
"But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins."
This statement illustrates that the Son of Man has been given the authority to forgive sins while he is in the physical world. This indicates that empowerment by the Supreme Being. Such empowerment can only be given by the Supreme Being, since ultimately it is God who forgives sins.

But further to that, every person is given a limited ability to forgive others. Consider part of Jesus' suggested prayer (the Lord's Prayer) to God:
"Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us." (Luke 11:4)
We can know from this prayer that each one of us can forgive others who have sinned against us. This means they offended us somehow, or did something that harmed us in some way.

In the same way, Jesus can forgive others for their sins against him - which there were many who offended him.

And because Jesus was representing the Supreme Being, he could also forgive sins relating to the Supreme Being. This was not just Jesus' ability - other representatives of God (Sons of Man) were also empowered to do this. For example, we find this verse regarding something Jacob (Israel) told his son (disciple), Joseph:
‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. (Genesis 50:17)
Joseph was being empowered to forgive sins on behalf of the Supreme Being. Because Jacob was asking him to represent God's mercifulness.

You see, the Supreme Being is ready to forgive any of us. In fact, He already forgives us. We simply have to accept that forgiveness. As Jesus states, we do that by simply forgiving others:
"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." (Matt. 6:14)
This means something deeper is going on. It is not that the Supreme Being is withholding his forgiveness for until we forgive others. It is that we cannot receive God's forgiveness until we open our hearts to God's mercy.

And the only way to open our hearts to God's mercy is to give mercy to others.

Jesus could, because he was teaching the Truth, invoke that change of heart in others. This was his empowerment: To change people's hearts.

This is about purification - not like taking a bath - but by having a change of heart that purifies our spiritual self. This purification opens our hearts to God's forgiveness.

Is this about love?

Jesus' statement is all about love. Jesus loved the paralyzed man and wanted him to rise up from his former life. He wanted him to have a change of heart. Jesus wanted to heal the man spiritually.

According to the temple officials, they had a problem because it was the Sabbath. This is a day where people are not supposed to work, but are engaged in spiritual activities - according to the Prophets.

Jesus is performing a spiritual act by forgiving his sins.

Love is not a subject or noun. Love is an action verb, as in "he loves someone else." The subject is "he" and the object is "someone else" in this sentence. And "love" is the verb.

In other words, "love" isn't just floating around the spiritual world as a vague force - as in "God is love."

The reality is that the Supreme Being loves us, and the perfection of our spiritual life is when we come to love the Supreme Being. These scenarios involve a relationship.

Furthermore, such a relationship - love - is inseparable from the expression of that love in the form of loving service. Loving service is the act of doing something that is pleasing to the one we love.

Jesus illustrated his love for the Supreme Being as he worked to please Him:
"By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me." (John 5:30)

"The One who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” (John 8:29)

"As long as it is day, we must do the works of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4)

What is the opposite of love?

Envy. Wanting what someone else has for our own self-centered desires.

This is, in fact, "evil" - "diseased or blind; evil wicked, bad."

When a person is envious of another, they are diseased. This consciousness is the opposite of love.

And this is the consciousness that these “teachers of the law” were exhibiting as they offended Jesus. Their consciousness was founded upon self-centeredness. These “teachers of the law” were looking to gain power and authority among the institutional temple. They were seeking power and authority to satisfy their own self-centered dreams of being top dog in their institution. This is why they were envious of Jesus' real authority and power.

But just consider Jesus' source of power and authority:
"For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken." (John 12:49)

“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 7:16)
This indicates clearly that the Supreme Being is the source of the power and authority that Jesus displayed as he forgave the man's sins. This authority is derived from the loving relationship that existed between Jesus and the Supreme Being and the fact that Jesus was working to please the Supreme Being - and this is why Jesus has authority. Jesus clearly confirmed this:
"By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me." (John 5:30)
This is also why Jesus can say with authority to these "teachers of the law:"
"the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins."

What does Son of Man mean?

As to the meaning of this phrase, and why Jesus would refer to υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου - the Greek being mistranslated to "son of man."

The word υἱός (huios) can only mean "son" "in a restricted sense, the male offspring (one born by a father and of a mother)" according to the lexicon. How could Jesus be speaking of himself literally as being a "son" "of man" here? What kind of distinction is that? Every male is a son of a man.

The lexicon clarifies the word υἱός in this context, as "used to describe one who depends on another or is his follower." The cultural use of this word υἱός is thus "servant" within the context of Jesus' statement.

And as ἀνθρώπου means "mankind" or "humanity" and τοῦ means "of," we can arrive at the more appropriate translation of υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου:

"Servant of Humanity"

Yes, Jesus saw himself as the servant of humanity. Just as a government worker will sometimes refer to themselves as a "civil servant" or a "servant of the people," Lord Jesus humbly considered himself a servant of all humankind.

This could also be translated to "Servant of the people" - a phrase many use when they feel they are civil servants and want to help people.

Why? Because he was teaching humanity about the Supreme Being and how to love the Supreme Being.

This is the highest service, not only to the Supreme Being, but to those who are being given the message.

Just consider the kind of authority that an ambassador - who might refer to himself as a "civil servant" or "servant of the people" - has when he goes to a foreign country and begins to negotiate with that foreign government. The ambassador, as the representative of his government, is seen as powerful as the government itself. This is because of the authority that his government conveyed to the ambassador.

In the same way, Jesus was the Supreme Being's perfect loving servant, and God's representative. His intimate loving relationship with the Supreme Being empowered him to act on God's behalf. This included the authority to forgive sins.