I was reading in Matthew recently and came across an interesting passage. Before I have you read it, first read the parallel passages in Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26. Now, you can go to Matthew 9:1-6 and read how Matthew told the same story.
Wild, huh? The quotes are basically identical, but the thing that most captures your attention in Mark and Luke’s version is conspicuously absent from Matthew’s. No roof, no hole, no ropes. Just a paralyzed dude, forgiveness and healing.
Which points us to two questions. First, why did Matthew leave out what we consider the most memorable part of the story?
Well, my feeling is that Matthew understood people. And he knew if he mentioned the roof incident, people might miss what he considered the most important part—Jesus’ authority to forgive sins, a huge deal to the Jews to whom he addressed his letter. So he didn’t mention what was most impressive to focus on what was most important.
But now to the second question. If the Bible writers were free to leave stuff out, what does that say about inspiration? How do we square Matthew’s decision with the idea that the entire Bible is “God-breathed”? (2 Timothy 3:16)
Well, I think a verse from 2 Peter might help us get our arms around this:
For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21NIV)
Somehow, as they wrote, the Holy Spirit intersected in their lives in such a way that what they said was exactly what they wanted to say—and exactly what God wanted them to say. Their personalities shown through, but the words and ideas were still the very words of God. Sort of like how Jesus (the Word of God) was 100% God and 100% man, the Bible (the word of God) is 100% divine and 100% human.
So, Matthew can sit down with the idea of telling Jews about Jesus, choosing which stories to tell and even what angle to take when telling them. Luke can write to the Gentiles, choosing some of the same stories, some different ones, and some from different angles from Matthew. And both are fully in the will of God, both fully writing the words of God.
Or, as John put it when addressing this very issue, “Jesus' disciples saw him do many other miraculous signs besides the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life.” (John 20:30-31 NLT)