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November 14, 2023

Luke Part 5

What do you think is the greatest benefit of being a Christian? Hope and assurance of eternal life, a heavenly home, etc; peace with God; the indwelling of the Holy Spirit…




Luke 5:17-26

What do you think is the greatest benefit of being a Christian? Hope and assurance of eternal life, a heavenly home, etc; peace with God; the indwelling of the Holy Spirit… There are so many wonderful things we could rattle off but I personally believe the greatest thing about being a Christian is knowing that my sins are forgiven. The Apostle Peter apparently agrees with that. After he finished preaching to Cornelius and his household Peter made this statement: “Everyone who believes in Him (speaking of Jesus) receives…” here it is… “forgiveness of sins thru His name (the name of Jesus)” (Acts 10:43). The Apostle Paul – he’s talking to the Ephesians and expounding on all the spiritual blessings we have in Christ. He says, “In Him (in Jesus) we have redemption thru His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…” (Eph 1:7). Later Paul tells the Ephesians to forgive one another “as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:32). Because we have been forgiven, we can, we should, we must, forgive others.

This idea of our sins being forgiven by a holy God is a recurring teaching theme of Jesus in the gospels. On one occasion Peter asks Jesus a question: “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother who sins against me?” Jesus responds to Peter with a parable. You all know it. It’s the parable of the unforgiving servant. In that story a king forgives his servant an overwhelmingly large debt – so big that there is no way the servant could possibly pay it. When the king, by an act of pure grace forgive the servant his debt, he fully expects that servant to whom much has been forgiven to go out and have a forgiving spirit himself toward others. When the servant acts in an unforgiving manner toward a fellow servant (not forgiving a far lesser debt than one he had owed), the king judges the servant harshly. The king in that parable is God. We are the servant who was forgiven a great debt which we could not pay. Because God in Christ has forgiven us we are to exhibit God-like character and forgive others. No matter what they have done to us it is far less than what we did to God.

All of this sets the stage for this morning’s lesson. My Bible has the heading “Jesus heals the paralytic.” It’s the story about the man who gets let down in a hole in the roof. It’s a familiar story. Let’s read it.

READ Luke 5:17-26

This same account is told in Matthew 9 and in Mark 2. From Mark’s account we know that this event takes place in Capernaum, which is Jesus’ base of operation during His Galilean ministry. Apparently there’s some kind of gathering, a convention, of scribes and Pharisees in Capernaum (v 17 “who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem”). They’ve come from all over and are gathering together in a large house. The focus of their meeting is this Jesus character. Luke 4:14 tells us that a report about Jesus is spreading throughout Galilee and the surrounding area. These scribes and Pharisees have been hearing so much about Jesus and have come to see for themselves. Jesus has garnered quite a reputation. He’s attracting quite a following. People flock from all over to hear Him teach and to be healed of various diseases (end of v 17 says “the power of the Lord was with Him to heal”). On this particular day you have not only the usual crowd of people following Jesus but you also have this group of religious types – scribes (v 17 “teachers of the law”) and Pharisees. No doubt these men are engaged in conversation with Jesus. They are asking Him questions. He’s answering them. There is no apparent hostility although we do know from John 5 that by this point in His ministry (we are approx. one year into it) the Jewish leaders from Jerusalem are seeking to kill Jesus. And yet Jesus takes the time to talk to them. He’s still trying to save them. Remember, Jesus came to seek and to save the lost – that includes all of these scribes and Pharisees (even if they don’t see themselves as lost).

V 18 “And behold…” All of a sudden there’s noise from above and some dirt and pieces of the roof begin to tumble down on the people below. What’s going on? Four men carrying their friend who is paralyzed on a stretcher had not been able to get to Jesus because of the crowd (v 19). Nobody would let them in. So they go up to the roof (houses all had flat roofs, stairs, place to sit like a balcony). They figured out approx. where Jesus would be and began to remove the roof tiles. You can just picture the scene. Inside the house all eyes are looking upward at them while they’re doing this. Once the opening is big enough they lower their friend’s stretcher down by ropes to Jesus. It must have been quite a scene!

V 20 “And when He saw their faith…” The faith of the four friends who would carry their buddy some distance on a stretcher and then out of desperation go to all this effort to make an opening in the roof and lower their friend down. But I am sure that the man who was paralyzed was also urging his friends to do this. The paralyzed man desperately wants to get to Jesus. Why? We assume that it is because he’s paralyzed that he wants to be healed physically. Jesus has been healing people of all sorts of physical ailments all over Galilee. But in v 20 Jesus doesn’t say, “Man, be healed! Get up and walk!” No, Jesus says something different. You see, Jesus knows the man’s heart. John 2:25 tells us that Jesus knows what is in a man. He knows the man’s greatest need is not physical healing but spiritual. The man needs salvation. He needs to have his sins forgiven. Jesus knows that this man desires to be made right with God. And so Jesus says to him, “Man (some translations say “Friend.” Matt 9 says, “Take heart, my son”). “…your sins are forgiven you.” Jesus gives the man what he needs most, which is, forgiveness of sins. And by the way, that’s really OUR greatest need, isn’t it?

Well this causes quite a stir by the scribes and Pharisees, doesn’t it? Notice their response in v 21. They began to question, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies?” Mark’s account  reads like this: “Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, ‘Why do you question these things in your hearts?’” (Mark 2:6-8). Jesus reads their minds. He knows what they are thinking, which is what verse 22 says, He “perceived their thoughts.”

The theology of the scribes and Pharisees is actually correct. Only GOD can forgive sins. That is true. But their conclusion about Jesus is wrong. The truth is there are only two possible conclusions we can make about Jesus. Either He is (1) God (which means He CAN forgive sins) or (2) Not God (which means by claiming to forgive sins He is a blasphemer). You cannot take the position about Jesus that many in the secular world take, that He was a good moral teacher. That’s a copout position. If His claims are false – and Jesus claimed multiple times to actually be God – then He is not a good teacher. I can have a PHD in mathematics but if I teach a second grader that 1 plus 1 equals 5, then I am not a good teacher. But Jesus not only claims to be God. He proves over and over again that He is God by doing things that only God can do. And He does many of these things, “signs and wonders,” right in front of the Pharisees.

So Jesus knows what these scribes and Pharisees are thinking and He confronts them about it. He asks them a question, v 23: “Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'?” What’s the answer? Which of these two statements is easier to SAY? The first one, “Your sins are forgiven you.” Why? Because there is no outward evidence to say whether it happened or it didn’t. Forgiveness of sins is a spiritual matter. It happens on the inside. But if I tell you who are paralyzed to “Rise and walk” and you don’t then I am exposed as a fraud.

“So, let me do this for you,” Jesus says to them in v 24. Just to show you that I – and He calls Himself Son of Man (a clearly messianic term taken from Daniel 7:13-14) – have the authority to forgive sins (I am God)… Jesus turns to the paralyzed man and utters these words: “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And what happens?

V 25 “And immediately…” The man gets up in front of all those scribes and Pharisees. He picks up his stretcher and he heads for home. And while he’s walking away he’s glorifying God with his voice. “Praise God! Look what God did for me! Hallelujah!” I couldn’t help but think about that lame beggar in Acts 3 that Peter and John healed outside the temple. I see a very similar scene there as in our passage. In that passage we read that “Immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk…” and it says he went away “walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:7-8). The same thing here in Luke 5. No physical therapy is required. No re-learning of motor skills. Full healing takes place immediately!

Let’s suppose you had been there that day in Capernaum and you witnessed this event. What would be your reaction? Luke records the reaction by the crowd in v 26. They were astonished. They were amazed. There is no human explanation for what they just saw. Only God can do this! And so they all glorified God and were filled with awe. “We have seen extraordinary things today.” Of course they were talking about seeing this paralyzed man healed and walking. But the greater miracle was his spiritual healing – having his sins forgiven. Happy ending, right?

What about the reaction of the Pharisees? I don’t believe they were among the group glorifying God. I don’t believe they had much reaction at all. What Jesus did that day did not change their opinion of Him one bit. They still hated Him. They still wanted to get rid of Him. Just 4 verses later in Luke 5:30 we read that the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at Jesus’ disciples for eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners. And they proceed to hound Jesus in the chapters that follow questioning Him at every turn about His failure to conform to their religious protocols. They completely missed the whole point about Jesus – Who He was and why He came.

What about you? Are you amazed by Jesus? Are you overwhelmed by the thought that He can forgive your sins? Are you glorifying God that He heals physically and emotionally every day? Can you hardly contain your excitement about coming into God’s house and hearing what He has to say to you next? Or could you care less? How has Jesus changed your life?

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