Last Sunday, we began the season of Epiphany by examining Luke chapter 4. For the next few weeks we’ll continue through Luke, picking up a chapter each Sunday.
Our purpose is to see how Jesus’s ministry revealed Him to be the Son of God. This year, instead of focusing on Jesus’ miracles, we’re trying to zero in on Jesus’ words.
So, today as we camp out in Luke chapter 5, try to focus your mind specifically on the words that Jesus speaks.
Luke 5:17-26 (NIV)
17One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. 18Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
21The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
22Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins....” He said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
This is a classic Sunday School story, isn’t it? Maybe it’s because it’s got Jesus healing a man, but also telling him that his sins are forgiven. Last Sunday’s chapter ended with Jesus telling the people of Capernaum that He couldn’t stay there with them, healing and preaching, because He had to tell other villages about the Good News too.
Here, Jesus does the same thing. He puts the message of sins forgiven first. Maybe that’s why this story is such a perfect Sunday School story. Jesus gets right to the point.
Me, I’m not going to get right to the point. I’m going to step away from Jesus and the paralyzed man laying on the mat for a second. There are some other characters in this room that Luke hasn’t talked about yet that bear looking at.
Let’s look at the Pharisees for a second. In verse 17 Luke mentions the Pharisees for the first time in his Gospel. They’ve come from all over the place to see the new teacher, Jesus.
There were a lot of Pharisees. One source says that at the time of Jesus there were around 6,000 Pharisees living throughout Palestine. They were religious teachers, priests, and generally religious snobs. That’s what they were. They were the leaders of religion in Jewish lands, and they were better than you.
One of the things that Pharisees excelled at was judging other people unfairly. And because they were the main teachers of the people, the people absorbed their unfair judgments and their false ideas. Turn to John 9 verse 1.
“1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”The disciples thought that this man MUST have sinned in some especially bad way in order to be born blind. Or, perhaps, his parents had sinned in some especially bad. They probably got this idea from the Pharisees. Jesus disagreed, but we’ll let that be for now.
3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:1-3 NIV).
Let’s go back to Jesus teaching in the house. Imagine what the Pharisees were thinking as they sat there listening to Jesus. All the sudden there was a commotion over head, and sunlight broke through from outside. Before long a pallet was being lowered with a man on it. Shocking. And then they saw what was wrong with this man – he was paralyzed. He couldn’t walk.
What did the Pharisees think when they saw him? Were they already rifling through the sin rankings inside their heads, “Hmmmm, what kind of sin would correspond to this type of disability? Theft? Fornication? Blasphemy? Hmmmm.”
Now think about what going on in the mind of the paralyzed man’s head. We assume that he had grown up in the same culture as the disciples. He too heard this idea that bad health is a divine judgment from God over a specific sin in a person’s life. And what kind of turmoil had that stirred up in this man’s mind?
The events of the story show us clearly that he had faith. He trusted that Jesus could and would heal him. His friends did too. They proved it when they cut a hole in someone’s roof so that they could lower their PARALYZED friend down some ten feet or so, on a mat.
Imagine that moment. The one right before they began lowering.
Friends: Okay, you sure?
Paralyzed man: Yes.
Friends: You trust us?
Paralyzed man: Nope. But I trust that guy down there. Go ahead. Lower me down.
But this man had been taught that his condition was his own fault. It had happened because he had committed some sin for which God was still punishing him. You think there might have been some nagging worry in the man’s mind? Something like: “What if I get to Jesus, and He says, ‘I can’t heal you. God wants you to suffer some more for your sin before He forgives you’”.
But when the paralyzed man looked up at Jesus from the floor of that house, he didn’t see a stern face. He saw wide eyes and a look that said, I’ve got a secret you need to know. And then Jesus spoke…
“…Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20 NIV).▬
The text says that Jesus SAW their faith. The friends above, standing with ropes still in hand. The paralyzed man lying below. They trusted in Jesus. And Jesus knew it. And Jesus knew what the paralyzed man needed most of all.
He had come for physical healing, but Jesus knew his heart needed to know that God wasn’t angry with him. Jesus knew he needed to know that his sins were forgiven.
There’s so must to take away from this interchange between Jesus and the paralyzed man. First of all: the Pharisees were wrong about disease being God’s retribution for specific sins. While that may be the case in certain situations, without divine communication that’s an a very slippery judgment to make.
Isaiah 53:4-5 proves this point dramatically.
“ 4Surely he took up our infirmitiesThis section is talking about Jesus’ crucifixion. When Jesus was hung on the cross, the people thought He was being judged by God because of sins He committed. Again, they probably got this idea from the Pharisees. The passage says, “we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for OUR transgressions.”
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5 NIV).
The second thing to take away from the story of the paralyzed man is a the good example. These men broke a building IN ORDER TO GET TO JESUS. Man, how many times don’t I fail in this department. Any number of stupid and worthless distractions keep me from getting in touch with Jesus. I need to get fired up to approach the Son of God in prayer and meditation.
There are a million reasons to come to Jesus in prayer, and when we leave we usually go with more than we expected. The paralyzed man did. He went to walk. He left reassured that he could stand before God, a forgiven sinner, a child of God’s grace.
A third thing to take away from this story is the simple connection between faith and forgiveness. Verse 20 says that Jesus saw the man’s faith, and pronounced that He was forgiven. In fact, the way Jesus says it in the Greek is like this, “Man, the sins of you, they stand forgiven already” (Greek Perfect Tense: completed action with abiding results).
Do you believe that you are a sinner? Yes. Do you believe that Jesus suffered and died for your sins? Yes. Than people - the sins of you, they stand forgiven already.
If some horrible health problem comes to you, don’t let the devil use that as a faith shaker. Trust Jesus. Salvation won by Jesus, comes to us through faith in Jesus. Whatever crosses we have to bear this side of heaven aren’t designed to hurt us because of our sins, they’re designed to show our faith, grow our faith, or something else that God has in mind. The punishment for sin is not ours to bear, Jesus already did that when He suffered Hell on the cross.
Okay, before we close our meditation today we need to take one more look at the Pharisees. They made a habit of judging people unfairly. They judged the paralyzed man, and they also judged Jesus. Look again at verse 21.
“21The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”The Pharisees think, “Hey, only God can forgive sins”, Jesus’ response is surprise. He’s like,
22Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins....” He said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God” (Luke 5:21-25 NIV).
“Haven’t you been paying attention at all! Where do you think this power to heal diseases and cast out demons is coming from?
You think this man is under God’s punishment for some un-forgiven sin? That’s why he’s paralyzed? Okay, watch this. No longer paralyzed. Soooo, that means what I said about his sins being forgiven must be true right? Can’t you see that God is at work here.”
Jesus didn’t openly say, “God is at work here”. But, He communicated that specific fact by what He did, and by what He said. Look again at what Jesus says in verse 24, “…that you may know that the SON OF MAN has authority to forgiven sins” and then He heals the man.
I said earlier that this was the first time Luke mentions the Pharisees. It’s also the first time Jesus calls Himself the “Son of Man”.
You might remember that Jesus didn’t let the demons of chapter 4 tell the people that He was the Christ. They shouted it out, but Jesus shut them up pretty quick. That was because the false teaching of the Pharisees had again been messing things up. They had the people convinced that the Christ would be all about kicking Rome out of Palestine and establishing a golden era for the Jews. For this reason, Jesus didn’t want to openly use the title “Christ” until the people knew what the real Christ was really about!
Instead Jesus dropped this little gem on the Pharisees. He called Himself the “Son of Man”. This was a sneaky way of saying, “I’m the Christ, I’m God and Man, I’m the promised King and Savior”. Let me explain.
Turn to Daniel 7, verse 13. In most of the Old Testament the term “Son of Man” just means “human being”. It’s used to emphasize the weakness and mortality of man. But in one place in Daniel it’s used to describe a very special individual. Daniel 7, verse 13…
“13“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14 NIV).By calling Himself the Son of Man, Jesus invited the religious snobs to pick up their Bibles and discover who He really was. The promised and eternal King who is to be worshipped. The God-Man. The Christ.
There’s a big take away here. Don’t accept the world’s version of Jesus. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Go to the Word. Study, stare at and memorize the image of Jesus you find there.
The Jesus of the Bible sees repentance and faith and immediately proclaims sin forgiven. The Jesus of the Bible seeks out sinners to turn them around. He’s not immoral like people who dismiss sin as no big deal. He’s not falsely judgmental like the Pharisees. He’s simply Jesus. Our holy, compassionate, loving Savior.
Know Him by His words. He’s the one that takes sin serious, so serious in fact, that He died to save us from it.