Opening Prayer Thoughts.
Praise God that the heavens declare his power and glory, and the skies display his handiwork. That his eternal power and divine essence can be clearly seen and understood through creation, leaving no man without excuse. Praise God that he has revealed himself in creation and his Word, and that your eyes have been opened to see the truth. Psalm 19:1-6, Romans 1:18-23, 2 Timothy 3:16,17, Ephesians 1:18.
Acknowledge the sin of not comprehending the power of God and delighting in it as you could. Ask God to open your eyes to see his all-encompassing power, both in his creation and in his Word. Ask him to enable you to better understand and live your life in the power of it. Psalm 119:18, Ephesians 5:18.
Let's read Luke 5:17-26.
Pray for the Holy Spirit's help to receive God's Word.
V17. The people listening to Jesus.
Again, we see that this is not in chronological order; it is a point I will keep making a few times more and then hopefully, your eye will be trained to see it. This fascinating account of the healing of this man with paralysis is recorded in all three Synoptics, Matthew 9:2-8, Mark 2:12. I say that because these three gospels do not record all the same events in Jesus' life and ministry.
Luke doesn't tell us where this happened, but we know from Mark that it took place in Capernaum, and Matthew tells us that Jesus is back home having returned by boat from the Gadarenes. Matthew 9:1. He is teaching. The Greek word shows that he had been doing so for some time. Who are the people listening to Jesus teach on this occasion? Jesus had obviously gained quite a reputation by this stage.
The Pharisees were the Jewish sect, which stressed the need to observe the Law in a way consistent with all its rabbinical interpretations. In addition to the Law of God, there was a huge compilation of interpretative teaching which covered every aspect of life. These were written to 'protect' the Jews from ever getting to a point where they might break God's Law. For example, they had a law which meant that you could never say the name of God because, if you did not say it, then you could never take the name of the Lord in vain, and so be guilty of breaking the 3rd Commandment. They effectively put what was known as a 'fence' around God's Law. Of course, this couldn't work because the keeping of God's Law is not merely about outward doing; it requires compliant heart submission and obedience, and Scripture tells us that the heart of man is deceitful above all things. Jeremiah 19:7. So, inevitably this gave rise to an utterly self-righteous attitude and cultivated a shallow formalism, a routine religion. One in which if you did what was expected, then you were okay, regardless of what you thought of God himself.
The teachers of the law, were the scribes, either Pharisees or Sadducees. They were the professional students (men who studied, not college-age young people) of the Old Testament. They were recognized as such after attaining a certain standard of knowledge of it. It was a high standard, too. They were the experts, the authorities in expounding the law. If you wanted to know what the law said, you would go to a Scribe for advice, or listen to one of his teaching sessions. The most gifted or connected of these men, were appointed to the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin, which literally means 'sitting together', were assemblies appointed to serve as a court in every city in Israel. There were two classes of Jewish courts called Sanhedrin, the Great Sanhedrin and the Lesser Sanhedrin. The lesser Sanhedrin consisted of 23 judges, and they ruled in every city. There was only one Great Sanhedrin which sat in Jerusalem. It was comprised of 71 men, and included the Chief priest, and men from the Pharisees and Sadducees, the two Jewish sects. It acted as a Supreme Court for the Jewish people, addressing issues that it deemed worthy of its attention and receiving cases from the lower courts. Referred to simply in the Bible as the Sanhedrin, we shall see later, in our study of Luke, the critical role it was to play in the life of Jesus.
The remarkable thing about the majority of the men now listening to Jesus is that they are not local. Luke says that they "had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem." Think about that. These prominent, hugely influential men had come from all over the region to hear Jesus. They had obviously heard about what he was doing, how his teaching was causing a stir among the people, and that he was healing people by the hundreds. Here is someone they would have to hear and see for themselves. So, in what must have been a coordinated effort, they all make their way to Capernaum to do just that. It will soon become clear that their collective motive is not one of generosity.
Interestingly, Luke states, "that the power of the Lord was with him to heal." It is an unusual comment. Ordinarily, we are told how an event unfolds, but here we have an insight into what Jesus is going to do. Why? I am not entirely sure, but maybe the point is that 'his home may be full of religious unbelievers, but that is not going to prevent Jesus from acting in the power of the Father'. The demoniac cannot thwart him, nor can the Jewish religious elite.
V18. The story unfolds.
What are the initial keys points of the story? We have a paralyzed man who has been carried up the street to Jesus' home by four men (Mark tells us there were four of them), and they are doing so because they want Jesus to heal their friend. The house is packed to the door, which means they can't get in with the man on the bed, so what do they do? They go up onto the roof of Jesus’ home and they take tiles off the roof. Note, it's not just a random de-tiling; they work out where Jesus was in the house, and they take the tiles off where they need to, in order to be able to lower the man so that he was just in front of where Jesus was sitting. Imagine what the people in the house must have thought when they heard the noise on the roof, and then began to see daylight where once there was a roof. I wonder where the guys, who were sitting on the floor or standing in the area where the bed was being lowered into, went. I wonder if it brought a smile to the face of Jesus as he watched their confused looks, and then their scrambling to get out from under where the bed was being lowered down onto their heads.
Whatever was said, if anything was said, it is not recorded. Jesus sees the faith of this man, and note, it's the faith of the paralyzed man that he sees. This man had obviously asked his friends to bring him to Jesus. When it was clear that they weren't going to get into the house, the man must have said to them, 'take me up onto the roof and let me in through it'. If they had questioned the idea or objected to it, and we are not told if either is the case, but if they did, then the man must have been persistent. He was determined to get these other four men to do whatever was necessary to get him in front of Jesus. The idea that they dragged him along because they thought this was a good idea defies common sense.
Think of the timing. Surely, if there was even the slightest possibility of this man making a fool of himself, would it not have been better to seek Jesus out on a less busy day, or on a day when he was busy with fewer prominent and influential people?
So, the man is in front of Jesus; his silence speaks volumes. Jesus speaks into the amazing scene. He declares the man's sins forgiven. Why? The man has not asked for his sins to be forgiven; he wants to be able to walk, is that not apparent? What is Jesus doing? He is addressing the innermost need of this man's life and, at the same time, speaking to the hearts of those packed into his home. Jesus is saying, 'I have come to address the issue of sin, the issue of a broken relationship with God'. Now, before going on, I want to make it clear; Jesus is not saying that this man's paralysis is due to a specific sin or sins. The idea that those who have a disability, or a particular illness, have it because of a sin or sins is unbiblical, and has to be denounced in the strongest possible terms. Yes, if people do engage in habitual sin that can lead to both physical and mental issues in their lives – that is undeniable; but this is manifestly a different thing.
V21. A not unexpected reaction.
How do the scribes and Pharisees react? Note, they don't speak, but their faces say a thousand words. These men know their Scriptures, and it is clear that the Old Testament teaches that God alone can forgive sins. Who is this guy who thinks that he can open his mouth and say what he has just said? Their thoughts are laced with ungodly 'righteous' indignation. In their eyes, this is blasphemy of the first degree. Unthinkable, unacceptable, but, like all godless hirelings, they are so filled with cowardice that they won't speak their minds.
V22. Jesus heals the man.
They won't say it, but Jesus sees it. He can see it in their eyes, in the scowling of their faces. They don't need to speak; it is written large in their body language. The words of Jesus call them out. "Which is easier…?" They should be reasoning with honest motives, pure hearts, compassionate minds, but they're not. The question Jesus asks is deliberately simple and easy to answer. He is saying, 'the point is not the saying of the words, it's the power behind the words you need to be thinking about'. Who could raise this man from this bed? No one but God! Who could forgive this man for his sin? No one but God! They had explicitly come to Jesus' home because they had heard of his phenomenal teaching ability and his incredible power to heal. Who do they think gave him such ability, and such power? The answer is so self-evident that Jesus doesn't even wait for a reply. He just tells the man to pick up his bed and walk. In doing so, he underscores the point he has just made.
V25. The man gets up and walks.
What we read here is impossible. Paralyzed people just don't get up and walk. Depending on the type of paralysis, some people today can, with the latest technology, be enabled to stand upright. They may even, through strenuous effort and extreme dedication, learn over weeks, months, years to first shuffle along, and then possibly regain some level of very limited movement. Such 'miracles' are lauded as huge medical successes, and that's not a negative or disparaging comment. This man got up and picked up the bed that he had been lowered down on. He then walked through the packed house, the people parting like the Red Sea for the crossing of the Israelites, and went home, glorifying God. Truly with God, all things are possible. Matthew 19:26.
V26. They were all amazed.
The last verse speaks for itself. The only question that needs to be addressed is, who does the 'all' refer to – the people in the room or others? Subsequent evidence shows that whatever effect the events of this day had on the Pharisees and scribes, it didn't bring them to their knees pleading for forgiveness, nor did it lead them to faith in Christ. Matthew tells us that 'when the crowds saw it…'. So, it was the people outside the house who, when they saw this man walking down the street in Capernaum, were the ones who were seized with amazement, glorified God and said: "We have seen extraordinary things today."
One question for you, as I ask it of myself this morning, is how much do you believe in the power of Christ to fully meet the needs in your life, no matter what they are. The need to love him more, the need to help you mortify your besetting sins, the need to lead you to dwell in deeper communion with God?
A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 1A. Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.
Keep memorizing it will do your heart good.
Psalm 121C v1-3
1. Unto the hills I lift my longing eyes; whence comes my aid?
The Lord's my help, the heavens and earth by him were made.
Your foot from stumbling he will always keep;
the One who guards your life will never sleep.
2. He who keeps Israel slumbers not nor sleeps By night or day.
The Lord keeps you, a shade on your right hand The Lord will stay.
Throughout the day the sun will never smite,
Nor will the moon afflict you in the night
3. You will be safe, protected by the Lord, By his control.
For every evil that may come your way He'll keep your soul."
Truth for the Mind and Heart
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 29 - How are we made to share in the redemption purchased by Christ?
Answer - We are made to share in the redemption purchased by Christ by the effective application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.
Thank God for his power. That nothing is impossible with him, NOTHING!
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley