It Seems Strange

IMG_1078Luke 5:17-26

It seems strange. Jesus had healed so many, and apparently had left the paralyzed man unhealed. Instead, he had simply told him that his sins were forgiven. Yet one thing we learn as we read the Gospels carefully is that Jesus acted in situations in the way that would maximize God’s glory. As he cared for people, he also focused on making the greatness of God known. For example, read Mark 9:14-29. Since he is Lord over all, he was not in a hurry to act. We are wise to learn this, instead of demanding that God answers us “immediately if not sooner”. This seems strange to us, until we learn and adopt Christ’s priorities as we follow him.

It seemed strange to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law for a far different reason. They correctly knew that only God could forgive sins, as Jesus had just claimed to do (Psalm 103:3; Isaiah 43:25; Micah 7:18). But Jesus had dared to say to the man in front of everyone that his sins were forgiven. To them this was blasphemy, because he slandered God by claiming to do what only God had the authority to do. This was a serious matter. If Jesus was only a man, they were right in what they were thinking about him, but it seemed too strange to them that Jesus could be more than a mere human.

It surely also seemed strange when Jesus revealed that he knew their thoughts. They assumed they had Jesus trapped, but suddenly the tables were turned and they were cornered. Over many years of preaching, I have wondered what people were thinking about during the message. It has always reassured me to know that I don’t need to know, because the Lord Christ knows exactly what everyone hearing a sermon is thinking about. By the way, when you hear the word preached or taught, what do you think about? But I digress. Jesus knew, and he was going to act so that they might know an important truth (5:24). Jesus, the Son of Man, has power to forgive sins. “Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite name for himself. The roots of this term in the usage of Jesus come from Daniel 7:13-14. There it was written that the Son of Man was given authority, which is the issue in this event. Does Jesus have authority to forgive sins?

Jesus knew that it was one matter to tell someone that their sins were forgiven and another to demonstrate that he had the authority to do so. This was the reason that he had delayed to heal the paralyzed man. He met the man’s most crucial need first, which was his need of forgiveness of his sins. Now his delay does not seem so strange. So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God (Luke 5:24b-25 NIV). He acted in a way that everyone could know that he could forgive sins, for he gave an immediate and complete healing to the man. Not only was his paralysis gone, but he had strength and balance to go home, carrying his mat, and this without physical therapy. And not only could he walk home, he could return home with the confidence that he was right with God.

Now, it no longer seems strange, but amazing and praise producing. This ought to be our reaction when we read these accounts of the glory of God displayed in Jesus Christ. Praise God that we follow a leader who is devoted to honoring the Father in heaven. Praise God that he is wise to know the right time to act. Praise God that he has authority and power to forgive our sins and to heal us. Have you trusted in the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of sins? This gift of his grace may be yours today.

Grace and peace, David

An Unexpected Response

IMG_1957Luke 5:17-26

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law wanted to hear what Jesus taught to the crowds, not out of any desire to learn from him. They were concerned. Their gathering included men from every village of Galilee and Judea. Even the prominent religious leaders from Jerusalem came. They were very concerned! Early in his public ministry, our Lord had made claims that upset the religious establishment (cf. John 2). Jesus was being watched. The religious leaders saw that he was gathering a group of disciples around him and was proclaiming that God’s kingdom (saving reign) had arrived. So they watched him. As they watched, they would hear Jesus give teaching that would greatly trouble them. They had to watch him.

The crowds came to Jesus also, but not to watch him, but in order that their sick and disabled might be healed (5:15). The Lord did not disappoint the common people. Jesus healed them by the power of the Holy Spirit. (This is what the “power of the Lord” means, cf. Luke 4:18-19.) At this point, Jesus was in a house. Picture him sitting in a great room, surrounded by the home owners, some of his disciples, many Pharisees and teachers of the law, and as many common people as could push themselves in. See a narrow path from the door to Jesus, where people could lead their family and friends to Jesus for healing. It must have been a hot and exciting scene.

Some men carried a friend on a mat to try to get him to Jesus. Simply carrying a paralyzed man on a mat was a difficult task, but it became harder. When they reached the house, they could not get their friend inside because of the crowded conditions. Intent on getting their friend to Jesus, they decided on a bold plan. They carried the paralyzed man up on the flat roof, probably by using an outside stairway. (Sharon and I went up on a rooftop this way in Mali, West Africa during a visit to that country, though we weren’t carrying anyone). Next, they tore up the roof; the sounds and then the sight of this must have been startling to those inside the house. Imagine the debris falling into the room, along with the light and the much-need oxygen. With the roof opened, they lowered him on the mat right in front of Jesus. There was probably a lot of loud talking of various sorts going on throughout this process.

Finally, everyone became quiet, and all eyes were turned on Jesus. Picture the Messiah looking at the man, next up at his friends on the rooftop, back down to the room of people, and then back to the man. Everyone waited to hear and to see what Jesus would do.

Let’s pause the story for a moment. If this is your first time reading the story of Jesus, you might be expecting him simply to heal the man and send him back to his friends filled with joy. But some of us have read or heard this story so many times, that it does not excite us or fill us with wonder. We nod our heads and think, “Yeah, that’s typical Jesus.” We expect what Jesus said. And so the glory of the story doesn’t grip us. However, I assure you that no one in that room, including the paralyzed man expected what Jesus was about to say. Okay, let’s hit the “play button”.

 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20 NIV). This was very unexpected! I can feel their stunned silence for a few minutes. Think about this. Did the friends of the man decide to go to all that effort to hear Jesus say to him, “Your sins are forgiven?” Is that what the paralyzed man wanted to hear? If you had been on that mat, is that really what you would have wanted to hear at that moment? What of the homeowners whose roof was partially torn apart? Did the disciples expect Jesus to forgive instead of heal? It undoubtedly caught the Pharisees and the law experts off-guard, too, though Jesus (in their eyes) had just handed them a golden opportunity. Jesus did the unexpected. And it is his unanticipated responses that provide us with occasions to wonder and to worship.

As we conclude today’s article, I want us all to ask ourselves, “If I want something big, like healing from paralysis, would I be content if Jesus simply said to me, “Friend your sins are forgiven”? To be a follower of Jesus means that we learn from him, that we learn from him how that he is able to meet our greatest need. It means that we will learn to say, “Praise God, Jesus has done the best thing for me, even when I assumed he would do something else.” Please let this work into all our souls until next time.

Grace and peace, David