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Luke 5:17-26 Notes

Luke 5:17-26 Exegesis

THE TEXT:  17 One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. 18 And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. 19 But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. 20 Seeing their faith, He said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven you." 21 The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" 22 But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, "Why are you reasoning in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins have been forgiven you,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 24 But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,"-He said to the paralytic-"I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home." 25 Immediately he got up before them, and picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God. 26  They were all struck with astonishment and began glorifying God; and they were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen remarkable things today."


     I don't like confrontations. I like people to like me, probably too much, a sign of my own insecurity. But Jesus wasn't afraid of confrontation when it furthered his goals. It looks to me like he purposely provoked a controversy in Peter's house. Jesus had been traveling with his disciples throughout Galilee (and perhaps some of Judea). Now he was back at "his own town" (Matthew 9:1) and "at home" (Mark 2:1), probably at Peter's house that he had adopted as his Galilee headquarters.

Pharisees and Teachers of the Law (5:17a)

On this particular occasion Jesus was teaching indoors -- perhaps it was winter and stormy outside. Peter's house was filled to the bursting point. Some may have been standing, but one group was sitting -- "Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there" (5:17). This is the first time that Luke tells us about these religious leaders at Jesus' meetings. With his spectacular healings, the testimony of a healed leper, and preaching trips throughout the region, Jesus is definitely on the religious leaders' "radar screen." They have gathered, perhaps by common consent, to hear him, with representatives all the way from Jerusalem, the center of Judaism. (See my short dissertation on "Religious Leaders in Jesus' Day" which explains the differences between these leaders.)

The healing of the paralyzed man is the first of several incidents Luke places in a row that indicate growing conflict with the religious establishment:

  • When he heals a paralytic, they question Jesus authority to forgive sins (5:17-26)

  • When he eats at a tax collector's home, they question Jesus' choice of friends (5:27-32)

  • Jesus compares their legalistic religion to brittle old wineskins that can't hold the frothy new wine (5:33-39)

  • Finding fault with his disciples and his healing, they accuse Jesus of Sabbath breaking (6:1-11)

At the end of this string of confrontations we read, "They were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus" (6:11). The plots continue throughout the next months and years finally culminate in Jesus' arrest and crucifixion. But Jesus knows he must not back down just because he is challenged. His mission demands confrontation with blindness so the truth can be seen with vividness.

Power to Heal (5:17b) 

Now we see an interesting phrase: "And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick" (5:17b). Does this mean that the power of God was NOT always with him to heal? No, not at all. It's just another in a series of mentions Luke makes of the power of the Holy Spirit that is upon Jesus for ministry:

  • "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan...." (4:1)
  • "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit...." (4:14)
  • "The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me     to...." (4:18)
  • "With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out" (4:36)
  • "The people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all." (6:19)
  • "Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me." (8:46)
  • "He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases...." (9:1)

The power of God is ALWAYS present with Jesus to heal the sick, even today!

Lowering the Paralytic into the House (5:18-19)
Now we see an amazing tale unfold. Jesus is inside Peter's house teaching, the scribes and Pharisees listening intently to try to figure him out. He is certainly powerful in his teaching, they have to acknowledge. They are viewing him as a scribe or teacher of a different magnitude than themselves, and the comparison with their own teaching ability is embarrassing.

Outside, Mark tells us that four men (Mark 2:3) are carrying their paralyzed friend so he can be healed by Jesus. He's being carried on some kind of a litter, a bed attached to a wooden frame. The Greek word for "bed" is kline, " 'bed, couch' a place for those who are resting... 'dining couch'... 'pallet stretcher' on which a sick man was carried."[1]

     • The men approach Peter's house where Jesus is reported to be, but people are jammed tightly together around the door, and inside it is even worse. The men look at one another. What shall we do? One points to the roof. Above the living quarters, houses in Palestine typically had a flat roof surrounded by a low three foot wall to keep people from falling off. On the outside of the house is a stairway up to the roof.[2] Bypassing the crowd, the men begin to carry their sick friend up the stairway. The men at the bottom hold their end high; those in front hold the stretcher low so the man won't tumble off. Finally they reach the top. Nobody is watching them. All ears are straining to hear what Jesus is saying inside.

     • But on the roof the men set their paralyzed friend down and start to work. Roofs were supported by one or more beams, usually not much more than 1.8 meters (6 feet) above the floor below, bearing on posts for the longer spans. Then smaller timbers as joists were spaced out and covered in turn with brushwood. The final covering was made of mud mixed with chopped straw, which was then beaten and rolled. To this day, similar houses keep a cylindrical stone roller about 60 cm (2 feet) long on the rooftop, used to roll the mud into greater solidity every year when the first rains come.[3] Luke speaks of roof tiles (Greek keramos) that were in use in Palestine by this date.[4]

     • I imagine the men removing the tiles and stacking them to one side. Then they begin to pry up the mud and wattle until they can see light below. By this time the work of the men above is becoming obvious to the crowded listeners below. Pieces of dried mud are falling on those under the widening hole. Peter looks up as his roof is destroyed, a frustrated expression on his face, but Jesus the Carpenter assures him and continues teaching. When a large hole has been opened, the men above improvise ropes and begin to lower the pallet carrying a VERY trusting paralyzed man. Down they lower it into the center of the room. In spite of the press of people, space is made for the pallet until it rests on the floor. Everyone is hushed, waiting to see what happens.

Faith for Healing (5:20a)
Jesus looks up at the faces of the four men peering down from the hole above, and then at the long-suffering paralytic before him. The Gospel writers then record an interesting statement: "When Jesus saw their faith, he said...." Whose faith? Certainly the faith of the men who had brought their friend and gone to great trouble to place him directly before Jesus. If they didn't believe their friend would be healed, they never would have carried out this desperate act. They would have turned around and carried him home with the promise, "We'll try again soon." Yes, those faces looking down do believe, and believe very greatly in the Master's power. And then there is the paralyzed man himself. Unless he is completely without any motor control whatsoever, he would have protested this craziness to his friends and insisted they take him home to avoid embarrassment -- unless he, too, believes.

     • Faith -- someone's faith -- is one important ingredient in healing. Lack of faith in Jesus' hometown of Nazareth resulted in few healings (Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:5-6). We see a similar phrase in Acts 14:9 regarding a crippled man in Lystra. "He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, 'Stand up on your feet!' At that, the man jumped up and began to walk." Sometimes, however, it is the healer's faith that is lacking (Matthew 17:20). In case of the paralytic man let down into Peter's house while Jesus is teaching, both the friends and the paralytic himself seem to have faith for healing.

Forgiving Sins (5:20b-24)
"When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven' " (5:20).

Jesus knows his audience. He is aware that the scribes and Pharisees believe that only God himself can forgive sins. Of course, Nathan the prophet had pronounced the Lord's forgiveness when David had confessed his sin (2 Samuel 12:13), but only God can actually forgive sin. What's more, the Pharisees believe that prophecy has effectually ceased.[5] Jesus knows that if he forgives the paralytic his sins, it would cause a great stir. I can't escape the impression that Jesus deliberately provokes the scribes and Pharisees. Why?

     • Sure enough, "The 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?' (5:21) It isn't spoken out loud but spoken in the mind. The verb is dialogizomai, "consider, ponder, reason something in one's own mind."[6] While dialogizomai can also indicate a verbal argument, we know this was unspoken, since in the next sentence Jesus says, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts...." He can read their faces and body language plainly enough to see that they are upset with his declaration -- as he knew they would be. He knows they consider his words blasphemy, Greek blasphemia, any "violation of the power and majesty of God"[7]

Now he increases their discomfort with a choice: "Which is easier? To say:

◊  "Your sins are forgiven" OR

◊  "Get up and walk"

• Then he tells the man to get up, healing him. The clear take away lesson is that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins AND heal the sick. Anyone can say, "Your sins are forgiven." Those are easy words to say, and who can tell whether or not the sins really HAVE been forgiven. But Jesus both pronounces forgiveness and then heals. Neither is humanly possible. Speaking healing words, too, is easy, but it's pretty easy to tell whether the person is healed or not, whether the words are authoritative or just wind. Therefore, Jesus reasons out loud, if God honors his declaration of healing that is an indication that God also honors Jesus' declaration of forgiveness, as well. The scribes and Pharisees must really be twitching by now! :-) Luke 5:24 is the first instance where Jesus begins to fill the term "Son of Man" with his own meaning: " 'But 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.' " The Son of Man has authority from God both to heal and to forgive sins. (See my short essay, "The Son of Man" for more information.

Healing Sickness (5:24-26)

Jesus, who often lays his healing hands on each sufferer, in this case speaks a word of command to the paralyzed man, a command that can only be obeyed in faith: "Get up, take your mat, and go home." Jesus' disciples Peter and John had listened well, for at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple they spoke similar words to a crippled man: "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!" (Acts 3:6) You hear the words echoed by Paul to a crippled man at Lystra, "Stand up on your feet!" (Acts 14:10) In each of these instances the result is the same. As the paralyzed or crippled man begins to obey he is instantly healed and is able to obey. Some, perhaps, respond best to a ministry of the laying on of hands and prayer. Others to a command of faith. Jesus knew best how to deal with the people the Father sent him to minister to.

     • The result of this strange encounter in Peter's house with the new skylight was both wonder and praise: "Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, 'We have seen remarkable things today.' " (5:26)

Lessons for Disciples
As Jesus ministers in his living room, Peter watches, wonders, and learns. What lessons are intended for us disciples to grasp from this day's events?

  1. The importance of persistent, unstoppable faith in receiving from Jesus.
  2. Jesus' authority on earth of forgive sins.
  3. Jesus' authority to heal the paralyzed.
  4. Fearlessness before the religious authorities.
  5. A willingness to stretch people's understanding, even at the risk of offense.

The lame man obeys Jesus, and as he stands up there was a spontaneous "Ahhh" that circulates over the crowded room as a wave radiating out from the center. A moment before the man is paralyzed; now he is standing. The room is once more as the man gathers up his stretcher, poles sticking out at the ends. He slips off the ropes dangling from the ceiling, puts the stretcher under his arms, and begins to make his way through the crowd which parts spontaneously to let him through. A few probably reach out to touch him as he passes by into the courtyard.

     • Peter and the disciples learn much. Perhaps the lame man learn the most of all. He learns he can put his trust in Jesus, permanently, persistently. That in Jesus, despite r how paralyzed he may be physically -- or emotionally or spiritually, for that matter -- no matter how paralyzed he is, when Jesus tells him he can walk, he is now able. The man walks free this day and life changes forever, due to four good friends and one Best Friend, Jesus.

Luke 5:17-26 - Salvation: From the Top Down

Instead, by forgiving sins, Jesus is announcing the end of religion. Now, through Jesus, people no longer need the temple, the sacrificial system, or the priesthood to approach the Father, but can approach Him directly, having already received the forgiveness of sins without condition.

Who is Jesus? What is the most important fact about who Jesus is? If you could state one fact about Jesus that made Him who He was, what would it be? Most of the world would say something like, "He was a good man" or "He was a gifted teacher." Those are true about Jesus, but they are by no means the most important thing about Him. He is much more than a good man or a gifted teacher. In some churches today, it has become popular to think of Christ as a social activist, or a political revolutionary. He is presented as a man who went about righting wrongs, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, uplifting the depressed. All of this He did against the customs of the day. His actions angered the political and religious ruling class of his day. This is true of Jesus also. But again, it is not even close to the most important thing about Jesus. Some Christians focus on Christ's miracles. Some focus on his parables. Some focus on his prophetic teachings. All of these things are important, but none of them are the most important thing if we are going to know who Jesus is.

Maybe we would say that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the Savior. Jesus gives eternal life to those who believe in Him for it. Now, I would agree that these are the most important things that Jesus does. He saves people from the sins. He gives eternal life to people who believe in Him for it. What could be more important than that? But, these are things that Jesus does. What Jesus does is not who Jesus is. The questions was: What is the most important thing about who Jesus is?

One of my favorite authors, C. S. Lewis, says that the most important thing about Jesus is that He is God. And that is exactly right. Those of you who have read Mere Christianity know what I am talking about. Lewis has that famous section in his book where he refutes the idea that Jesus was just a good man, or just a good teacher. He says that if this is all that Jesus was, then He was not a good man, or a good teacher. If Jesus was just human, the claims Jesus made about Himself would have made Him a liar or a lunatic. He must be God, or He is the biggest liar, the greatest madman and the most successful con-artist in all of history. Jesus cannot be just a good man. Jesus cannot be just a good teacher. Jesus cannot be just a social activist or a political revolutionary. Jesus cannot be just a healer or a prophet. He has to be God, or He is none of these things.

What is the most important thing about who Jesus is? He is God.

This is what Jesus sets out to show His disciples in Luke 5:17-26. Jesus has called some men to be His disciples, and He is teaching them how to become fishers of men. He is teaching them how to cast the line. He is teaching them how to bait the hook. He is teaching them what is most important in the life of a disciple. Last week, from Luke 5:17-16, we saw that if disciples are going to catch men, they must love all people, even those who are unlovable. Now, in Luke 5:17-26, we learn that once people are attracted to Jesus because of the love we show them, we need to make sure that they understand who Jesus is. He is not just a teacher. He is not just a good man. Jesus is God.

The scene is set for us in Luke 5:17-19.

1. The Setting (Luke 5:17-19)

Luke 5:17a. Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem.

The parallel account in Mark 2 tells us that there were not just Pharisees and teachers of the law present, but also a large crowd of people who had gathered to hear Jesus teach the Word of God (Mark 2:2). But along with this large crowd of people, there came these Pharisees and teachers of the law from every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. Word of Christ's ministry and miracles had spread, and the religious ruling class had heard rumors about Christ's teachings and the way the crowds flocked to hear Him. So now these religious leaders are coming to hear Him for themselves in order to determine whether they should accept and encourage Him, or accuse and condemn Him. At this point, they have all gathered, not to learn from Him, but to pass judgment upon Him.

They are legalistic-law keepers. They are heresy-hunters. In fact, the title Pharisee comes from the Hebrew word meaning "to divide, to separate." They had developed a whole system of rules and regulations and laws for how they were to keep themselves separate from the world. Now, as with all legalism, it was impossible to keep all their rules, and they themselves were hypocrites and couldn't keep their own laws (Matt 15:1-20; 23:1-36; Matthew 5-7). But one of the things they loved to do was go around and try to find people who were not living as the Pharisees thought they should, or who were teaching something contrary to Pharisaical teachings. Undoubtedly, that was why they had gathered to hear Jesus. They were professional sermon critics, and they were here to make a decision about Jesus. He has not been trained in their schools. He has not received their stamp of approval. And so now they have all come from Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem to determine who this Jesus is and what they should do about Him.

Maybe you have the same questions about Jesus. Who is Jesus? What should I do with Jesus? These are the most important questions you can get answers for in your entire life. When you die and stand before God in heaven, the very first thing God will want to know is what you did with Jesus. Did you accept Him for who He was and what He said? Or did you reject Him? Did you believe in Him for eternal life, or did you trust in yourself and your own good works? Maybe you are like these religious leaders and you are trying to learn who Jesus is. Jesus is about to show you who He is. So watch and learn.

Look at the next part of Luke 5:17.

Luke 5:17b. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.

Luke, because he is a physician, is emphasizing the healing ministry of Jesus, whereas Mark 2 emphasizes the teaching ministry of Jesus. But remember, Jesus often did both. He taught the Word, and then He proved that what He was saying was true by performing miracles. In that time, this was how prophets showed that what they were teaching was true. So from this alone, the Pharisees and teachers of the law, and the surrounding crowd should have recognized that at the bare minimum, Jesus was a prophet of God. And many of them accepted Him as a prophet. In John 7:40, this is what the multitudes said of Him. That He was a prophet. But Jesus wants to show them that He is more than just a prophet.

Before we see how Jesus does this, let me show you one last thing from Luke 5:17. Let me ask you a question. If you were trying to cram as many people as possible into the house in order to hear and see Jesus, would you have them stand, or have them sit? You would have them stand of course. A standing person takes up less room than a sitting person. But look at Luke 5:17! The Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting! Why was this? Well, you must understand that in Jewish culture at that time, it was the teachers who sat, and the students who stood. Today, this is reversed. You go to school, and the students sit while the teacher stands. Even here in church. I am standing up here, you are sitting down there. But in Jewish culture, the teacher sat and the student stood.

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law come to hear Jesus, but they don't come to learn from Him. Oh no, they sit. Although more people could fit into the house if they stood, they will not stand, because they want to be in the position of authority. They want to appear like they are in control. They don't want to learn. They want to teach. And so they sit.

Do you see the scene? Jesus is sitting on one side of the room. The Pharisees are sitting on the other. They both are sitting. It's kind of a "standoff" between the two, though in this instance, we could call it a "sitoff." But then something happens which destroys all the dignity of the Pharisees. Something happens which gets them to stand up and scurry about like ants. It is actually very humorous to picture what happens next.

I know all of you have read or heard this story before, but stop for a minute and imagine the scene. It is really quite comical. Look down at the end of Luke 5:26 real quick. After the events that happen here, all the people kept on saying to one another, "We have seen strange things today!" This was the craziest, most comical thing that had probably every happened in this town, and people couldn't stop talking about it. Follow me into the house where Jesus was teaching that day. Try to imagine yourself standing there in the house, watching the events unfold.

We don't know whose house it is. It could have possibly been the home Jesus' family (Mark 2:1). Maybe it belonged to Peter or one of the other disciples. Maybe it belonged to one of the religious rulers. Whoever it belonged to, Jesus was there teaching in the main room. The religious rulers, because of their positions of authority, were those who filled the house. They had come from all over Israel to hear what Jesus had to say, and so they were in the room with Jesus. They were all serious. They are sitting down. They had their Bibles open. There were worried frowns on some of their faces. This message Jesus was teaching could be dangerous if the people heard it.

Many of them were visibly upset by the hoards of people who had gathered around. The house was packed full, and it was getting quite hot and stuffy inside. Someone had opened the windows to let air in, but all that happened was that soon the crowds were jostling to see and hear through the windows. But all of the religious leaders were very serious minded. Very dignified. Very authoritative. They are here to correct and teach Jesus if necessary. Who was this upstart, young man claiming to be a teacher of the Word? He was only 30 years old, but He had gained quite a following. They would have to put a leash on Him if they were going to control Him. He hadn't actually said anything blasphemous yet, but He did have some dangerous teachings about the law and the grace of God. They were just getting ready to question and challenge Jesus on some of his ideas when they hear a bit of a disturbance in the crowd outside.

Luke 5:18. Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him.

Here are these men, carrying another man on a makeshift pallet through a standing-room-only crowd. It is causing quite a clamor. The Pharisees are having trouble hearing Jesus because of the ruckus. Some of them get visibly annoyed by the noise. They are trying to question Jesus. Why would somebody be so rude as to disrupt the proceedings? These men carrying the pallet don't seem to even care that they are causing a disturbance. Mark 2 tells us that there wasn't any room near the door, and probably all the windows were too crowded also.

But then the men carrying the pallet see stairs leading up to the rooftop. Jewish homes often had these stairs on the outside of their homes. The roofs were flat so that people could go and sleep up there on hot nights if they wanted to. And so this is where the men with the pallet head.

Luke 5:19. And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus.

Luke just summarizes what happens here, but Mark goes into greater detail. Mark says they removed the roof and dug an opening. As I said, the roof was flat, and most likely made of timbers, covered with sticks and mud, and laid over with rock tile. So to get through, they lifted up the tile, then dug a hole through the sticks and dried mud.

So here are the Pharisees. They are trying to hear what Jesus says. First there is a disturbance in the crowd that goes all around the house. Then, whoever is causing the noise, goes up the stairs on the side of the house. It is obvious they are having trouble getting up the very narrow stairs because you hear people shout things like, "You're dropping him! Lift the back up more! Watch out!"

Someone else shouts: "Guys, I don't know if this is worth it. Just take me home. Don't drop me! I'd rather be alive and paralyzed than dead!"

Finally, they get up on the roof, and there is all this scraping and pounding as they pull up the tiles of the roof and push them to the side. Jesus has stopped teaching, and is watching the scene unfold with interest and a bit of amusement himself. Then the pounding and digging begins, and all of a sudden, dirt and sand and twigs begin to drop out of the ceiling onto the Pharisees below. So far, they've been trying to remain dignified and calm. But now many of them jump up out of their seats, and angrily brush the dirt off their robes. The owner of the house is getting angry too. He is more concerned about the roof of his house than the dirt on your clothes. All the while, Jesus continues to sit there with a small smile on his face and a twinkle of amusement in his eyes.

The men get their hole dug, and wonder of wonders, they lower the pallet through the hole in the roof. There is a man on the pallet who is paralyzed from the neck down, and several times, it looks like he is about to fall off the pallet, but he makes it safe to the floor of the room, right in front of Jesus.

2. The Savior (Luke 5:20)

Everybody expects Jesus to heal the man, but Jesus does something else entirely. Something completely unexpected. Something entirely shocking. Jesus looks down at him, then up at the men peering through the hole in the roof.

Luke 5:20. When He saw their faith, He said to him, "Man, your sins are forgiven you."

Notice that it is not just the faith of the paralyzed man that Jesus saw, but the faith of the men who brought him also. Now certainly, the paralyzed man had faith, but the text says that Jesus saw their faith. Do you know what this means for us? You and I can help save our friends and neighbors and relatives. Ultimately, it is they who must place their own faith in Jesus Christ for eternal life, but often times, it is our faith in God that brings them before Jesus. They may be paralyzed by sin. They may be overcome with worldly burdens. They may be pressed down by worry and doubt. But we can go to them and say, "I know somebody who can heal you. I know somebody who can free you. I know somebody who can give you joy."

Do you believe that Jesus can help your friends and family members? Do you believe that Jesus is what they need? Although they may seem like they are doing okay most of the time, the truth is that they are paralyzed by sin, and they desperately need you to bring them to Jesus. In fact, I heard from one pastor who goes around the country teaching churches how to be more evangelistic, that on average, a non Christian needs to know at least four Christians in a certain church before they will agree to come to church. You see, most people do not like to go to a place where they don't know anybody. This is especially true of non-Christians and bringing them to church. But if they know at least four other people at church, they are much more likely to come. This is why it is so important to develop relationships with non-Christians. Maybe they've been asked to come to church by someone else here, but they just don't feel like they would be comfortable coming because they don't know anybody. But if you befriend them, and then invite them to come, or better yet, bring them with you, they will not only know you, but also some other people here who invited them previously.

That is what we see happening here. This man is paralyzed and his friends bring him to Jesus. They realized that their paralyzed friend needed Jesus, and they were willing to do anything to get him there. They believed, they had faith that Jesus could heal their friend. And so, they go to great lengths to make sure their paralyzed friend meets Jesus. Now, we can assume that they brought their friend to Jesus to be healed. But look what Jesus says to the man. He said to him, "Man, your sins are forgiven you."

I guarantee this is not what anybody expected to hear. This is not what anybody wanted to hear. The men on the roof were probably visibly disappointed. They brought the man to Jesus for healing, not to have his sins forgiven. The man on the pallet is crushed also. He wanted to be healed, not to have his sins forgiven. Jesus knew what they had come for, but He knew what was more important. He knew that spiritual healing was more important than physical healing. A lot of people come to Jesus for things that they think are important. They want help with their depression. They want help from God with their finances. They want God to give them a job. They want God to give them healing. They want God to help with their marriage. They want God to give them direction about life.

There is nothing wrong with these things, but Jesus knows that there is something more important than any of these. Though we all want a variety of things from God, Jesus knows that what we really need is the forgiveness of sins. It is useless to give a man who is dying of cancer a band-aid for a sore thumb. But that is all we are doing if we help people with their physical wants, but do not bring them Jesus to have Him cure their deepest spiritual need. This paralyzed man was brought to Jesus to get healed of paralysis. But Jesus gave him something much better - the forgiveness of sins.

This is why salvation is from the top down. God is most concerned with your head than he is with your body. Does he want to heal you of sickness and diseases? Certainly. But even more important than that, He wants to deliver you from your sin. And that come by faith alone in Christ alone. Jesus would rather say, "Your sins are forgiven you" than "Your sickness is removed from you." He may heal you, or He may not, but the most important thing you must determine is whether you are forgiven. And the forgiveness of sins comes only from the top down. It only comes from Jesus Christ, Who is the Lord of the universe, Who is the Head of the church, Who is the Savior of the world, Who is the Forgiver of sins, Who is God come in the flesh.

Jesus forgives this man, and He wants to forgive you too. He forgives this man on the basis of faith alone. It's not that the man had lived a pretty good life. It's not that he was a funny guy and made people laugh. It's not that he was going to turn his life around and live for God from this point onward. He simply and only believed in Jesus Christ for eternal life. And that is how you and I get eternal life also. By believing in Jesus for it. God gives eternal life to anyone who places faith in Christ. Have you done that? Has Jesus looked at your faith and said to you, "You sins are forgiven you"? If not, make sure that you believe in Him today, and He will forgive your sins. The man came hoping to be healed, but he got something much better than that.

Of course, many people were shocked and offended by what Jesus says here. The owner of the house is offended that someone ruined his roof, and he wants the men to pay for it, but Jesus tells the man he is forgiven? How can he do that? It's not Jesus' roof that was ruined. Those who are most shocked are the Pharisees. They stare at him wide-eyed. Many of them gasp. They finally received the answer they were looking for, but they didn't expect to receive it so clearly. They came trying to figure out what kind of teacher Jesus was, and now He has plainly told them. In their minds, He is a blasphemous teacher. This is the sentence they pronounce upon him in Luke 5:21.

3. The Sentence (Luke 5:21)

Luke 5:21. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

The Pharisees correctly understood the claim that Jesus was making. They came to find out who Jesus was, and He has given them their answer. By forgiving the mans sins, Jesus was saying, "I am God." And so the scribes and Pharisees condemn Jesus as a blasphemer. They are correct in saying that only God can forgive sins. You see, ultimately, all sin is sin against God. Sure, we sin against our spouses, and against out neighbors and against are parents. And when we sin against them, they can forgive us of that sin. But that sin is also a sin against God, and we must be forgiven by God as well.

But imagine what a shock it would be if someone comes a steals your car, and when the culprit is caught, I went to them and said, "Don't worry about it. I forgive you." You would say, "Hey! It's not your place to forgive. This guy sinned against me, not against you, and so you can't forgive him. Only I can if I choose to." But that is essentially what Jesus is doing here. He is forgiving this paralyzed man of his sins when it is not his place to forgive...unless He is God.

And that is what the Pharisees say here. Who can forgive sins but God alone? They are aware of Psalm 103:12 which teaches that it is God who forgives sin. They are thinking, "Jesus is speaking blasphemy! He are claiming to be God!" This is the sentence they pronounce upon Him, and look how Jesus responds in Luke 5:22-24.

4. The Syllogism (Luke 5:22-24)

Luke 5:22-24. But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, "Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise up and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins"-He said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."

Anyone can claim to forgive sins. Anyone can say, "Your sins are forgiven." And it is impossible from our human perspective to know if they are forgiven or not. Forgiveness of sins is invisible. So Jesus sets out to prove that He has the authority to forgive sins. He sets out to prove that He is God. To show them all that He has power on earth to forgive sins, He tells the paralyzed man to get up, take his bed, and go home. You see, if Jesus had truly blasphemed God, God would not perform this miracle through Him. If Jesus had commanded the healing, and the healing did not happen, everybody would have known that He was a fraud, an imposter, a fake, a false teacher. But if Jesus truly was who He said He was, then this miracle would happen, and Jesus would prove that He was God come in the flesh.

And of course, in Luke 5:25, the paralyzed man received sensation in his arms and legs.

5. The Sensation (Luke 5:25)

Luke 5:25. Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.

Immediately, the man is healed. This healing proved that identity of Jesus. He is not just a man. He is not just a teacher. He is not just a prophet. He is God come in the flesh. He has the authority to forgive sins, and He proved it by healing the paralyzed man. And now the man, with feeling in his arms and legs and toes and fingers, goes home, glorifying God. How could he not glorify God after what had happened to him. Not only was he freed from paralyses, but he was freed from the greater burden of sin. Paralysis kept him from moving, but sin had him chained to death. Now he was free from both. Now, he had both physical and spiritual sensitivity. And because of it all, he glorified God.

And look at the response of the crowd in Luke 5:26. Look what they said about this event.

6. The Sayings (Luke 5:26)

Luke 5:26. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen strange things today!"

There are always mixed responses to Christ's teachings and miracles. This time is no different. Everybody is amazed, and they glorify God, but at the same time, they are filled with fear and keep on saying that they have seen strange things. The truth is they don't know quite how to react. The Pharisees and teaches of the law eventually conclude that Jesus is not God, but is instead using the power of the devil to perform miracles. Some of the people believe in Jesus for eternal life. Some of them just follow him a round for a while seeking for more healings and miracles. Some of them turn on Jesus and side with the religious rulers.

What is your response to Jesus? Who do you say that He is? Is He God come in the flesh, or is He just some man with good morals and teachings? And if you believe that He is God, have you believed in Him for eternal life? Have you trusted in Him alone for the forgiveness of sins? There is no other way to have your sins forgiven. The most important thing about who Jesus is, is that He is God.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that that the only way we can have our sins forgiven is if God himself dies for them (Heb. 10). And that is exactly what Jesus, the God-man, came to do. If Jesus was just a man, if Jesus was a just a teacher, we are yet in our sins, and there is no way we can get to heaven. But thanks be to Jesus Christ, for through Him, because He is God, we have the forgiveness of sins (Col 1:13-14; Rom 7:25; Acts 10:43; Matt 26:28).

* Paralysis represents sin's crippling power and the sinner's sheer helplessness to do anything to relieve his own suffering. The apostle Paul speaks of our initial lack of spiritual strength in Romans 5:6, "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." With this miracle, Jesus forgave the penalty that the man had incurred through sin and raised him from his miserable state.

Cole: Commentary on Luke 5:17-26

Lesson 20: Helping Our Friends Find Forgiveness (Luke 5:17-26)

A young boy, dirty and dressed in scruffy clothes, came into a Christian bookshop in an English village. His head reached just above the counter. He asked the shopkeeper, "How much are yer Bibles, mister?" The man pulled his cheapest Bible off the shelf, one with children's pictures, but the £1.5 in the boy's grubby hand was not enough.

"Hang on, I've got more money in my sock," the boy said. He sat down on the floor, pulled off a shoe and then a long, woolen sock. "The Bible's not for me; it's for me mate. I want him to know Jesus like I do."

"You can have the Bible," the shopkeeper said. "Shall I rub the price off?" Putting his sock and shoe back on, the boy answered, "No, leave it on. I want me mate to know how much I like him." As he walked out the door with the Bible, he stopped, turned and said with a grin, "It's a good book, ain't it mister?"

By seeking to bring his friend to Jesus, that boy was being the best kind of friend in this world. I want to talk about how we can help our friends find God's forgiveness.

To help our friends find forgiveness, we must bring them to Jesus who has authority to forgive sins.

This is the message of the colorful story of the paralytic man whose friends lowered him through the roof as Jesus spoke in a crowded house (Luke 5:17-26). It's a humorous story. Mark tells us that it happened in Capernaum. Peter lived there and Mark, who got his information from Peter, is the most elaborate in describing the men digging through the roof. If this was Peter's house you can imagine how he, not to mention his wife, felt to have his house jammed with people and then to see these four guys dig a hole through his roof to let their friend down in front of Jesus!

As a preacher, I find the story humorous because I can relate to the problem of dealing with distractions while you're preaching. As Jesus was speaking, some of the people in the front row began feeling dirt raining down on their heads. As they looked up, they saw a patch of daylight through the ceiling. As they kept looking, it grew until they saw four sweaty-faced men who proceeded to lower this guy on a stretcher right in front of Jesus. How do you stick to your message when that happens! I once had an elderly lady on the second row pass out in the middle of my sermon. I didn't know whether she had died or what! I had to pause while they carried her out of the church! We used to have the local ambulance driver in our church, and his alarm wasn't a beeper; it was a loud horn. When that baby went off, anyone napping through my sermon thought that the last trump had sounded!

Jesus had a minute to think about His response. He startled everyone by saying to the paralytic, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." It must have startled the guys on the roof. One of them had his head down through the opening so he could hear. The other guys were asking, "What did Jesus say?" He relayed, "He said that his sins are forgiven." "His sins are forgiven! Didn't He heal him? You mean we went to all the trouble of digging this hole in the roof and letting him down just so he could get his sins forgiven? We want him healed!"

It startled the Jewish religious leaders in the audience. Luke tells us that they weren't just the locals, but that they had come from "every village in Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem" (5:17). They weren't there to get blessed by Jesus' teaching. They were there on official business, to check out this popular young upstart and catch Him in some heresy. Jesus gave them their money's worth! His words were deliberately calculated to create a dilemma from which these scribes couldn't escape without admitting that Jesus was God in human flesh. He said to this paralytic, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." His words show us that ...

1. Forgiveness of sins is the main need of every person.

Here is this poor man lying helplessly in front of Jesus. In that day, they didn't have wheelchairs, ramps, or handicap parking places. He could not earn a living, except to beg. He was dependent on his friends to carry him anywhere he needed to go. He couldn't dress himself or take care of his bodily functions. It would seem that his main need was for physical healing. But first Jesus said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." To heal the man's body would have made his life more comfortable. But without healing his soul, he would have died and faced God's righteous judgment. His main need was forgiveness of sins, not physical healing.

Some may look at this poor man and say, "His main need is for emotional healing. Imagine what he must feel like, being totally dependent on others for everything he does. Imagine what it must feel like to lie in the streets and beg every day. We need to help him see that he is a worthwhile human being, created in the image of God." But Jesus did not say, "Friend, I want you to feel good about yourself." He said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."

Others may have said, "What this man needs is economic and educational help. Let's give him food stamps, government health care benefits and some job training." But Jesus said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."

Forgiveness of sins is not just a little option, thrown in with the total benefit package of the abundant life. If the Bible's message about death and eternal judgment is correct, then forgiveness is the main need of every person! People don't primarily need their marriages fixed. They don't primarily need their emotional problems resolved. They don't primarily need economic help. People need to know with assurance from God that their sins are forgiven. All other needs are secondary. As Jesus taught on another occasion, "What profit is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul?" (Matt. 16:25). There's something much more important than having a healthy body and plenty of money: Having God forgive your sins.

Sometimes a severe problem-a health problem, an emotional problem, a family problem, a financial catastrophe-can be the best thing in the world for us. Later, this man would have looked back on his paralysis and thanked God for it, because if he had never been paralyzed, he never would have begged his friends to carry him to Jesus. He never would have heard those words, "Your sins are forgiven." With the psalmist, he could say, "Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep Your word" (Ps. 119:67).

Jesus wasn't necessarily implying that the man's paralysis was the direct result of his sins. It may have been. In opposition to the rabbis of His day, Jesus taught that while all suffering is due to the fall of the human race into sin, not all suffering is due to specific sin on the part of the individual (Luke 13:1-5; John 9:1-3). But Jesus knew that the main need of every sinner is not to get our health or emotional or financial or whatever problems solved. Those problems should drive us to seek God. When we do that, it becomes clear that our main problem is our alienation from Him due to our sins. Thus forgiveness of sins is our main need.

2. Forgiveness is such a pressing need that we should do all we can to bring our friends to Jesus.

Probably these four friends (Mark 2:3 tells us there were four) were motivated more by their friend's physical need than they were by his spiritual need. But their actions in getting around this crowd by letting the paralytic down through the roof is a great illustration of how we should do all we can to bring our needy friends to Jesus. Note some of the qualities pictured in their actions:

*Creativity-Hey, why not the roof? The homes of that day usually had an outside stairway leading up to a flat roof. Scholars differ over whether this caused major or minor damage to the homeowner. But these men had the philosophy, "Where there's a will, there's a way." If there was a closed door, they found an open roof. If you can't reach somebody one way, try another way. If you can't get into a closed country as a missionary, why not get in as a businessman or some other way?

*Urgency-Why not wait until the crowds had dispersed? There was always tomorrow. They could have told their friend, "It must not be God's timing." But these men knew that their friend needed help, so they didn't let the crowd stop them. While we can't force the gospel on people, we should communicate the urgency of eternal matters: "Now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2).

*Sacrifice-If you want to reach people for Christ, you may have to sacrifice some material things, including a perfect house. Your carpet may get coffee or food stains on it. Your kids' toys may get broken. I'm not suggesting that you let people run wild and destroy your home. That's not good stewardship. But neither is it good stewardship not to have people over because you want to preserve everything. Don't view your home as a museum. View it as a missionary outpost.

*Persistence-We need tact, and we shouldn't pressure a person who is not open to the gospel. But if we try once to talk about spiritual things and a person is not open, do we back off and conclude that he must not be one of the elect? Or do we keep at it?

A family that had moved into a new apartment was besieged by salesmen. One busy day a dairyman came to the door. "No," the woman said firmly, "my husband and I don't drink milk."

"Be glad to deliver a quart every morning for cooking." "That's more than I need," the woman replied, starting to close the door.

"Well, ma'am, how about some cream? Berries comin' in now, and ..."

"No," the woman replied curtly, "we never use cream."

The dairyman left and the woman congratulated herself on her sales resistance. Actually, she had already ordered from another dairy, but she hadn't said so. But the next morning, the same dairyman was back at the door, a bowl of dewy strawberries held carefully in one hand and a half-pint bottle of cream in the other.

"Lady," he said, as he poured the cream over the berries and handed them to her, "I got to thinkin'-you sure have missed a lot." The woman changed dairies. (Reader's Digest, [5/82].)

That's the kind of positive persistence we need in sharing the berries and cream of the good news.

*A team effort-It took four men to get this one man to Jesus. That is often the case. We dare not get jealous over who gets the credit. The main thing is getting the person to Jesus. It's great when several people work together in bringing a common friend to the Lord. It almost always takes more than one.

So we've seen that forgiveness of sins is the main need of every person and that it is such a pressing need that we should do all we can to bring our friends to Jesus.

3. Only Jesus has authority to forgive sins.

Luke has been establishing Jesus' authority: in 4:32, in His teaching; in 4:36, over demons; in 5:1-11, over the disciples and over creation; in 5:13, over the worst of diseases; and, here, His authority to forgive sins and His authority over the Jewish leaders. This is Luke's first mention of the Jewish religious leaders and their opposition to Jesus. They needed to submit to Him as Messiah.

By leading off with the pronouncement, "Your sins are forgiven," Jesus set up a dilemma for His critics. He knew that they would grumble by asking, quite correctly, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" But when He spoke the word and healed the man, it was obvious that God's power was present. If Jesus were speaking blasphemy by forgiving the man's sins, then how could they explain God's granting Jesus the power to heal him?

Jesus used this miracle to prove His claim to have authority to forgive sins. His power in the visible realm over paralysis established His authority in the spiritual realm to forgive sins. He read His critics' minds and then asked them, "Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins have been forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'?" (5:23). From a human standpoint, it's easier to say, "Your sins are forgiven," since there's no way to verify it. From God's perspective, to forgive sins is more difficult, since it involved the sacrifice of His Son. Jesus took that which is humanly more difficult-healing the man-and used it to verify His claim to forgive his sins.

To help a friend find forgiveness, we need to explain two important truths:

A. Only God can forgive sins and Jesus is God.

If you offend me, then I can properly say, "I forgive you." But if you have offended others, it would be ridiculous for me to say, "I forgive you for offending all those other people, too." I don't have that right.

For Jesus to forgive all of this man's sins must mean that they all were committed against Jesus, which is only possible if He is God. Jesus knew the reasoning of the Pharisees ("only God can forgive sins") and He didn't correct them, as any God-fearing Jew would have done if people were accusing him of taking on some action that belongs only to God. He didn't clarify things by saying, "I only meant that God offers forgiveness to this man." Rather, Jesus confirmed their reasoning by the miracle.

Jesus' deity is further attested by the title "the Son of Man." It was Jesus' favorite designation of Himself (over 80 times) and comes from Daniel 7:13, where Daniel had a vision of the Messiah coming in the clouds to receive His future kingdom from the Ancient of Days. If I were to call myself a "son of man," you would say, "So what else is new?" It's no big deal. But for Jesus, it was a big deal to be not just "a son of man," but "the Son of Man," because He is the eternal God who took on human flesh through the virgin birth, the Son of Man who will fulfill Daniel's prophecy. Clearly the title had overtones of deity (Luke 9:26; 21:27; 22:69).

The point is, if Jesus is not God, He cannot forgive our sins because our sins have offended the holiness of God before whom we all must someday stand. But if He is God, then He does have authority to say to any who come to Him in faith, "Your sins are forgiven."

B. Only man can bear man's penalty for sin and Jesus is man.

The title "Son of Man" also points to our Lord's humanity. Jesus used it especially when referring to His own suffering and death (Luke 9:22; 9:44, 18:31-33, 22:22, 48). It points to Him as the representative Man, fully human apart from sin, who bore the penalty for our sins on the cross. As a sinless man, Jesus Christ could bear the sins of the human race; as God, His death had infinite value. Jesus, and only Jesus, has authority to forgive sins. To help our friends find forgiveness, we must help them see that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man in one unique person.

But is knowing that enough? Is there anything that a person must do to be forgiven by Jesus?

4. Jesus grants forgiveness of sins by grace through faith.

Grace means unmerited favor. You can't do anything to earn it. This man didn't have to get cleaned up before he came. He didn't try to impress Jesus with how he could walk with crutches. He didn't tell Jesus about his perfect record of synagogue attendance as a reason he qualified for forgiveness. Jesus granted forgiveness as a free gift, with no merit on the paralytic's part.

The only condition mentioned is, "seeing their faith" (5:20). Whose faith did Jesus see-the four friends' or the paralytic's? Both. Alexander Maclaren explains, "As Abraham's intercession delivered Lot, as Paul in the shipwreck was the occasion of safety to all the crew, so one man's faith may bring blessings on another. But if the sick man too had not had faith, he would not have let himself be brought at all, and would certainly not have consented to reach Christ's presence by so strange and, to him, dangerous a way ..." (Expositions of Holy Scripture [Baker], on Mark 2:1-12, p. 64).

Like this paralytic, lost people can do nothing in themselves to be saved. They cannot even believe apart from God, since faith is His gift. Yet they must believe! Just as here Jesus commands this paralytic to do something impossible-rise, take up his bed, and walk-even so, He commands sinners to repent and believe. Since salvation is totally of God, including the faith to believe, He gets all the glory (5:25, 26). No one was praising the faith of the five men. The healed man didn't go away boasting, "I got healed by my own free will." Everyone glorified God because they knew that He alone could do this mighty deed. Since the saving of a sinner requires the mighty working of God, He alone should get the glory.

While we are saved by grace through faith alone, saving faith always issues in obedience. Jesus could see the faith of both the friends and the paralytic because they had acted on it by coming to Him. When Jesus said, "Rise, take up your bed, and go home," the man not only believed His words; he acted on them. That's what each person must do: Personally trust Jesus Christ to forgive your sins and give you eternal life and then live in obedience to Him.


Luke draws a marked contrast between the Pharisees and the four men who brought their friend to Jesus. The Pharisees had no sense of their own spiritual need. They were there as critics for the purpose of finding fault with Jesus. They had no concern for the paralytic man. They felt no great joy when Jesus healed him. In spite of the miracle, they left that day even more critical, ready to take their charge of blasphemy back to their comrades.

An African proverb says, "There is only one crime worse than murder on the desert, and that is to know where the water is and not tell." We who know Jesus know where the living water is. Let's tell our friends, so that they can find forgiveness.