The Book of Luke, The Forgiveness and Healing of the Paralytic Man, Part I - Lesson 58
In our last lesson we were witness to the acts of four faithful friends of a man who was confined by his infirmities to a stretcher.
He was unable to do for himself but by the grace of God he had others who were willing to do for him what he could not do for himself.
When you think of his condition, we are all in his condition in one way or another for no man can function without the help of others.
It is said that no man is an island.
These men could help their friend up to a point but they could not heal him of his crippling disease.
But they knew of someone who could help.
And they refused to let circumstances prevent them from getting their friend to the only real help there was, and that help was from the Lord Jesus Christ.
They took unprecedented action in spite of a multitude of obstacles that would have stopped most in their tracks.
But as we see in Luke 5:20-24 their faith and the paralyzed man’s faith was rewarded for Jesus told the man that his sins were forgiven.
Luke 5:20-24, And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. 21And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? 22But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? 23Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? 24But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.
These words of Jesus were the words that awaited the faith of these men.
The religious leaders of Israel, nor the crowds of people that witnessed this event, did not stop these men from doing right by their friend.
For they were focused on their friend and not on themselves!
The Pharisees and scribes were focused on their mission and couldn’t care less about this intruder from above as they dusted themselves of the debris that resulted from this man’s lowering to Jesus.
Even in that there is instruction for each one of us if he is to be healed must lower himself to Jesus.
Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God.
And Jesus saw faith in this humbling and there is nothing that pleases God more than faith in action.
There is no account given of a specific request by the man or his friends for healing but Jesus knew immediately what was needed.
Jesus did not act on the physical need as a reaction to their faith but he acted on the spiritual need first.
It was obvious the man had physical needs that only Jesus could meet.
All three gospels report virtually the same response on the part of our Lord:
Luke 5:20, And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.
This was, I think, a distressing response to all those who were involved in this incident: the victim, the four stretcher-bearers, and the Pharisees and teachers of the law.
I suppose the paralytic man must have been distressed at the words of Jesus for he had not come primarily to be forgiven, but to be healed.
He wanted to walk, he wanted no more of his pallet!
He had risked all of the perils of his journey, and especially those related to his being lowered from the roof.
Being told that his sins were forgiven must have distressed this man who had come to be healed.
After all, isn’t this what his four friends had assured him would happen?
And the four men must have responded in a similar way.
They had brought him a considerable distance and fought their way through the crowds.
They had gone to the trouble of getting him down through the roof.
The owner of the house would probably be sending them a bill for the repairs to the roof.
They had not asked for a healing, but surely the Lord could have performed it instead of just saying thy sins be forgiven thee.
They had let down the man to Jesus for healing but upon hearing Jesus first words they must have felt “let down”.
No doubt there was murmuring in the background amongst the Pharisees and teachers as they began to reason.
They seemed to care little whether or not the man was healed, but they were angered by Jesus having the impudence to pronounce a man’s sins forgiven.
Forgiveness of sins is something which only God can do, they reasoned, and rightly so.
To tell a man his sins were forgiven was also to claim to be God.
“Just who does this fellow think he is?” went through their minds.
The question of authority raises its ugly head, for this is the bone of contention between these teachers and Jesus.
Jesus, so the crowds thought, taught with authority, and not like the Pharisees and scribes.
Now Jesus Himself is claiming God’s authority.
They are indeed overflowing with “righteous” indignation.
Luke 5:21, And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?
You will find as you study scripture this conclusion over and over again about Jesus but the conclusion did not bring the Pharisees and scribes to believe that Jesus was God.
So the response of Jesus raised all kinds of questions.
22But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?
Apparently the reasoning was not expressed outwardly but we are told that Jesus knew their hearts and knew what was going on in their hearts.
He knew that there was no interest in the man but only an interest in preserving their place and power in Israel.
There was more interest in their ministry than who they were supposed to minister to.
But Jesus first action was to forgive sins in spite of the obvious need of healing this paralyzed man.
So it raises the question, “How could Jesus offer the man forgiveness of sins when what he really wanted was physical wholeness?”
The answer to this is simple, I believe.
Jesus, by His actions, was teaching that the forgiveness of sins is more important, more valuable, than mere physical healing.
If one had to choose between one or the other, forgiveness of sins is of much greater value than physical recovery.
Try selling that to folks going into the hospital.
Try selling that idea to folks who are flat on their backs for years and years, seemingly without end.
But God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.
The sinner majors on the physical but God majors on the spiritual.
Forgiveness of sins is eternal but physical recovery is only temporal.
This body may be healed but only to be sick again.
God did not intend for us to live in this body in eternity.
The second question the Pharisees raised was, “How can Jesus dare to forgive a man’s sins when only God can do so?”
The answer to this question is, by far, the most simple: Jesus can forgive a man’s sins because He is God.
Logic had carried the Pharisees and teachers of the law to the deity of Christ as surely as the four had carried the paralytic to Jesus.
But they would have none of what logic demanded.
Jesus had all along intended to heal the paralytic, but this healing was to be a teaching tool, not just a miracle.
The paralytic’s desire was about to be fulfilled, but now his healing would prove that our Lord did have the power to forgive sins.
Our Lord asked a simple question:
Luke 5:23, Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?
To us it is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” than it is to say, “Rise up and walk.”
The reason is because there is no visible proof that sins have been forgiven.
Any man can make such a statement without having to prove he has done it.
But to command a paralyzed man to walk is something a mere man cannot do.
The proof of your power is very visible by a paralyzed man walking or the lack of power is as easily visible when he does not walk.
To command a paralyzed man to walk requires him to do so.
Thus, Jesus has set up this circumstance to show that He has both the power to forgive sins and to make the paralyzed to walk.
So in this miracle he showed his power in two areas, one spiritual and one physical.
With this, our Lord commanded the former paralyzed man to get up, to pick up his pallet, and to go home.
And he did so immediately.
He did not leave the way he came, via the hole in the roof but I imagine that when he left the crowd parted for him as though he were royalty.
Imagine it. The pallet which had seconds before borne his immobile body from home, he now carried home under his arm.
What a wonderful burden this must have been and he may have asked himself why he was carrying it home now that he had no need for it.
He and his loyal friends no doubt left the house, glorifying God, and perhaps some of the rest the crowd did so too with the exception of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.
They are still stewing about the supposed “blasphemy” that they heard from the mouth of Jesus Christ.
Some folks don’t know a blessing when it smacks them in the face.
I would take it that the crowd which praised God was largely that group which waited and watched from outside.
They may well not have heard our Lord’s pronouncement of forgiveness of the paralyzed man’s sins.
They would have watched his friends attempt to get him into the house, then onto the house, and then through the roof to Jesus.
They would then have seen him come out of the house some time later, with his pallet under his arm.
How they must have rejoiced.
At the least they rejoiced because they had witnessed a miracle and their curiosity was satisfied.
We are not told how the Pharisees and teachers of the law responded.
No doubt they were sullen and silent.
No doubt, too, they met soon to discuss how they would handle Jesus, His teaching, and His miracles.