Luke 5:17-26. Part 2 – Who is this who claims to forgive sins?

Here in this article I will continue to explore the lessons that the Scripture teaches us from Luke 5:17-26, the story of the healing of the paralytic. In the previous post from November 30, we looked at the nature of faith and forgiveness, and in this post will examine the Person of Jesus as the object of faith and find out more about His identity.


            As the story opens, Jesus is teaching to a big crowd inside His house when four men try to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus, presumably for healing him of his paralysis. Since they are unable to get to Jesus through the crowd in the house, they go up on the roof and lower the bed-ridden paralytic down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus forgives the sins of the paralyzed man. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who seem to always be there to give Jesus a hard time, complain that Jesus is wrong to claim to forgive sins, since only God can do that. Jesus then miraculously heals the paralytic, proving that He is, in fact, God and, as God, has authority to forgive sins. The crowds are duly amazed.


            The four men and their paralyzed friend had placed their faith in Jesus, believing He had the power to heal their friend. But faith is only as good as faith’s object. The sincerest trust will not make a false hope true. Jesus was the object of their faith, but was He worthy of that faith and that trust? What a horrible deception it would be to believe that you had been forgiven of your sins, only to find out that you had trusted in a lie!

            So, when Jesus claims to forgive sins, in a sense it is right for the scribes and the Pharisees to challenge His claims. Here was a mere Man claiming to do what only God could do. By the way, it is important to note that there was no debate among the Jews about the statement that God alone could forgive sins. The Pharisees, the scribes, the Sadducees, the common people, and Jesus all agreed that only God can forgive sins. The protest from the Pharisees and the scribes was not a protest based on theology (“who can forgive sins?”), but was a protest based on identity (“who is this who claims to forgive sins?”). If Jesus was a mere man, then the Pharisees’ charge of blasphemy was sustained, Jesus’ pronouncement of forgiveness was void, and the men’s faith in Jesus was useless. If, however, Jesus proved to be God in human flesh, the Pharisees’ charge of blasphemy collapsed, Jesus’ forgiveness was certain, and the men’s faith had reached its fulfillment. So, the issue is the identity of the Man who claims to forgive sins. Is He mere man, or is He God?


            What is the correct identity of Jesus? This is the entire point of this story in the gospel record. While in this story Jesus performs a miracle of healing, the miracle is not the focus of the story. Jesus is recorded as performing many healing miracles throughout the gospels, so this miracle is anything but unique, and this healing is relatively insignificant in itself, but is immensely significant in what it reveals. Who is this Man who claims to forgive sins? Is He, in fact, God in human flesh and, therefore, the worthy object of my faith, or is He a mere pretender, a blasphemer making grand, false claims?


            Jesus settles the issue as conclusively as it can be settled. As only God can do, Jesus perceives the thoughts of the Pharisees (5:22) and then brings the critical question out into the light by asking, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’ (Luke 5:23)?”

This question is not intended to be limited to its literal meaning but is to be understood by what it is really asking. Jesus is saying this to the Pharisees: “You are correct in saying that God alone can forgive sins. And you are correct to challenge My claim to forgive, since there is no visible evidence that any forgiveness has taken place due to My pronouncement. So, it is ‘easier’ to tell someone, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ because it cannot be readily disproven. But to command a paralyzed person, ‘Rise and walk,’ with only the sound of My voice is also something that God alone can do. A mere man has no authority to grant movement to the paralyzed. And, unlike forgiveness, if someone were to command a paralyzed person to rise and walk, there would be unmistakable evidence whether that command came with divine authority or not. So, if someone were able to command a paralytic to rise and walk, and the paralytic rose and walked, then that “someone” would have done something only God can do, and that Person would, therefore, have to be God.” Now back to the Scripture: “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – He said to the man who was paralyzed – “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home (Luke 5:24).” And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God (5:25).

Jesus had given clear evidence that He had the authority to do what only God can do. The conclusion that must be reached is that Jesus is God. His identity has been unmistakably established. And since Jesus is God, He has authority to forgive sins.

AND SO . . .

            This story has conclusively established the identity of Jesus: Jesus is God. Certainly, there are many convincing proofs (Acts 1:3) throughout the Scriptures that attest to the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, but here the point of the story is to establish Jesus’ identity.

            Jesus has authority to forgive sins. This is a consequence of the fact that He is God. Since God alone forgives sins, and Jesus is God, Jesus can forgive my sins. Hallelujah!

            Jesus is worthy to be the object of our faith. We can confidently place our faith in Jesus and trust Him for our forgiveness and salvation and eternal life, because He has proven Himself to be trustworthy. SDG                 rmb                 12/03/2020

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