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.

THE PLOT OF THE STORY

            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 PROTEST OF THE PHARISEES

            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?

THE POINT OF THE STORY

            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?

WHICH IS EASIER?

            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

Luke 5:17-26. Part 1 – Faith and forgiveness

What is the nature of genuine faith in Jesus and who is this Man who claims to forgive sins? These are some of the questions that are addressed in the story of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic, a well-known story that appears in each of the synoptic gospels, in Matthew, in Mark, and in Luke. Over the next couple of posts, we will be looking at the account from the gospel of Luke, in Luke 5:17-26. I will be borrowing from the other gospel accounts for some of the details. This post will look at the nature of faith and forgiveness, and the next post will examine the Person of Jesus and find out more of His identity.

THE PLOT OF THE STORY

            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.

FAITH RESULTS IN FORGIVENESS        

            What principles can we learn from this story about the nature of saving faith?

            First, faith in Jesus always results in forgiveness of sins. Faith is the trigger for Christ’s forgiveness, because Jesus always perceives and responds to genuine faith. After Jesus saw their faith, He declared to the paralytic, “Man, your sins are forgiven you (5:20).” Notice that neither the paralytic nor the paralytic’s friends asked Jesus to do anything, but Jesus, “when He saw their faith,” spontaneously granted forgiveness of sins. This is always the case. Then and now, faith in Jesus always results in forgiveness of sins and salvation. If you have placed your faith in Jesus, you, too, have received forgiveness of sins.

            What does Jesus require for Him to forgive sins? Faith alone! “When He saw their faith” What “works” does He require to extend His forgiveness? None! Unlike other false religions and false teaching, there are no works required for Jesus’ forgiveness (Romans 4:2). It was the men’s faith that saved, not their effort. Just so, your faith alone saves you.

            Jesus granted unlimited forgiveness, in essence, absolute forgiveness. “When He saw their faith, He said, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’” Jesus did not say, “Your known sins and your felt sins are forgiven,” so that the man would need to return later if he felt guilty. Nor did Jesus say, “Some of your sins are forgiven, but some are not.” Rather, Jesus said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36).” When Jesus forgives sins, He forgives ALL sins forever. He does not forgive some but leave the rest unforgiven. His forgiveness is permanent and comprehensive. If Jesus has seen your faith, then you can have complete confidence that all your sins, past, present, and future, are forever forgiven.

            The proper end of all faith is salvation (Ephesians 2:8), and Jesus grants forgiveness and salvation to this man based on the man’s faith. When Jesus grants forgiveness, He is declaring that the righteous requirement of the Law (death for sin) has been fulfilled in us by means of His death on the cross (Romans 8:4). Because Christ has fulfilled the Law’s requirement on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18), our forgiveness and our salvation are two sides of the same coin. Thus, the person whom God has forgiven has also been saved.

FAITH PRODUCES ACTION

            There is another principle that we see here in this story about those who have genuine faith: Genuine faith manifests itself in faith-filled actions.

            Notice that faith precedes the “works,” or faith precedes the action. So, first, the men had faith that Jesus could heal their paralyzed friend, and then, second, they visibly demonstrated their faith in Jesus by carrying their friend all the way from where he was to where Jesus was. Their faith led to faith-filled action.

            In this story, the men’s faith-filled action was not for Jesus’ benefit, but for the benefit of the crowd that was watching. Jesus saw their faith, but the crowd needed to see the radical action that their faith produced. It is most often faith-filled action that makes genuine faith visible. Those outside of Christ cannot see or understand faith unless our faith is manifested by the actions of our lives. As James says, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works (James 2:18).”

APPLICATION

            An application of this principle that genuine faith produces action would be to ask ourselves, “Does my faith in Jesus produce faith-filled action?” In other words, if anyone were watching my life, would my actions clearly betray that I am a man or a woman of faith in the Lord Jesus? This is a challenging question for us all, but I think it is incumbent upon us to consider it. Does my faith manifest itself in my life such that an unbeliever could see it?

            Some actions that have occurred to me as evidence of faith are: prayer (Do others know you pray? Do they know to whom you pray? Do they know why you pray?), obedience to Scripture (Do you make decisions that puzzle others because you are obeying a clear teaching of the Scripture?), submission of all aspects of your life to the Lord (Does the Lord have first priority in your life?), unselfishness, humility, your speech. These are everyday ways that we can make our faith visible to others.

NEXT POST

            The next post will use this same passage to examine the Person of Jesus and find out more of His identity and why He claims to forgive sins.

SDG                 rmb                 11/30/2020

Jesus calls only sinners (Luke 5:31-32)

            In Luke chapter 5, we are at the place in the gospel account where Levi has just been called to salvation by Jesus. “Follow Me,” said Jesus, and Levi was forever changed. So, Levi throws “a great feast” and invites all his friends so they can meet this amazing Man, Jesus. Somehow some Pharisees and scribes find their way into the feast and complain to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answers them,

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:31-32

            Here in these two short verses, Jesus gives us some vital information. He tells us why He has come and for whom He has come. As we look at this passage, we want to make sure that we are among those for whom Jesus has come.

THE SETTING

            As usual in the gospels, the antagonists are the Pharisees and the scribes. Who were they? These were the strictest religious people in Israel. They were devout adherents to all the ceremonial laws and rules. They also viewed themselves as superior and looked down on “sinners” with contempt.

            At the other end of the religious spectrum were “the tax collectors and the sinners.” Tax collectors were Jewish people who were employed by the Romans to collect Roman taxes from their fellow Jews. If this wasn’t bad enough, they often overcharged and kept the extra. Tax collectors were despised by the Jews. “Sinners” were those with questionable or disreputable lifestyles. These included prostitutes or beggars or perhaps thieves. They were at the bottom of society.

            So, the Pharisees ask their question with a bit of disgust, “Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners?” To them it is unthinkable for religious men to associate with such rabble. The logic of Jesus’ answer (see above, Luke 5:31-32) is cutting and profound:

“Those who think they are healthy have no need of a physician, but if you think you have a disease, you will seek out a physician. Just as it is only those who think they are sick who seek out a doctor, so it is only those who know themselves to be sinners who call out to Jesus for salvation.”

            We need to consider this very carefully. Why has Jesus come? He tells us that He has come to call sinners to repentance. For whom has He come? He tells us that He has come for sinners. For whom has He not come? Jesus has not come for those who do not see themselves as sinners.

            Here at last is the One who had been promised and foretold from of old. Here is the one Man who can deal with sin and not merely play religious games. All religions play games with sin, pretending that feeble human effort and invented works can quench God’s holy wrath, but Jesus deals with sin and vanquishes sin. Every child of Adam produces sin, but here is the one Man in all of human history who bears sin and who forgives sin and who takes away sin. Jesus is the only one who has this authority, and here He declares that He has come to call sinners to repentance.

            Jesus is the only Savior of sinners, but He is also the Savior only of sinners. The Pharisees and the scribes had no need of Jesus because they were religiously self-righteous and certainly did not see themselves as sinners. And since they did not see themselves as sinners, Jesus had not come for them.

            So far, so good. We see that the Pharisees were in trouble because they were religiously self-righteous. Got it. As long as I am not self-righteous, then I am good, right? Well, not exactly. It is true that Jesus has not come to call those who think they are righteous. That much is certain. But there is more than one group of people Jesus has not come to call. What do I mean? I mean that, according to this passage, Jesus has come to call SINNERS to repentance. Since that is the case, it must also be true that Jesus has not come to call anyone who does not see themselves as a sinner.

            For example, let’s say that you identify yourself as “basically a good person.” You have never been to prison, and you have never killed anyone, and you try to do what you think is right most of the time. Now, you are quick to admit that you are not perfect. “After all, nobody’s perfect.” (Jesus is.) But you are basically a good person. The fact is that you have no need of Jesus, because you are not a sinner, but are basically good. More importantly, Jesus has not come for you, because He came to call sinners, not basically good people.

            Maybe you see yourself as a respectable, church-going person. You are good to your neighbor and you obey “the golden rule” and are in the church almost every time the doors are open. All things considered you are better than most. You are not perfect, and you do make mistakes, but you are not as bad as a “sinner!” Well, you have no need of Jesus, because you are not a sinner, and Jesus has not come for you, because He came to call sinners to repentance, not respectable people to being nice.

            You see the point. Jesus has come to call sinners to repentance, and He has come to call only sinners. If you do not acknowledge that you are a sinner, then you have no need of Jesus. More importantly, Jesus has not come to call you.

            Do you see yourself as a sinner? That is, do you acknowledge that you have broken God’s commandments and have sinned against Him and justly deserve His condemnation? Then Jesus has come to call you to repentance. Repent, and cry out to Him for His salvation. “For whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13).”

SDG                 rmb                 11/3/2020