Luke 5:17-26 ESV
Has anyone ever used the phrase ‘like a deer in headlights’? Florida doesn’t have many deer these days, but we do have squirrels. I often get frustrated at a squirrel who upon crossing the road becomes confused and, being caught between two minds, finds itself in a state of temporary paralysis. I slow down to give the little guy a moment to regain composure and get off the road and have occasionally had to stop for the ones that are at a loss of what to do. For the squirrel, it seems that the sudden fright of an oncoming car renders it unable to make a rational or instinctual decision. For the deer, the headlights of the car mesmerize it resulting in a temporary paralysis. This can happen to humans too. If you are the one driving the car toward the deer or squirrel, you have a decision to make in regard to that animal’s life. Do you slow down or stop to avoid killing it or just keep driving hoping it gets out of the way?
These events and situations only show a small portion of what permanent paralysis would be like. It is a life that is marked by total dependence on others. It is to be conscious inside the body, but not able to control it or feel the world with it’s senses. In the case of paralysis, one could be born with a congenital disease, like cerebral palsy, or one could sustain an injury to the spinal cord resulting in the fullest form of paralysis, quadriplegia or sometimes called tetraplegia. Each form of paralysis has its own unique symptoms and challenges. We have come a long way, through scientific research and development, in helping those with certain forms of paralysis to live life more fully. And, there are treatments and therapies that have proved beneficial to help those with either congenital or injury-based paralysis to manage their symptoms. But even with our current scientific understanding, they cannot be cured. That is one reason why the passage we are about to read is so amazing.
Luke 5:17-26 ESV
“On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. 18 And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. 20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 24 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.” 25 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. 26 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.””
Chronology & Parallel Passages:
The parallel passages are Matthew 9:1-8 and Mark 2:1-12. In all 3 gospel accounts, this event occurs in between the healing of the leper and the call of Levi (Matthew). Matthew records the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law and a few other miracles performed by Jesus directly before this account. The continuation of miracles being performed by Jesus was adding to His popularity in the region and this extended into Jerusalem. His ministry was being reported widely and was marked by ever-increasing evidence to His power and authority over creation by the miracles He was performing.
Luke 5:17 “On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal.
- Mark 2:1 “And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.”
- Capernaum came to be considered Jesus’ home.
- Matthew also reports that Matt 9:1 “And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.“
- Reports were spreading far and wide in the region about Jesus’ teaching and miracles like casting out demons, healing the sick, causing a large catch of fish, and cleansing a man from leprosy. He was also gaining a larger discipleship of those who were following Him. Because of all this, the Pharisees and teachers came from all over. Why?
- The Pharisees were a sect of Judaism, possibly beginning with Ezra, that were devoted to the exact observance of the laws given to Moses. Flowing out of a desire to correctly follow the law and apply it to their lives, the Pharisees became very legalistic. By the time Jesus began His earthly ministry, they imposed on the people their own traditions in the form of an ‘Oral Torah’ called the Mishnah, containing various laws statutes and legal interpretations that were not recorded in the first five books of the Bible. They were produced through biblical understanding of the ancient sages and recorded in a collection of writings or commentaries on the Mosaic law making up part of the Talmud. The Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud were the centerpiece of Jewish cultural life and foundational to anyone who wished to be a teacher or rabbi.
- We can now better understand that the Pharisees and teachers came to Capernaum because they wanted to make sure that Jesus was teaching everything correctly.
- The power of the Lord was with Him to heal.
- This is interesting because does it mean that there are times when Jesus doesn’t have the power to heal?
- When Jesus was in His hometown of Nazareth He was rejected by the people and we read that, Matthew 13:58 “And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.” It is not that Jesus doesn’t have power, but there was no belief for it to be realized.
- From Hebrews 11, we can gather that faith is confidence in one’s beliefs and actions as outlined and realized in Scripture and founded upon God’s divine will in Christ Jesus.
- Therefore, I read this as that there was belief from some present for Jesus’ power to be realized. There was faith for these mighty works to be demonstrated according to His good will. As we move to the next portion of this passage, I ask the question, was faith demonstrated?
Luke 5:18-20 “And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. 20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”
- The faith and perseverance of the men who brought the paralytic to Jesus on a mat was evident and visible.
- There were so many people blocking the way to Jesus, that they had to take drastic measures. Some may have even considered their act inconsiderate given that Jesus was in the middle of teaching.
- Through the men’s faith, Jesus declared the paralytic’s sins forgiven.
- Is that why the men brought the paralyzed man to Jesus, for forgiveness of sins or for healing from the paralysis?
- It may seem uncompassionate for Jesus to initially forgive sins and leave the man paralyzed. However, even if Jesus didn’t heal the man physically, we know that this life is a mist compared to eternity and that being physically paralyzed for one life is nothing compared to eternal separation from God. But that’s not the end of the story, Jesus knew all those who were present that day and had another lesson to teach.
Luke 5:21-23 “And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?”
- Who can forgive sins but God alone? They were right in saying this, but they had no idea who they were talking to. The Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah 43:25 “I, I am he
who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins.” The Pharisees would have known this verse and its implications.
- Mark 2:6-7 “Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?””
- Jesus perceived their thoughts.
- He was going out of His way to make known to them the error of their ways. He included them in what was happening. He cared for them, but there was something that was keeping them from seeing who He really was, maybe unbelief.
- What is visible, forgiveness of sin or to rise and walk?
- That is why it is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you’, because it cannot be seen or verified by man. No one would know if it was true or not.
Luke 5:24-26 “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.” 25 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. 26 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.””
- But that you may know…
- Jesus wanted the Pharisees to know His authority to forgive sins, but since this could not be seen, He made it abundantly evident by healing the paralytic. This is a feat that even our current medicine cannot accomplish.
- And immediately he rose up.
- The closest I have ever come to being physically paralyzed is when I was playing soccer and got hit in the solar plexus with a ball. The first time I had the wind knocked out of me, I was terrified, gasping for air, stuck in a crouched position, not able to move, it was a very scary situation in the moment. It was not a quick recovery either, it took a few to regain my composure. I’ll talk about another way I was paralyzed in a moment.
- Back to the passage, the healing was immediate, like Peter’s mother-in-law and the leper.
- As the man rose and took his bed, he glorified God, along with everyone there.
- Amazement seized them all.
- What a miracle. This was beyond comprehension for them and still is for us, proving that it could only be from God, who has authority over all creation.
- The Pharisees may have had a hard time arguing against the forgiveness of sins, but they could say nothing about the miracle performed in the paralytic’s body.
- Even though the Pharisees and teachers thought in their hearts that Jesus was blaspheming, they did not pursue this thinking any further after witnessing the miracle. Did they remain spiritually paralyzed to Jesus’ teaching?
- Spiritually Paralyzed
- The 2 aspects of being paralyzed spiritually that we will discuss are:
- being unable to act properly and,
- being unable to feel properly and,
- yes, they are interconnected.
- When we become a deer in the headlights, spiritually, we are unable to act properly. This is representative of being trapped in all the happenings and distractions of the world, being unable to react to oncoming traffic and impending collision. We seem unable to act in a way that is congruent to our natural instincts that comes from the Lord, which is to Love God and Love others. Instead, we become more worried about ourselves, what’s happening to us and our stuff.
- When the worries of the world oppress our hearts, we become unable to feel properly. It can affect our minds to the degree that we obsess over the worries and they crowd out the teachings we have received from the Holy Spirit. We become paralyzed in sensation to the conviction of sin. That is a scary place to be, to not feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
- I grew up relatively poor and as a minority, Native American, in an area that had many migrant workers. I came to be angry at the way I was being treated, and the way Native Americans were treated, historically. I became entitled to things that were not mine. When I was young, like grades 5-7, I found out that I could steal really easily. I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway because it was a rush and a way for me to act on my entitlement, plus I was good at it, and I had some friends to do it with. What started as a candy bar turned into CD’s and movies and more expensive items. After one of my friends got caught, at a time I wasn’t with them, the Lord helped me to realize that I could have put my future in jeopardy and that what I was doing was wrong. This changed me. I stopped stealing and hanging out with that group of friends. But that part of me that knew stealing was wrong got paralyzed to the pain. I couldn’t feel properly anymore. The initial healing was immediate, but this was a process of healing. It took some time for me to regain the correct way to feel and act in regard to stealing. However, The sense of anger and entitlement lingered.
- We are all spiritually paralyzed in some way and when the Holy Spirit reveals this to us, we must make a choice. Do we confess our sins, repent, and rely on God for healing, or do we remain paralyzed?
- The 2 aspects of being paralyzed spiritually that we will discuss are:
- Total Dependence
- The paralytic went from a physical life of total dependence on his friends to a spiritual life of total dependence on Jesus.
- Before receiving the spiritual life found in Christ, we were worse than paralyzed, we were dead. Ephesians 2:1-10 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
- Being in Christ doesn’t mean you are going live perfectly; but it does mean that you are constantly opening your life to Him as Lord and Savior to illuminate your sin to confess and repent. There may be some of you today who are battling desires of the flesh or old habits. You may be partially paralyzed to the way you act. Or you may be paralyzed to the pain that sin causes to you and to those around you. It may seem like there is too much in the way to be able to come closer to Jesus. Find some friends to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This can be as easy as staying in community with other believers. Cry out to the Lord and He will hear you!
- Many of the men and women in this church have helped me to heal from the pain of anger and entitlement without even knowing it. You have helped me by following Jesus’ example. Just recently, within the last couple months, the Lord revealed to me how my sense of entitlement was affecting my walk with Him. In the previous passage in Ephesians, I was reminded that grace is not ours, we don’t own it, grace is only God’s to give- like forgiveness and salvation. This has increased my understanding of faith.
- We know that Abraham was the father of our faith and that Jesus is the Author and Perfector of our faith. Here is the question, is faith invisible? We cannot express the faith that is found in Christ apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. We put our faith in Jesus as the only One who is faithful and become expressions of His love and good will. And as believers in Christ, we belong to Him and are servants to the faith He authored and must obey it in spirit and in truth as fully expressed in His life and teachings. Using the form of the question that Jesus posed to the Pharisees, I ask this morning, what is easier to do, to say ‘I have faith in God’, or live in a way that honors God? The men could have easily said that they have faith that Jesus can heal their paralytic friend and then chosen to not take him. But they did! To further clarify the visibility of faith, listen to what Jesus’ half-brother James says. We know that Jesus also appeared to James after His resurrection as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:7. James 2:14-17 “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
- We see that true faith is visible because that is what faith does, faith works! Is our faith in Jesus a personal sentiment of belief, or the adequate response to knowing the Most High God, the Alpha and Omega, Creator of the universe, or both? Your faith may not be dead this morning, but if the Holy Spirit is revealing in you some form of spiritual paralysis, look to Jesus Christ, and ask for forgiveness. He is faithful and He will do it.
- We need friends to help us. The friends of the paralyzed man proved their faith by caring for him, knowing that he was fully dependent on them, and brought him to Jesus at all costs. Why? Because they know Jesus has the power to heal and we know He has the power to forgive sins.
- Be a Friend
- A good friend first realizes their own shortcomings by clinging to a personal relationship with God and by searching desperately for the source of life and healing found in Jesus. When they find it, they help those that they care for.
- We are friends of Jesus by bringing Him to all those who are lost, hurting, and paralyzed in their faith and then we put our total dependence upon Him, Christ alone, for all healing and forgiveness.
- For those who are lost in their faith, be a friend and help meet the person’s need, both physical and spiritual. Live out your faith while glorifying God in all circumstances and look for a moment to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- For those who are hurting in their faith, be a friend by offering support, both physically and spiritually. Encourage and lift up the other members of the Body. This could include a time of prayer, fellowship, discipleship, or Christian counseling to help the healing process. Jerry Hurt helps to facilitate a great program called Overcomers.
- For those that are paralyzed in their faith, be a friend by living to the standard that Jesus gave us and obey His commands. As iron sharpens iron, one man or woman will sharpen another. The Word of God is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man or woman of God may be complete, not lacking in anything. We must be hearers of the Word, speakers of the Word, thinkers of the Word, and doers of the Word. If we lack in any one area, it is all affected. Just like the Body of Christ, if one member is paralyzed, the entire Body will not function properly. Stand firm in the faith.
- It took a plurality of men who were friends of the paralytic to take him up on the roof and lower him down. These friends worked together for the healing of one man. And they demonstrated their faith to the Only Person who had the power to both heal him and forgive his sins. Let’s work together to honor God and demonstrate our faith in Him.
- John 15:12-17 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”