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. 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, 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. And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”
And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 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.” And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
A novel rooftop approach: This was necessary because of the size of the crowd – a crowd made up of people from all the surrounding area. It included the Pharisees who, in the majority, objected to Jesus teaching. A different approach was necessary as this sick man’s friends had seen in Jesus healing ministry a hope for their friend’s cure and they couldn’t get to him any other way.
Many thought of illness as punishment from God because of their sinfulness. Jesus had put that notion to rest in several places – disease may be a result of our action but you can not simply say ‘this person is a sinner therefore he is ill.’ That is not the issue for him on this occasion, he is trying to make people think.
I don’t have a tape recording of Jesus thoughts about all this. He was Immanuel – God with us. He had gone around supporting his teaching with many miracles. At this point I am making a presumption. Beyond his power over evil spirits and illness, it was time to show that he had authority in relation to God issues. After-all he is God according to what we are reading. By the backdoor Jesus enters the argument of the relationship of sin and health. The guy came for physical healing, Jesus pronounced soul cleansing forgiveness.
- Was he saying that spiritual well-being is more important than physical health?
- Was he saying that this man’s health was a result of his sin?
- Was he taking the next step in revealing who he was and is?
The Pharisees seemed to assume that it was the last of these three options. They hassled with the issue ‘who can forgive sins but God?’.
When Jesus healed illness all could see it. When sins are forgiven there is no change in the colour of the skin or visible change. So Jesus uses logic to make his point. Which is easier to order forgiveness or healing? There is no way of proving forgiveness so accepting his ability to do so is a matter of faith; but it’s as if Jesus is saying ‘here is something for you doubters to consider’. He turns to the man and commands ‘Get up, pick up your bed and walk!’ The guy did and people were amazed. It was as if Jesus was saying ‘Look, I can do what I say I can. I can heal (look) and I can forgive (believe).’ The Pharisees understood that he was saying ‘I am God’.
Prayer: Help me with integrity and honesty to consider these issues. May I know to the depths of my being who Jesus is, for it seems as if eternal issues hang on the answer.