After my series on the parables, I found I was drawn to look into the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. I have never studies the mighty works of Jesus as a focused effort before and am looking forward to finding nuggets of truth that we can be encouraged by.
I have provided a general introduction, with an opportunity to download two files for your reference in my initial post Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction. I found that the format I used for the parable posts were useful to keep me on track, and will continue to use them for this series, with some minor tweaks. With that said, let’s take a look at
Jesus Heals a Paralytic
And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he then said to the paralytic–“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he said to the paralytic– “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
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.”
I have to admit it. This is one of my favorite miracles, for it not only shows the Lord’s grace to a totally helpless soul, but also that the Lord responds to the love others have for the one needing help.
Note that at this time, per Luke’s account, Pharisees and teachers of the law were “sitting” and listening in on His teaching. When I read that they were “sitting”, I mentally replace that word with “judging”. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were listening to His teaching in order to discount Him, to test Him against a standard they had established.
This visitation of the Pharisees and teachers of the law was actually an expected occurrence, a response to the healing of the man with leprosy. You see, in the performing of the miracle of the leper, Jesus actually challenged the nation to investigate His work. (See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus #7 – Jesus Cleanses a Man With Leprosy).
The Pharisees and teachers of the law were on assignment, listening, testing, judging and waiting for a mistake, a time when this young upstart rabbi would fail, revealing His false status. They needed some way to discount this young teacher, finding some contradiction, and thus revealing His lies and deception.
Of course the Jewish leadership were in the dubious situation of determining if He truly was the Messiah, and had to have a critical mind. This it seems does not phase the Lord, for truth can easily withstand scrutiny. As a matter of fact, truth welcomes scrutiny, for the Lord did request this testing. The trouble in this scenario is that those sent to judge this new Rabbi would allow bias, pride and jealousy to color their judgement.
Not the best attitude to have when listening to the Lord when He speaks!
Questions to Consider
Who were the audience?
As the text states, the Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, possibly enjoying front row seats as it were. After all they were the important ones, were they? The house was packed, and it is safe to say the disciples were present. Beyond that, the remaining audience were locals of the city, neighbors and others who showed an interest in this new teacher. It was a packed house, with every opening clogged with people wanting to hear this new teaching.
Those who attended this teaching session were about to get blown away. Luke tells us that “amazement seized them all”. Amazed, or as Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines the term – “a throwing of the mind out of it’s normal state”. Truly, this audience were about to experience their mind being “blown away”.
When did the Lord perform this mighty work?
Where did the Lord perform this mighty work?
See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction for downloadable reference file.
Why did the Lord perform this mighty work?
As with each miracle, it is becoming apparent to myself that as a miracle was performed, it revealed the mercy the Lord upon an individual and their loved ones. I assume many who read of the miracles see this as a primary reason for each miracle. After all, we understand Jesus to be the friend of sinners, the One who consistently reached out to the helpless and downtrodden, the weak and poor. This is not at all to be discounted, for He is the One who cares for us, for each of us in our circumstances, in our weakness and in our confusion.
Yet, the Lord in His wisdom and with His mission in mind, had a much greater purpose beyond exercising His grace and mercy to a few individuals in the nation of Israel. His ministry included healing, but healing was not an end to it own. Healings were an instrument to allow those with open eyes and ears to understand Who had arrived.
Both the Lord Jesus’ words and works testified to His person. The Pharisees and teachers of the law would find plenty to consider after this miracle!
What was the message for the original audience?
As I mentioned above, this is one of my favorite miracles, and one of the reasons this is so, is because it seems it was the faith of the friends that brought about the mercy to be extended to this paralytic man. The men that brought their friend were late to the party, yet their faith would not miss this opportunity.
But these fellows destroyed a roof! Seems a bit much. Couldn’t it wait until the crowd dispersed? Couldn’t they have simply cried out to the Master until they got His attention? So many possible scenarios come to mind, but we have a recounting of this miracle that speaks of the paralytics friends desire to help their friend, and it seems these men were men of action!
Let’s take a moment to consider the roof. I have imagined it was literally pulled up by the friends in order to get to Jesus. Yet as I have researched this miracle, I found that the house the Lord was teaching in may have been in an upper room, such as we see in the famous Acts 1:13 account of Pentecost and also of Paul’s teaching in Acts 20:8. If so, typical upper rooms had flat roofs with parapets surrounding it as required per Deuteronomy 22:8. With all this background information, it is important to consider that these friends may not have went on a destruction spree, but used a “roof door”, that the owners used to access the roof when needed. The tiles of the roof may have been intended to be removed.
Nevertheless, whether the friends actually damaged the roof in order to get to Jesus, or used a common access point, where the tiles were intended to be used for access, both situations should not take away from the faith of these friends.
What I always come away from this miracle asking is, Did the paralytic have faith? Nowhere in the passage, is the paralytic specifically referred to as exercising any faith, and the Lord responded to the paralytic based on “seeing” the paralytic’s friends faith. The faith expressed in their effort to get a man who couldn’t move in front to Jesus.
Can you think of another instance in the Word, where the faith of friends or relatives impacted one who didn’t exercise faith? You may be surprised once you consider this question. I can think of at least three other miracles.
As mentioned above, I am convinced that this miracle was an offer to the Jewish leadership to consider Who He was. Without this understanding, it seems that Jesus initial statement to the paralytic of forgiven sins was “unnecessary” He had healed before without stating of the forgiveness of sins. Now, in front of a formal delegation of Pharisees and teachers of the law who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem (see Luke 5:17), Jesus throws the gauntlet down.
Immediately, the scribes and Pharisees began to question this statement. This is exactly the bait the Lord offered to the Pharisees, in order to provide “the judge and jury” a point of discussion. They were rightly thinking that only God can forgive sins, and if Jesus was merely a fallen man Himself, this would amount to blasphemy. Their logic was correct, and forced one of two conclusions.
Either this new Rabbi committed blasphemy, or the unthinkable was staring them in the face. Jesus offered them a choice of how to consider this mighty work, with an offered conclusion. Note the “that you may know” clause in the following passage
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.” – Luke 5:23-24 ESV
Obviously, to the human eye, it was easier to claim this man’s sins to be forgiven, for this was a claim that could not be refuted, since no physical evidence would be required. Of course this claim of sins forgiven, would bring about a cleaving of opinion within the nation of who this Rabbi was, with the Jewish leadership, along with most everyone else in the nation, requiring the cruel death of the Only One who truly loved them.
Yet He claimed the paralytic had received forgiveness of sins, since a physical healing, I imagine is easier for Him. You see, to heal a physical ailment did not require a direct command from the God of the Universe, but could be performed through an intermediary, such as a prophet or as we see in the New Testament, the apostles. The healing was relatively easy for the Lord, since the the forgiveness of sins required the cross.
How could One who represented God in the healing of the paralytic, also make such a bold statement of His authority to forgive sins without bringing upon himself the judgement of breaking the 9th commandment? Unless of course He truly had this authority. By tying these two conditions together, Jesus provided the judges a logical proof of His deity. And a huge problem!
No wonder they were blown away! The confusion these poor Pharisees and scribes experienced, in a very real way, was self inflicted due to their preconceived notions of Who this One was. This is the common experience of every living soul who has considered the One who came to earth, walked about in a small nation, taught the truth and died a cruel death.
The implications of this miracle were far beyond a mere physical healing!
What is the message for us today?
I suppose the message for us today would include a minimum of two applications.
First off, Jesus isn’t threatened by honest inspection or anyone asking searching questions of His personhood. He actually invited the Pharisees and scribes to inspect His ministry, and when they came to the invite, provided them copious evidence to consider.
For any to consider asking Him hard questions might offend the Master, out of some “respect” towards God seems to me to be a wee bit of an excuse to avoid the truth. If you are a truth seeker, ask the hard questions. The problem with this is that we fear we may get the evidence that causes us to make a decision.
Let’s be honest in our claim of being a truth seeker, if we do not want to accept evidence when presented. This is a contradiction that needs to be admitted to, if we claim our intent is to find the truth, and yet allow for the rejection of evidence!
Consider those friends of the paralytic that decided Jesus could (and would) cure the paralytic, how they carried him from his home, saw the problem of a choked house of listeners, climbed the outdoor stairs to the roof, risked their relationship with the owner of the house in removing the roof tile, interrupted the Lord in His teaching, and lowered this man to the Lord. The friend’s faith, which the Lord saw, was the impetus of the healing.
As a matter of fact, the paralytic is passive in all the accounts. He is simply lying of a cot, being carried by his friends or healed by the Lord. Only after the healing, does the paralytic become active in any way, in that he obeys the Lords command to pick up his bed, and go home.
What does this communicate to us today? How much of an impact do we have on our friends and family. Acts of goodness, that may include some risk, or inconvenience, or of an unorthodox effort, may be what is required.
After all, the Lord shocked an audience and challenged a religious leadership due to the the actions of a poor paralytics friends!
Such a fantastic miracle! He is good, and He is still providing proofs to those who ask. This day, as you go about your business, drop any attitude of criticism, and adopt an attitude of openness to His proofs!
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