Certainty In Uncertain Time: Luke 5:17-26 – Power to Forgive Sins

Grace For The Journey

We are making our way verse-by-verse through the Gospel of Luke.  This is what we do here at First Baptist – expository preaching, teaching through books of the Bible.  We gather together as students of His Word and, therefore, all good preaching is teaching, explaining, and applying the Word of God.  To this point in Luke’s Gospel we have been witnessing the power of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We have read of Jesus’ power over Satan and then His power over sickness, last week, for example in His healing a man with leprosy.  Jesus has demonstrated His power over Satan and His power over sickness.  And now we read about His power over sin.  We read an incident where Jesus demonstrates His authority and power to forgive sins. This is a great story.  Story, not in a fictional sense as though it did not happen, but story in the sense of Luke’s giving us a narrative of a true event that occurred early on in Jesus’ ministry.  This paralyzed man is let down through the roof of a house in order to get to Jesus.  This paralytic literally, as we often say about this passage, he “brings the house down!”  What is the main point of this passage?  When preparing to teach a passage from the Bible we must read it through several times asking ourselves, “What is the main point of this passage?”  Every biblical text has one main point or one main theme that runs like a strong thread, holding all the fabric of the verses together.  In this passage, as we have already noted, the main point is that Jesus has authority or power to forgive sins.

Now this truth may not really grab us at first.  I mean, if you sinned against me, let’s say you hit me for no reason and I said to you, “Hey, it’s okay.  I forgive you for what you did to me.  I forgive your sin.”  Well, that’s noble and good and even non-Christians and atheists could appreciate that.  If, however, you sinned against someone else, you hit another person.  And then I say to you, “I forgive you for what you did to him,” now that is different, isn’t it?  It is one thing for me to forgive something you did to me, it is another thing for me to insinuate myself into you and another person’s business and say, “I forgive your sins.”  You would be like, “Who are you to forgive sins?!”  And that is precisely what is going on in this passage.  Jesus demonstrates His power to forgive sins, the sins of others against others, the sins of others against God.   The Pharisees in this passage are beside themselves.  They are like, “Jesus, who are You to forgive sins?!”

Verse 17 says, “Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.”  That is really better translated, “to heal,” rather than “to heal them.”  It almost sounds like the power of Jesus is present to heal the Pharisees and teachers of the law.  Now they could use some healing, but the point is that Jesus has power present to heal, to heal the sick.

Speaking of the Pharisees, this is the first time we read about them in the Gospel of Luke.  Most of us are familiar with the Pharisees.  They were the most influential among the “big three” groups or sects of Jews in Jesus’ day – the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes.  The Pharisees were very legalistic, and we see that from the get go, they are after Jesus because Jesus is challenging their authority and power, and challenging their teaching.  The Pharisees are forming a sort of, “Let’s Get Jesus Committee.”  If they had Facebook back then. the Pharisees would have had their own page and you could become a fan of the “Let’s Get Jesus Committee.”  They are going to be after Jesus, trying to catch Him in some kind of trap, so they can get their power back. 

Verses 18-19 tell us, “Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him.  And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus.”   We do not know who these guys are, but I would love to have them as members of First Baptist.  Such initiative!  Mark tells us in his Gospel that there were four of these guys.  They had walked to the paralytic’s house and they put him on this bed and carried him on the bed to Jesus.  I do not know how far they walked, but when they finally get to the house where Jesus is, there is a crowd around the door and they cannot get in so one of them says, “Hey, let’s take him down through the roof.”  I do not know how they got up there, Luke did not feel it was important to tell us, but somehow these guys got on the roof and then they removed a tile from the roof and lowered the guy down to Jesus.  Talk about a sermon interruption!  Pieces of tile falling to the ground, a cloud of dust forming in the air, people looking up to the ceiling, these four guys’ mugs looking down through the hole.

We have to note, if only in passing, the lengths to which these men go in bringing a needy soul to Jesus.  If most of us worked only half as hard as these guys did in bringing people to Jesus, we would have baptisms every Sunday till Christ returns.   Such evangelistic and missional zeal!  May God help us to be as enthusiastic about getting our loved ones to Jesus.

The Bible says that Jesus looks up and sees their faith.  He sees their faith, the faith of all of these men, the four guys and the guy on the bed and what does He say?  Verse 20 says, “When He saw their faith, He said to him, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.’”  I want you to notice something here.  Why did the four men bring the paralytic to Jesus?  They brought him, of course, so he would be healed of his paralysis.  He had a physical need.  Does Jesus address the man’s physical need?  Not immediately.  He addresses the man’s spiritual need first.  He says, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  Why?  Because . . .

As we have been noting in our

Study the past couple weeks,

Our greatest need is not

Physical, but spiritual.

Let’s pause right here and note three important truths about every one’s life . . .Number one, we must . . .

I.  Never Forget What Our Greatest Need Is.

Our greatest need is

Forgiveness from sin.

That is our greatest need.  More than anything else we need we need to be forgiven of our sins.  Never forget that.  This is my greatest need, your greatest need, the greatest need of your loved ones, your family, your friends, your co-workers, your leaders, and the greatest need among the 6,000 unreached people groups, 1/3 of the earth’s population.  Our greatest need is not housing, education, clothing, or even food or water.  Our greatest need is forgiveness.

Many of us are familiar with the Christmas card or the frequently forwarded email that describes our greatest need.  Have you heard this?

  • If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator;
  • If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist;
  • If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist;
  • If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer;
  • But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.

Never forget what our greatest need is: Our greatest need is forgiveness.  Jesus will go on to address the paralytic’s physical need, but not before addressing first his spiritual need.  The man needed forgiveness from sin.

This is here for our learning.  What a tragedy if we prayed only for people’s physical need without giving thought to their spiritual need.  What good is it to pray for physical healing for someone if we never inquire as to their spiritual condition, of their need for salvation?  Admittedly, our first reaction when we hear someone is sick or in the hospital is to what?  It is to pray for their physical well-being, for their healing.  But is that person saved?  Is that person’s soul healed?  They will get physically sick again.  They will!  We all will. 

We are physically dying on the outside

Because of a sin nature on the inside.

The next time we ask for prayer for someone sick and in the hospital, let’s be sure to ask how we can pray for their spiritual wellbeing too.  Are they saved?  Have they been forgiven?   Are they growing in their faith? 

Never forget what is our greatest need. 

The second thing we note is . . .

II.  Never Forget The One Who Meets That Need.

These physical healings of Jesus are not ends in themselves, but each healing is a means to a far greater end.  These physical healings are like road signs pointing to a far greater destination. 

It would be tragic to get all excited

About the sign and miss the thing

To which it was pointing. 

The sign points to the only

One who can meet our greatest need. 

The healings point to the Savior –

The only Savior – Who alone

Meets our need for forgiveness.

This healing brings out the unique character and nature of Jesus Christ, Son of God.  You get it immediately after Jesus says to the paralytic, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  Verse 21 says, “And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’”

The Pharisees have a point here.  We will concede a point of the “Let’s Get Jesus Committee.”    The point is . . .

Only God can forgive sins.

The Bible says in Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake.”  Only God can forgive sins.

So, Jesus comes along and says to this paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven you.”  So, the Pharisees accuse Jesus of blasphemy.  Blasphemy is irreverence to God, a sin punishable by death.  Now do not miss this . . .

When Jesus said to the paralytic,

“Your sins are forgiven you,”

Jesus placed Himself on

Equal footing with

God the Father.  Why? 

Because He is on equal

Footing as God the Son.

Someone says, “Well, Jesus never said anything or did anything to show He is God.”  What is this?  In case we miss it, He fleshes it out even more clearly in what follows.

We find out now that these Pharisees are reasoning these things in their hearts, they are murmuring these things on the inside and Jesus knows their hearts.  Look at what He says in verse 22, “But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, ‘Why are you reasoning in your hearts?’”  I do not want to press beyond what is appropriate, but Jesus knows what they are thinking!  It illustrates to some degree what John was talking about in John 2:25 when he wrote that Jesus “knew what was in man.”  Or, as the psalmist wrote of God in Psalm 139:4, “There is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.”  Jesus says to the Pharisees, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts?”  In other words, “Why are you thinking I am guilty of blasphemy?  Don’t you know that I am about my Father’s business here?  Don’t you now that I have the authority and power to forgive sins?”  So Jesus asks this question in verse 23, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk?’

Well, on the one hand, it is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven.”  No one can see a person’s sins being forgiven on the inside of a person.  It would be practically impossible to verify that it had happened.  A person could just say that, but it is also easy to say to a paralytic, “Rise up and walk.”  That is also easy to say, but in this case, it could be verified immediately because the paralytic is in a position to verify it.  If the paralytic is physically healed he will get up and walk.  And the mastery of what Jesus is doing here is that He is teaching the Pharisees that He has the authority and power to heal both the man’s physical sickness and his spiritual sickness. 

So, Jesus makes this statement in verse 24, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” – He said to the man who was paralyzed, ‘I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’”  In essence, Jesus says, “I am going to show you that I have authority to heal this man on the inside by doing a work that you will see on the outside.”  Jesus says, “You cannot verify what I am doing on the inside so, ‘that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’—inside work—He said to the man who was paralyzed, ‘Arise, take up your bed.”—outside work.  So, Jesus heals the man on the outside to show that He had healed the man on the inside. 

Verses 25 and 26 declare, “Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.  And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today!’”  This is the understatement of the day!  “We have seen strange things today.”  The Greek word translated “strange things” is “paradoxa,” from which we get our English “paradox,” which means “an unexplained phenomenon.”  Never forget what is our greatest need.  Never forget the One who meets that need. 

Number three . . .

III.  Never Forget The Wonder Of Having That Need Met.

“The crowd was all amazed, but not the Pharisees, they were not amazed, at all.  You would think this would make a believer out of them, but they are just going to grow colder and colder as the following verses and chapters will demonstrate.  But there was joy and wonder among everyone else about how Jesus had met this man’s spiritual and physical need.  Imagine as soon as this paralytic gets up what everyone is thinking.   There is a gasp in the room as he just gets up. 

The man was paralyzed,


The crowd is paralyzed!

The guys on the roof looking down through the hole are like, “We won’t have to carry him home!”  Everyone in the house just marvels, watching this paralytic who had been brought to the house on a bed, now walking out of the place as he carries the bed.

Verse 26 says He, “departed to his own house, glorifying God.”  Can you see him walking down the street to his own house?  Surely others had seen him being carried earlier by the four men.  Here he is now with bed under arm, skipping, jumping, and praising God. 

He is glorifying God,

Praising the God who

Had met his needs and

Met them in order

Of importance:

First spiritual,

Then physical.

He is a changed man.  If married, he comes home to his wife as a changed husband.  If he has kids, he comes home to his children as a changed father.

Christian . . .

Never get over the wonder of having

Your spiritual need met in Christ.

Do you hear what Jesus is saying to this paralytic?  He says, “Man your sins are forgiven you.”  Not, “Your sins may be forgiven” or, “might be forgiven, but are forgiven.”  Nor does Jesus say merely, “Your sins have been forgiven,” as though forgiveness extended only to the man’s past.  No, Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven you,” which emphasizes the continual and abiding state of forgiveness.  The Christian’s sins are forgiven in Christ, completely forgiven.

Imagine a convicted felon standing before a judge and the judge says, “You are forgiven for this crime you have committed – and oh, by the way – you are also forgiven for all future crime you will commit!”  How scandalous!  How paradoxical!  How strange!  How gracious, how merciful, how loving!  When you know this truth – that all of your sins “are forgiven you,” then you will depart to your own house glorifying God.  When you experience the wonder of having your greatest need met and you know that all of your sins “are forgiven you,” then you will be “amazed” and will be “filled with fear” and will “glorify God.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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