Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 6:1-11 – Lord of the Sabbath

Grace For The Journey

Luke has been showing us how Jesus Christ is Lord.  He is Lord over Satan, Lord over sickness, and Lord over sin.  In today’s passage we will learn the Christ is Lord of the Sabbath.  Luke’s main concern here is Christological.  Luke wants to show Jesus Christ is Lord.  He is Lord of everything – Lord over Satan, sickness, sin, and now Sabbath. While we see that. we will also discover that this passage teaches some important principles about the Lord’s Day.Verse1: Luke writes that on a particular Sabbath Jesus went through the grain fields and His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands.  This grain was more than likely wheat or barley.  Eating from the grain field of another person, even a stranger, was permissible according to the Law of Moses.  For example, the Bible says in Deuteronomy 23:25, “When you come into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not use a sickle on your neighbor’s standing grain.”  In other words, it is okay to walk into another person’s field and eat as much as you like, but do not be driving a combine into the field and storing all your neighbor’s grain in your barns.The Pharisees do not have a problem

With what Jesus and His disciples are doing

. . .  They have a problem with when they are doing it.

Verse 2 says, “and some of the Pharisees said to them, “Why are you (plural, “you all”) doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?”

When I studied the passage this week, I found it a bit humorous that this “Let’s Get Jesus Committee” seems to appear out of nowhere.  I mean, here are the disciples enjoying some grain from the grain field, talking with one another and enjoying the day and these Pharisees appear out of nowhere.  They just pop up out of the field like groundhogs, and the question this raises is, “What are you doing here?!”

Their charge was that Jesus and the disciples were working on the Sabbath.  Their charge was that Jesus and His disciples were violating the 4th Commandment in Exodus 20:8-10, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God.  In it you shall do no work.”   Well . . . Okay.  Fair enough.  But strictly speaking are what Jesus and His disciples doing work?  Most of us know that the Pharisees and teachers of the Law added no small number of human laws and traditions to the Law of Moses.   They were doing this, they thought, for good reason, but it led to a massive web of tangled rules and restrictions that boggled the mind and burdened the man.

They come to Exodus 20, for example, reading that it is wrong to work on the Sabbath day and they wanted to know what work was, so they set out to define it.  For this commandment alone they stipulated in the Mishnah (the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism) that one could walk only five steps on the Sabbath and then he was required to pause and rest before walking another five, else he would be working.  The Mishnah also stipulated that a woman could not wear ribbons in her hair on the Sabbath because that would be equivalent to “carrying a burden.”  If a man were to drag a stick on the ground on the Sabbath, well he would be violating it, why?  Because he would be plowing.  Now I know that sounds really crazy to us, but this is where the Pharisees were.  In their zeal to protect and preserve the sanctity of the 4th Commandment, they had turned it into a laborious custom and tradition that was nearly impossible to keep.

Now, I love the response of Jesus in the next verse because Jesus does not just say, “You’re wrong,” but rather He tells them that they need to read their Bibles a little more carefully.  He directs them to the Scriptures.  You know, that ought to be our immediate and greatest concern when we are seeking answers.  What does the Bible say?

Verses 3 and 4 tell us, “But Jesus answering them said, ‘Have you not even read this (Haven’t you Pharisees been reading your Bibles?!), what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he went into the house of God (the tabernacle), took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?’”  Jesus on the importance of knowing what God’s Word teaches.  How is it that the Pharisees somehow accidentally skipped over 1 Samuel 21 and just missed that one entirely?  1 Samuel 21 records the event where David is fleeing from King Saul and he and his men are hungry and so they enter the tabernacle and eat this consecrated bread that was sometimes called “the bread of presence” because it was to appear there before the presence of the Lord for seven days and then, according to Leviticus 24, only the priests were allowed to eat that bread after the seven days.  How is it in their deep study of God’s Word that they did not know this passage?  If they had, they would know that hunger is more important to God than a strict adherence to the Law. 

Then Jesus says to them in verse 5, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”  That is, in the same way that David and his men were free from any violation of the Law, so the Son of Man – Jesus – is free from any violation of the Law.  Here we find ourselves confronted with the first major principle about the Lord’s Day.  Luke is not setting out to assert a full-blown systematic theology about observing the Lord’s Day, but there are, nevertheless some very practical principles we must know. 

First, we must know that . . .

1) Acts Of Necessity Are Greater Than Tradition.

Acts of necessity are of greater importance to God than following human tradition. Or, as someone says, “Hunger trumps custom.”  A person cannot be charged with violating the Sabbath if he does something that needs to be done.  Just as David needed to eat so Jesus and His disciples needed to eat.  Feeding a person’s immediate need for hunger constitutes an act of necessity.

Now we could spend a great deal of time here determining the things we believe to constitute “acts of necessity.”  Time does not permit us to answer this issue entirely in the time we have today.  But for the sake of simplicity, I think most of would agree that something of an emergency qualifies as an act of necessity.  For example, paramedics who are “on-call” on the Lord’s Day do not violate the 4th Commandment when their radios sound off and they’re called to respond to a medical situation.  That clearly constitutes an act of necessity.  On the other hand, the guy who works on Sunday evening because his employer tells him he will earn “time and a half” has to really think about whether or not such activity is really necessary.

We are all sensible people and we all must think through these things as informed by the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit’s enabling us to understand and rightly apply them. 

We do not come to the Scriptures looking for loopholes,

But rather we place ourselves under the authority of the Bible,

Seeking to do what God would have us do as recorded in His Word.

Acts of necessity are greater than tradition.  The second principle we must know is that:

2) Acts Of Mercy Are Also Greater Than Tradition.

This second principle derives from what happens next in the passage.  Verse 6 says, “Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He (Jesus) entered the synagogue and taught (and we pause to note that Jesus was always in the synagogue on the Lord’s day, always in the Lord’s house on the Lord’s day).  And a man was there whose right hand was withered.”  This man had some kind of paralysis or atrophy in his right hand, the hand most useful to most people.

And who is nearby again?  Who is popping up again like groundhogs popping up in the grain fields?  It is the “Let’s Get Jesus Committee.”  Verse 7 says, “So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him.”  I find that statement simply remarkable.  The scribes and Pharisees were there in God’s house watching Jesus, in order to find Him doing something wrong.  Forget about coming to God’s house to worship.  Forget about being there to glorify God and delight in being among God’s people and hearing God’s Word.   They were there to find out what was wrong.  The spirit of the Pharisees lives on today in so many churches.  Some people just seem bent on coming to a worship service to find out what is wrong with everything.  Some take out a sheet of paper to write down what God is teaching them, these people take out a sheet of paper to write down everything that is wrong.  They are today’s scribes and Pharisees.

Verse 8 and 9 say, “But He knew their thoughts (He knows our thoughts, you all!), and said to man who had the withered hand, ‘Arise and stand here.’  And he arose and stood.  Then Jesus said to them (the scribes and Pharisees), ‘I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?’”  That is a great way to put it.  Jesus is pointing out their utter lack of mercy.  In essence He asks, “What is more lawful to do, an act of mercy or to do evil and destroy life?”  Jesus teaches that to ignore this man’s need – to act mercilessly – is akin to murdering him, what the Pharisees apparently would have preferred.  The drama builds and then verse 10 tells us, “And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’  And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.”

Now you would think at this point that the scribes and Pharisees would be happy to see such a miracle occur.  Here was a man incapable of doing what Jesus had asked.  His hand is withered, atrophied, shriveled up.  Yet . . .

God enables the man to do what

The man himself is unable to do.

Much as God says to us, “Repent and believe” and we cannot repent and believe because we are lost, full of sin, and in love with the world, yet God pours out His effectual grace upon us and we find ourselves repenting and believing.  The grace of God!  You would think the Pharisees would rejoice in what has just happened, but we read in verse 11, “But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.”

Unbelievable!  Literally, they were filled with “madness” as in crazy rage madness.  But you see they had come to God’s house for the wrong reason to begin with.  The reason people today in churches all over the country will walk out of church with the wrong attitude is because they came into church with the wrong attitude.

Now, something I hope to flesh out a little more is what Jesus does not do in this passage.  Jesus does not set aside the observance of the Lord’s Day.  We error greatly if we take this passage to an unwarranted conclusion.  Jesus is not throwing out the 4th Commandment here. 

He is not calling into question

The use of the Lord’s Day,


The abuse of the Lord’s Day.

This is very important.  Jesus is not questioning the use of the Sabbath.  He is questioning the abuse of the Sabbath.  The 4th Commandment falls within the 10 Commandments of the moral Law.  God never sets it aside as something no longer binding or applying to believers today.  It has changed from Saturday to Sunday and we will deal with why and how that happened at another time.  But, for now we must understand that Jesus is not questioning the use of the Sabbath, but the abuse of the Sabbath.  While we have liberty in Christ, we still keep the 4th Commandment.  Remember where our Lord is when He is teaching here.  He is in God’s house! 

The third vital principle in this passage is . . .

3) Observing The Lord’s Day Must Be A Conviction.

We must believe in the sanctity of the Lord’s Day.  This is our greatest challenge today in our country more so than in any other area of the world and in any other time.  J. C. Ryle states the concern succinctly.  He warns: “We must take heed that we do not abuse the liberty which Christ has given us.  It is in this direction that our danger chiefly lies in modern times.  There is little risk of our committing the error of the Pharisees, and keeping the Sabbath more strictly than God intended.  The thing to be feared is the general disposition to neglect the Sabbath, and rob it of that honor which it ought to receive.”

Has that happened in our country?  How do most Americans spend their Sunday?  How do most Christians spend their Sundays?  An interesting exercise for young people today is to ask one of our senior adults how they remember spending the Lord’s Day when they were very small.  Ask them, “What did you do on the Lord’s Day?  What did you not do?  What was open?  What was not?  How did that affect you?”  Things have changed in a generation.  Someone says, “But everything’s different now.  All of our major sporting events are on Sunday.  All of our stores are open Sunday.  All of the businesses thrive on Sunday, so the theology of the Lord’s Day needs to be re-considered.”  How are we to address this?  I think Alistair Begg answers this question best when he says, “I think it’s worthy for us to consider the possibility that theology has been replaced with expediency.  In other words we make decisions on the basis of expediency, not on the basis of theology.  And when that happens, my conscience then is no longer captive to the law of God, but it is rather captive to the fluctuating fancies, ideas, and moods of the contemporary genre so that we are moved not by an abiding principle of the law of God, but we are moved by the kind of ebb and flow of the culture around us and of the immediate culture of our own contemporary evangelicalism.  So if everyone has largely given up on it and we are caught in that flow, then we say to ourselves, ‘Well, that’s exactly what we’re supposed to be doing,’ but we are being driven now by the expediency of the moment rather than the theology.  Where the sanctity of the Sabbath principle is observed simply as a matter of custom and is not the matter of conviction then it will only be a matter of time before it becomes obsolete.”

Observing the Lord’s Day must be a matter of conviction.  How does that work out in your life and in my life?  Can we create a list of accepted activities on the Lord’s Day?  Let’s remember what we’ve learned:  Acts of necessity are greater than tradition; Acts of mercy are also greater than tradition; Observing the Lord’s Day must be a conviction. 

And fourthly . . .

 4) The Point Of The Lord’s Day Is The Lord.

Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that this principle goes without saying.  It does not, because many Christians have conflicting ideas about the Lord’s Day and for that matter have almost entirely forgotten that the point and goal of the Lord’s Day is God.  The modern work week of six days of work and one day of rest is modeled after the God of creation who worked six days in creating the earth and rested on the seventh.  He did not cease from the activity of being God and sustaining His creation.  Not rest in that sense or in the sense of idleness or inactivity, but He stopped doing that which He had been doing on the six days to give us a model for our weekly lives as Moses records in Exodus 20:11, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.”

The point of the Lord’s Day for us today is not rest in the sense of inactivity and idleness, laying around all day or even taking Sunday evenings off to watch TV or play on the computer.  That is not the point of the Lord’s Day. 

It is a rest defined as . . .

“Relaxation infused with consecration.” 

It is a special day on which we refrain

From doing the things we normally do

That we might consecrate ourselves

To God and enjoy His presence more

Fully in a uniquely wonderful way!

The Sabbath is a gift from God!  This is why we need to be careful of the phrase, “Well, everyday is the Lord’s Day.”  Not exactly.  It seems that many who say that seem more concerned to make their Sunday look like Monday through Saturday, than in making their Monday through Saturday look like Sunday.  We must take care that we not make our Sunday look like Monday through Saturday.

The point of the Lord’s Day is the Lord.  We seek to be in His presence in a way that is particularly special on that day and we do so largely by refraining from what we normally do so that we may focus more clearly upon Him.  The point of the Lord’s Day is the Lord.  I leave you with this question: If the Lord had absolute priority over this day, the Lord’s Day, from sunup to sundown, what would it look like?

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.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 5:27-32 – For Sinners Only

Grace For The Journey

We are making our way, verse-by-verse, through the Book of Luke and we have been noting in recent weeks the awesome power of the Lord Jesus Christ . . .His power over Satan,

His power over the sick,

is power over sin. 

Today we pick up in Luke 5 with another example of that power over sin.  There is a guy who needs that power to be delivered from his sin and his name is Levi.  The text is just six verses long, but I would like to ask you to listen for what it teaches about the Christian faith.  Who is Christianity for and what does it require of us?

One of the blessings of regular Bible study is that we are reminded in the Scriptures of things we already know.  This is a blessing because we need to be reminded of them.   We are a forgetful people, and we need reminding.  We must resist the temptation to always look in the Bible for something “new and different.”  I read recently where someone said, “If it’s new, it’s not true; if it’s true, it’s not new.”  I like that statement!   The power of preaching does not lie in the speaker’s finding some “new twist” to a text, but in the simple, straightforward explanation and application of a text.  Most of us are not learning something new each week, but rather are having previously-learned truths reinforced.

I asked you earlier to consider “who is Christianity for” and “what does it require of us” and I will bet most of us know the correct answers.  We may say the things a little differently, but we would be roughly on the same page.  We have an opportunity this morning to remind ourselves who Christianity is for and what it requires of us.

Sometime back I read about a pastor who put a sign over the front door of the church.   It read, “For Sinners Only.”  I thought about that sign because if I had to answer the question, “Who is Christianity for?”  I think I would answer it that way.  It is for sinners only.  This text certainly teaches that.  As we study this text together we will see what is required of each and every one of us if we mean to take seriously what the Bible teaches.  Today’s passage is a call to real Christian living.  The passage really has nothing to say to folks who wish to be entertained, nor even does it have anything to say to folks who wish to hear a popular talk on feeling good about ourselves.  This passage focuses our attention upon what real Christianity looks like the way a laser beam focuses light upon a wall.

As we consider what real Christianity looks like I want to share with you some actions that are required of each and every one of us this morning.  These actions are not something we are to do only once, but actions we are to do repeatedly, and continually.  That is important for us this morning.  We must do these things continually.  Number one . . .:

I.  We Must Come To The Savior.

Now this is what we may call a “no-brainer,” right?  Of course we must come to the Savior.  What is salvation without a Savior?  What is Christianity without a Christ?  Of course, we must follow Jesus!  But . . .

Luke means for us to see

In his Gospel that coming to

Christ is not a one-time event,

But a continual action.

Jesus walks along the road and he sees Levi sitting at the tax office and says, “Follow Me” and Luke writes in verse 28 that Levi “left all, rose up, and followed Him.”  If we focus only on the fact that Levi “left all, and rose up,” we may miss the force of the phrase “and followed Him.”  Luke’s use of the imperfect tense means that the phrase may better be translated as, “and Levi began to follow Him.”  Levi began his first day of following Christ.  That is the idea here.  It was not a one-time event, but a continual action.  Coming to Christ is a continual coming.

Luke will stress this again a few chapters later.  In Chapter 9 verse 23 to 26, Luke will record the words of Jesus, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.”  Jesus says this right after telling His disciples that He Himself will suffer many things and be rejected by the religious leaders, killed, and rise the third day.  He is saying, “This is what you are getting into if you follow Me.  I am going to die on a cross, so following Me will require your ‘taking up your cross daily.’”  Daily.  Coming to the Savior is not a one-time event, but a continual action.  It requires the continual denying of ourselves, picking up the cross, and being ready in a moment’s notice to die as our Master dies.  The is Christ’s message to His followers – For whoever desires to save his life will lose it … for what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?   No, not everyone who says he is a Christian is truly a Christian because not everyone is willing to continually follow after Christ, daily denying ourselves of glory, popularity, material success, and worldly comfort.  But those who are truly His, will “leave all, rise up, and follow Him” and will continue to do so each day.

This continual coming to Christ is seen also at the end of the passage, in verse 32 where Jesus says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  The call to follow Jesus Christ is a call “to repentance.”  Do not miss this . . .

The call to discipleship

Is a clarion call to a life

Of repentance, of regularly

Turning away from our sin

And turning to our Savior.

That is our calling.

Coming to Christ is not something we do merely in our heads as though we could sit and hear the reading from the New Testament and nod our heads in agreement.  No! 

Coming to Christ requires life-change. 

It does not mean that we change

Our lives in order to be saved,

But that God changes our lives

Through the power of His Word

And this power results

In demonstrable life-change.

This happens when what we know to be true in our heads resonates with what we know to be true in our hearts and it is confirmed in how we live that truth in our lives.

We see this in Levi.  Jesus comes to Levi in verse 27 and says, “Follow Me.”  That is all Jesus says.  We do not know if Levi had heard of Christ before.  Maybe he had even talked with Christ before.  The text does not say, but what it does say is that immediately after Jesus says, “Follow Me,” Levi “left all, rose up, and followed Him.”  What causes a man to leave his entire business, worldly goods, wealth, and power, and immediately rise-up and begin a life of following Jesus?  The answer is . . .

The power of His Word. 

The Word of Christ! 

Preaching is not

About the wit

And genius and

Cleverness of the speaker. 

Preaching is about

Proclaiming the Word of Christ. 

That is where the power is.

Levi hears the Word of Christ.  The power of Christ’s Word awakened the sinner Levi and changed him so that Levi left all, got up, and began a life of following Christ.  He continued to follow Christ.  This Levi is also called Matthew in the Gospel of Matthew as well as in all four lists of disciples in the New Testament.  Most folks living then had both a Hebrew name as well as a Greek name and that is what we see here: Levi or Matthew, continual follower of Jesus Christ.

That Jesus came to Levi prepares us for the second action required of every one of us.  Not only must we continually come to the Savior but, secondly . . .

II.  We Will Have A Concern For Sinners.

Levi was a tax collector, probably better understood as “toll collector.”  These people had toll booths not too unlike a toll booth today.  He sat there, perhaps at the entrance to Capernaum, and collected a fee from people as they walked by.  You could not walk by without paying the tax.  These guys, like Levi, contracted this business with the Roman government in advance.  They would bid the work and pay maybe an annual fee up front to the Romans and then they were left to collect whatever they wanted.  They would cover their cost that they paid for the contract but then collect more, often a lot more, to make an unreasonable profit.  Tax collectors were regarded as dishonest people and were considered the scum of society.  They were looked upon as bad people whose testimony was not even accepted in a court of law.  But this is exactly the kind of person for whom Jesus died.  Jesus comes to the outcasts to tax collectors and sinners.

And to demonstrate that Levi really is a changed person who has begun a life of repentance . . .

Levi shows the same concern for others

That Christ had shown for him. 

We must show the same concern

For others that Christ has shown for us. 

This is what Levi does.  Verse 29 says that Levi gave Jesus a great feast in his own house, “And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them.”  These “others” are people to whom the Pharisees refer to as “sinners.”  We see that in the next verse.  Verse 30 says “And the scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’”

Levi shows what happens to us when God saves us.  We share what we have received with others.  We share the truth we have received with others.  Levi was obviously pretty wealthy.  He throws a big party and invites all of his tax collectors and sinner friends and sinner co-workers and sinner neighbors to come!  Why?  Because he wants them to receive what he himself has received – salvation.  J.C. Ryle said, “A converted man will not wish to go to heaven alone.”

Sharing the Gospel does not mean we have to know all the answers to all the questions.  At the heart of it . . .

Sharing the Gospel is merely

Inviting people to Christ,

Inviting them to hear and

Consider the Word of Christ.

Evangelism, as someone said, “is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”  That is what Levi does here.  He invites others to come to know Christ as he has come to know him.  He, who knew himself to be a sinner, now has a concern for other sinners.

And the church must have the same concern!  It is crucial for us to understand that the question asked by the scribes and Pharisees, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners,” was a question not put to Jesus, but put to His disciples.  Verse 30, “Their scribes and Pharisees complained against His disciples.”  Of course, the complaint includes Jesus and Jesus will answer the complaint, but do not miss that the complaint was directed to the disciples, why?  Because disciples do the same thing their teacher does.  Disciples are followers of Christ.  Disciples love the same people their Master loves.  Disciples love tax collectors and sinners.

Every church must love the same people our Master loves.  Do you?  Our Master loves all people irrespective of gender, age, social status, academic achievement, economic condition, ethnicity, or geographical location.  Luke will put it even more succinctly when he records the words of Jesus in Chapter 13, where Jesus says that lost people “will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God” (13:29).  Christ loves people from all countries, and all continents.  He loves all people in our commonwealth and in our community.

We must come to the Savior . . . We must have a concern for sinners and, thirdly . . .

III.  We Must Cast Off Our Self-Righteousness.

The scribes and Pharisees complain against Christ’s disciples and you can hear the contempt in their complaint,: “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?!”  A popular person walks into our congregation and everyone is looking over at him, smiling, welcoming, and shaking his hand.  Are you as quick to welcome the dirty, lowly, and unpopular sinner?  Or do you grimace and ask, “Why are tax collectors and sinners attracted to this place?!  Our church is a ‘respectable’ church.”  May God deliver us from “respectable” churches.

The phrase there in verse 30, “eat and drink” suggests a deeply personal activity.  In Jesus’ day, to eat and drink with someone, to share a meal with someone, was a way of demonstrating a special kind of oneness with another.  The problem with the scribes and Pharisees was that they were not one with these people.  They had placed themselves in a different category, a separate category, a better category.  They had placed themselves in upper category of “the righteous.”  So, Jesus says in verses 31-32, “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.”  It is not that the scribes and Pharisees were righteous.  Obviously, they were not, but they sure thought they were.  I wonder whether some of us think we are righteous, but are not?  There was a time I thought of myself as righteous when I was not.  It can happen to any of us.

This is obviously a concern of Luke’s as he will record Jesus’ telling a parable in chapter 18, verses 9-14, “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  Real Christianity means we cast off our self-righteousness.  Jesus says, “I have come for those who know they are sick.  I have come not for those who think they are well.”

A doctor cannot help a patient who thinks he is well when all the tests indicate otherwise.  The doctor can say, “There is simply no question here.  You are very sick.  Look at these test results.  And look at you!  You are not well.”  He cannot help the patient at all if the patient says, “I do not really care what all the tests show and I do not really care that I have had no appetite in 12 weeks and that I am in constant pain and that I am bleeding everywhere I tell you I am not sick!”  That is ludicrous.

But that is the point Jesus is making.  He cannot help those who think they are well.  He has come to those who know they are sick.  He has not come to those who think they are righteous, but to those who know they are not.

The beauty of 2 Corinthians 5:21 is found in learning that we are forgiven not on the basis of what we have done, but on the basis of who we know and what He has done for us: “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  Or, as Paul writes in Philippians 3:9: “Not having my own righteousness…but that which is through faith in Christ.”  God gives us Christ’s righteousness.  He imputes the righteousness of Christ to us.  It does not mean that we are “made” righteous as though it were intrinsic, inside us.  No, it is a righteousness that we wear like a garment.  It covers us.

We do not come to Christ dressed in our own righteousness.  We cannot enter heaven this way.  We agree with the hymn-writer that we are “faultless to stand before the throne” precisely because we are “dressed in His righteousness alone.”  Anytime we find ourselves putting back on our old dirty rags of our own righteousness we are in trouble.  Cast them off.  You are not well.  You need a doctor, not just once, but continually.  You and I both need to be under the constant care of the Great Physician.

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.”

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.”