9 June 2017

Luke 5:17-26

“When he saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven you.’ Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, ‘Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” (vv. 20-21)

Psalm: Psalm 117


And so it begins. In the healing of the paralysed man Jesus is criticised by the religious leaders of the day for the first time. Their opposition to him is first voiced here, and so the journey to the cross via his arrest, and trial commences. With the Pharisees and teachers of the law lurking nearby, having made the trip especially (verse 17) there is a certain inevitability that Jesus will fall foul of them. Yet it is not his demonstration of healing power which causes their displeasure.

Jesus is heartened by the faith of those who, unable to squeeze through a packed room, used an outside staircase to access the flat roof of the single storey house and then remove tiles in order to lower their ailing friend down before Jesus. Jesus' response before mending the man's broken body is to offer restoration to the sickly souls of him and his friends (verse 20). Such an offer is blasphemous to the ears of the religious leaders, since it implies (correctly) that Jesus is assuming the divine power to forgive sins. In response, Jesus expresses his dismay at their lack of faith (verse 22) which contrasts starkly with those whose sins he has just forgiven.

Because belief in a link between sin and illness was widely held at that time (see John 9:2), Jesus healing of the man physically (verses 24-25) acts as a further demonstration that his divine authority encompasses both physical and spiritual healing. The response to the miracle underlines this, with both the healed man (verse 25) and the assembled crowd (verse 26) giving glory to God. These "strange things" highlight for the first time the growing gulf between those "filled with awe" (v. 26) at Jesus and those who are increasingly filled with rage.

To Ponder

  • Does Jesus still divide opinion with as much passion as he did in his earthly ministry? Why/why not?
  • If the church is a continuity of Jesus' mission, should be expect to be equally divisive? Again why/why not?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Tim Woolley

The Revd Dr Tim Woolley is superintendent minister of the Hinckley Circuit in Leicestershire and an adjunct faculty member at Cliff College. Tim has a passion for Wesleyan theology and for fresh ways of being church and doing evangelism, and he is a vice chair of Methodist Evangelicals Together.