It's a joy this morning to worship the Lord by turning to His Word. I would encourage you to open your Bible, if you would, to Luke chapter 5. As we work our way through the gospel of Luke, we find that like the other gospels this is an expandable gospel. We read it, the stories on their own, the accounts. The historical events that are recorded here for the most part can be easily understood. But as we look a little more closely they have a way of expanding as we fill in the cultural background, the linguistic background, the geographical background, the theological background and they expand to a richness that is almost impossible to plumb, a depth that is beyond us. I think that's why the apostle John said that the books of the world couldn't contain the things that could be written about Jesus Christ. Every time we get close to Him, which we are all the time in the gospels, and we find ourselves wrapped and shrouded in a...a depth of wisdom, a depth of spiritual reality that is understandable only in a way that our limited minds can comprehend. So again today we'll take a simple story and try to plumb the riches of it.
The story that is next in our look at Luke is chapter 5 verses 17 to 20. And we're just going to take the opening of an incident that goes on all the way down to verse 26, but we'll have to reserve the second part of it for next time. In verse 17 you read, "It came about one day that He was teaching and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. And behold, some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed and they were trying to bring him in and set him down in front of Him. And not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went upon the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, right in the center in front of Jesus. And seeing their faith He said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven you."
This is a great, great and important word that Jesus gives. “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” Beyond all argument, the greatest preacher ever was Jesus Christ and beyond all argument, the greatest message ever preached was the message of forgiveness. It still is the greatest message ever preached. The message that God will forgive all your sins if you repent and ask Him is the good news, that's the gospel. Jesus came to preach that message and He came to make the sacrifice to make that forgiveness which He preached possible by His death on the cross. Forgiveness is the single most important and blessed benefit that God can provide. Forgiveness is the door to all blessing. Forgiveness is the door to blessing in this life. Forgiveness is the door to eternal life in heaven. And so the matter of forgiveness is the heart of the Christian gospel. You cannot preach the Christian gospel about forgiveness unless you understand sin and its consequences. To understand that all men are sinners, that all men are alienated from God, all humanity is headed toward eternal hell where they will forever be punished for their sins and then to understand that God by grace has devised a means by which He can forgive sinners all their sins so that they can escape judgment and enter into eternal bliss in the glory of His heaven, that is the message of the gospel, that is the good news. And any true preacher preaches that message because that is the message that goes right through the story of redemption. It is the story of God forgiving sinners.
In the 13th chapter of Acts the apostle Paul said, "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren," verse 38, "that through Him," that is through Christ, "forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you." Acts 10:38, that is a great verse and that's the essential element of the Christian message. We preach the forgiveness of sins. In Ephesians chapter 1 and verse 7, familiar words, "In Him," that is in Christ, "the beloved One, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of His grace." And then chapter 4, verse 32, "Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other just as God in Christ has also forgiven you." That's the great theme of the Christian message. If you want to know what is distinctive about Christianity that is it. God will forgive all your sins, which changes forever your relationship to Him. Instead of being your judge, He becomes your friend. In fact, He becomes your Father. Instead of sending you to hell in an act of just retribution, He takes you to heaven in an act of gracious blessing, and all because your sins have been forgiven. That is the message that Christ came to preach. And to provide that forgiveness He had to die on the cross and take the judgment of God for sinners. Their judgment having been rendered on Christ, God could then forgive those who repent and come to Him.
Now most people understand that that is the message of the New Testament. Perhaps they don't understand that that is also the message of the Old Testament. From Adam on we see God acting in a forgiving way toward sinners. That is the whole saga of redemption. At the very beginning when Adam had sinned and God has cursed him, immediately God sets about to kill an animal and to make garments and to cover Adam and Eve in an act that portrays sacrifice. By an animal sacrifice which provided a covering for Adam and Eve's shameful nakedness, God was giving a picture of the sacrifice of Messiah, by whose death a covering would be provided for the shame of sinners. Always God has demonstrated a willingness to forgive sin.
When God identifies Himself specifically in Exodus chapter 34 in verses 6 and 7, this is how the Lord identifies Himself. "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness and truth, who keeps loving-kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin." Three synonyms were used by God when He said that to sum up the completeness of God's forgiveness. He is a compassionate God. He is a gracious God. He is slow to anger. He abounds in loving-kindness, which is an Old Testament word for grace. And He forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin. That's His desire, that's His nature. That is why from the very outset at the Fall God set in motion a redemptive plan by which He could grant forgiveness, putting all the guilt of all who repent on Jesus Christ, who died as the sacrifice, the substitute for sinners. Nehemiah chapter 9 verse 17 says, "You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness." And that echoes the words of Exodus 34.
To show how extensive that forgiveness is, Psalm 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west, so far as He removed our transgressions from us." How far is the east is from the west? That's infinite.
In Micah, that remarkable testimony is given about the goodness of God in the matter of forgiveness and Micah says in verse 18 of chapter 7, "Who is a God like Thee, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He doesn't retain His anger forever because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us. He will tread our iniquities underfoot. Yes, Thou will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."
And certainly the prophet Isaiah understood the forgiving nature of God. There are a number of quotes in Isaiah we could read, but listen to chapter 55 and verse 7, "Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts and let him return to the Lord and He will have compassion on him and to our God for He will abundantly pardon." And in Isaiah 38:17 it says, "Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back." And Isaiah 43:25 says, "I, even I," speaking in the first person, God speaking, "I even I am the One who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake." That is, “It puts My own grace and glory on display, and I will not remember your sins."
Now all of these scriptures and many more give testimony to God as a forgiving God by nature. He is the sovereign, divine forgiver of sinners. And He alone can do that. He is the only God, the only holy God. He is the God who has been offended. All sin is against Him. In Psalm 51 David said, "Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned," the reason David said that was because God is the only God, the only God, the eternal God, there is no other God and it is He, the holy eternal God who is offended by our sin. It is His holy will and holy law that is violated. He then becomes our judge and executioner. It is God then and only God who has the right to forgive sin since He alone is the offended One, and He is the judge of all the earth. He sits on the divine bench.
Now in the passage that I just read to you, Jesus did an astonishing thing. He forgave that man his sins. And when He did that, He was either doing the work of God as God, or He was a blasphemer. In fact, in verse 21 the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason saying, "Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" They had good sound theology on that point. Nobody can forgive your sins, no priest, nobody. Oh we can forgive one another an offense against us, but we cannot forgive anybody an offense against God. We can tell sinners that if they repent and seek forgiveness from God that He will grant it, but we cannot forgive sins. We cannot say to anybody, "I forgive you your sins," in the sense that we have exonerated that person from all record of iniquity. That only God can do. And their theology was accurate. Either Jesus was God, and He had a right to do it, or He was a blasphemer.
So this passage reaches a high-water mark in the ministry of Jesus. We haven't been here before. This is the first time He has said this to somebody. He has been talking about preaching the good news to the poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed. He has been giving that message synagogue to synagogue, town to town around Galilee. But this very straightforward, very open, very blunt statement, "Friend, your sins are forgiven you," we haven't heard that one before. Jesus is here claiming to have the authority to forgive sin. And thus He is claiming to be God. And He is either God or He is a blasphemer. They were right. He's not anything in between. He's not just a well-intentioned teacher. He's either a blasphemer or He's God. And that's...that's the choice. You can't come to Jesus with any patronizing nonsense about Him being a good teacher. That's not sound theology. That is seriously flawed. If He's not God, then we have to say He is a blasphemer and that is the most heinous crime that can be committed against God. And the Pharisees and the scribes knew it.
He has already solved the dilemma for us, though. We know He's God. How do we know that? Well Luke has made it abundantly clear. There is the testimony of angels. There's the testimony of Zacharias and Elizabeth. There's the testimony of Joseph and Mary. There's the testimony of Anna and Simeon. There's the testimony of the shepherds who heard the angelic chorus. There is the testimony of John the Baptist. There's the testimony of the Holy Spirit who descended upon Him at His baptism, the testimony of the Father whose voice came out of heaven, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." There is the testimony again of His triumph, His vanquishing of Satan in the temptation. And then there's the testimony of His power over disease, and His power over demons, and His power over nature in the amazing account of the fishing story we just studied. All of that indicates who He is. It's unmistakable. It's not arguable.
So those of us who have come this far with Luke, we know who He is and when He says, "Friend, your sins are forgiven you," it doesn't shock us. We know that only God controls nature, that only God controls demons, and only God controls holy angels. We know all of that. We know that only God can produce a birth in a virgin womb. We know He is God. This is the very, very critical point, however, when He moves out of the physical realm, out of the spiritual realm in dealing with angels and demons, into the moral realm dealing with sin. And in no uncertain terms, He claims to be the divine forgiver.
Let's look closer at the story because it's an important one. And under some circumstances we might move through it more rapidly, but we have some firsts here that we have to deal with. Verse 17: "It came about one day that He was teaching." That's how the story begins. Somewhat of an oblique reference in Luke, it doesn't tell us place, it doesn't tell us time. But we can fill in the blanks and that's the fun of having Matthew and Mark. Matthew chapter 9 records the same story and Mark chapter 2 records this same story, both at the beginning of those chapters. And so we can fill in a little bit from those accounts. We can also pull from the gospel of John in chapter 5 and add further understanding. The phrase, "It came about one day," kai genneto, is a term... It's sort of an idiom that means "and it happened," and it is without reference to time or place. It isn't the chronology that matters here, the chronology isn't critical here. It's not that we need to know the sequence. But it is kind of interesting to know that Mark records this same incident very early in the ministry of Jesus, so no doubt it happened very early in His ministry in Galilee. Matthew tells us the place was Capernaum. Matthew says it was in the city of Capernaum and Matthew seems to indicate to us that it happened right after Jesus returned from the land of Gerasa, or the land of the Gadarenes where He ran in to a man who was full of demons. Remember that? And He cleaned the demons out of that man, sent them into a herd of pigs, a familiar story at the end of the 8th chapter of Matthew.
So having been over there and accomplished that mighty miracle over the forces of hell, and delivered that man, He comes back to Capernaum, which has become His hometown since He can't go to Nazareth. They tried to kill Him there. And so He's taken up residence in the town of Capernaum which is right at the north tip of the Sea of Galilee, a fishing town. No longer there, as the Lord said it would be destroyed and it was. And also, Simon Peter lived there with his brother and his family and many believed that Jesus stayed in the house of Simon Peter. Today you can find excavations where people will tell you this is likely the location of that house because traditions go way, way back to the fact that the first church in Capernaum was in Peter's house and the subsequent churches were built on top of that one so that that is perhaps Peter's house right there. Now it's possible that that's where Jesus stayed. We know it was in the town of Capernaum and early in His Galilean ministry.
It's important to know that because this is the hub of His ministry. This is early in His ministry and the message of forgiveness is the primary message that He preached. Now if we tie in the gospel of John, chapter 5 verse 16, we know by this time the Jews were already after Him. When I say the term "Jews," I use it as the gospel writers often use it to speak of the leaders, the spiritual authorities, the Pharisees and scribes as they are identified here, chief priests, Sadducees also among them.
So Jesus had already generated heat on Himself. This goes way back. When He began His ministry down in Judea before He came to Galilee, you remember the first thing He did was make a whip and clean out the temple which didn't make Him popular with the Jewish authorities by any stretch of the imagination. You can read about that in the second chapter of John. So He already had the ire of those leaders and it didn't dissipate because of His further ministry in Judea for about a year. Then He went up to Galilee and as He began to minister in Galilee there was an explosion of interest around Him. For all intents and purposes, He banished illness from the Galilee during that period of time. He went from town to town to town preaching. It tells us in verse 44 of chapter 4, "He kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea." Verse 43, He was preaching the kingdom of God and that was the reason He was sent. So here He was going preaching and everywhere He went He was also healing. Back in verse 40, "All who had any sick with various diseases brought them to Him and laying His hands on every one of them He was healing them." His healing ministry was spreading. Chapter 5, verse 15, the news about Him was spreading even farther, great multitudes gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. So much so, verse 16 says, that He had to slip away into the wilderness to get away from the crowd and have time to pray. So the word about Him was spreading like wildfire and the already hostile authorities in Judaism were getting more and more angry, and if you get the tone of John 5:16 and you put it in its chronology, they already wanted Him dead. And they kept pushing that issue until they finally got the Romans to crucify Him eventually.
So they are now dogging His steps and they're looking for things that He does for which they can indict Him, some reason to kill Him. They tried to kill Him in Nazareth just for preaching that He was the Messiah, the fulfillment of Isaiah 61, that He was the one who had come anointed by the Spirit of God to bring riches to the poor, freedom to the prisoners, sight to the blind, and to deliver the burdens from the oppressed. He was the fulfillment of all messianic prophecy and for that they tried to kill Him. So the word about Him is moving fast, that He claims to be the fulfillment of Old Testament promise, the Messiah, that He can heal, and His message literally is the opposite of the current Judaistic theology. He is saying that God will forgive. He is saying, "I...I've come to those who know they're spiritually bankrupt, not to the spiritually elite and self-righteous. I'm come to know...to tell the truth to those who understand and know that they are spiritual prisoners, they are in prison, they are in bondage. I've come to those who know they can't see and are blind and have no hope and no sight. I've come to those who are under the tremendous burden of sin and guilt. That's who I've come for. And you remember He illustrated that by saying that the Lord even in the Old Testament knew there were many widows in the land of Israel but He didn't help any of them. And there were many lepers in the land of Israel but He didn't help any of them. He went to Gentiles because their hearts were right. They knew they were the poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed.
Well the Jewish leaders didn't believe they were the poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed, just like the people didn't. That's why they tried to kill Jesus. They were offended. They were outraged that they could be identified as such. They were the spiritually rich in their minds. They were the free, the liberated. They were those who could see the truth. They had been delivered. Jesus offended them. And if He offended the people sitting in the synagogue in Nazareth and He did that from town to town to town to town and preached the same message, believe me He offended the leaders who were supposedly, at least in their own minds and the minds of the people, the paragons of righteousness.
So here He is and He's in this place, some kind of house — its identified as such in the other gospels — in Capernaum and He was teaching. This is always the heart of His work, don't ever mistake it. He didn't come to be a healer. He came to be a teacher. And what He taught was salvation and redemption and that means He told people God would forgive their sins. That's the message of the gospel. That's our message, folks. And His healings drew immense crowds and verified that He was of God.
Luke focuses in on one group. "There were some Pharisees and teacher of the law sitting there." There they were and you can believe they were up close. They loved to be seen of men, Jesus said in Matthew 23. They loved it when they were in the place of prominence. And you can believe with all of their Pharisaical trappings, they were there.
Now who are these Pharisees and teachers of the law? Let me introduce them to you because we need to know this because the rest of the time in Luke we're going to meet them again. They are main players in the drama. The word "Pharisees" comes from the Hebrew term parash, which means to separate. They were the separated brethren, the separated ones. They were separated to the law, to God, they thought, to righteousness. They disdained anything that in their minds violated that separation.
You say, "Were they devoted then to the Old Testament?" Yes, they were devoted to the Old Testament but it was a lot more than that. They were devoted also to what had been written by the rabbis about the Old Testament and they saw the tradition as equal to the Old Testament. In addition to that, they were devoted to the oral tradition, some of which had been of course written down. So they were devotees of the system of religion which included the Old Testament, which included the written tradition and the oral tradition. They were one of four main religious groups, the Pharisees, the Sadducees... The Sadducees were the religious liberals, denied the resurrection, denied the existence of angels and demons, etc. They tended to be the power brokers. They were among the chief priests and the high priests, were the Sadducees, so they were the political branch, at least in terms of having the power. Then there were the Essenes. That was another sect of Judaism at the time of Jesus and they were the monkish monastics. They were the ones who didn't want anything to do with the establishment. They wore simple clothes, ate simple food, and lived out by the desert. They were the anti-establishment group. They were the ones, by the way, who copied down the Scripture which was found that we now have called the Dead Sea Scrolls. There was another group called the Zealots. The Zealots were the nationalistic ones. They liked to sneak up on Romans and stab them. So you had all of those various parties.
Now for the moment we'll look at the Pharisees. They were fundamentalists in the sense that they believed in the fundamentals of the Judaism. They believed in what the Bible said. They believed in resurrection. They believed in angels. They believed in demons. They believed in predestination. We find among their writings a belief not only in predestination but...but human responsibility. They also believed in the written law and the oral law and the tradition and the Old Testament, of course. They believed in the coming of Messiah and they believed that when Messiah came He would establish His kingdom. So they were pre-millennialists. Some people think pre-millennialism was invented 200 years ago. No, Pharisees were pre-millennialists. They believed a literal kingdom would come to Israel, that was the promise of God and the Messiah would bring it. They were non-priests. They were not in the priestly line. They were laymen. They were devoted, however, gave their entire life to keeping the people loyal to the tradition, loyal to the system of Judaism.
Now how did they go about doing that? Well they wanted to keep the people loyal. They didn't want the law violated. They didn't want the law broken. And so they developed this complex set of regulations, man-made, that they bound on people in an effort to somehow build a wall of protection around the law. To protect the law from being broken they thought they'd have to reduce the law or define the law or apply the law in 600-plus little prescriptions that everybody had to keep. It got very confusing. Jesus said it was a burden, in Matthew 23, that nobody could carry. It was so confusing and so complex. They would be much like the radical or extreme Hasidics in Israel today who are the modern-day Pharisees. And their wall of protection around the Torah involved these hundreds of little prescriptions covering every application of the law. Their mission was noble. They wanted to focus Israel on obeying God's law, and they wanted to build a wall of protection around God's law so it wouldn't be violated. But what they did was obscure the true law of God, the true intent of God's law, and they replaced it with this man-made complexity of their own invention. And you still see it today in Orthodox Judaism and in the extreme forms of Orthodox Judaism. They produce what really amounted to an impenetrable, impossible system of self-righteousness. But they themselves believed that their fastidious attention to all of these little prescriptions had given them or granted them righteousness.
They were, however, void of grace, void of repentance, and void of salvation. Matthew 15, Jesus said they had substituted tradition for the commandments of God.
Now Pharisees were a powerful group, even though there were only about 6,000 of them. That's the best estimate. But they were very influential because they were so fastidious, they were so demanding and they were the ones that the people looked to as the source of spiritual life and conduct. And they had a long history.
To tell you how they developed, when Israel went back to the land after the Babylonian captivity in 603, 597, 586, right around that time, B.C., when they went back to the land they began to reestablish themselves, God raised up a man called Ezra. Ezra was a scribe. He was one who was studying the law and he brought the law before the people. You remember, read the law and put the law back in its proper place, the biblical law, the law of God, the Scripture. And he called the people now to reaffirm their belief in the law and to reaffirm their monotheism, their worship of the one true God, and never to fall into idolatry again and never to disobey again or they're going to wind up back in some other Babylon.
Under Ezra, a group of serious men began to develop and they saw as their objective to keep the people committed to the law, to preach the law, teach the law and apply the law. And it was a noble thing and it was a right thing. Over the years the group of men who were the appliers of the law, definers of the law, interpreters of the law, the theologians, as it were, continued to develop from the time of Ezra for several hundred years. And they developed through the time of Antiochus Epiphanes and the reign of the Greeks and they developed through the Maccabean era and they developed through the Roman era and the Herodian era. And so by the time of Christ you've got hundreds and hundreds of years of the development of this group of men who thought it their responsibility to protect the law and keep the people looking at the law and obeying the law. And by the time you get to Christ, it has developed into the Pharisees, self-righteous, hypocritical, degenerate, filled with spiritual pride, living according to external rules and prescriptions and totally obscuring the true character of the law of God and not loving God at all, but loving themselves. They are the rankest legalists and they live under the most deadly illusion, the most deadly delusion, and it is that they belong to God when, in fact, Jesus said to them, "You are of your father, the devil."
The extent of their delusion is seen here as it will be through the whole story. They hate the God they say they worship. Jesus is that God and here He is in their midst and they want to kill Him, thinking they're doing God service. That's how deluded their minds had become.
Now they weren’t alone. There's another group mentioned, teachers of the law. Now “teachers of the law” was a group within the Pharisees. Verse 21 identifies them in another word, scribes, one familiar to you. “Teachers of the law” is the only place that phrase appears in the New Testament, but it defines for us what the scribes were. In order to teach the law you had to study the law. In order to teach the law you had to interpret the law. So these were the legal experts within the Pharisees. There were Pharisees whose particular responsibility was the law. They would have been religious lawyers. When you wanted an interpretation of the law you went to them. They were the theologians. They were the elite theologians. All of the Pharisees, to some degree, prided themselves on...on their theology but this was the elite corps, this was the doctors of the law which is another way to translate this, the doctors of the law. These would have been the PhDs among the Pharisees. They were also self-righteous, they were externalists, they were legalists, they were deluded and their presence indicates that this was a high-level conference. They had collectively gone, in fact we find out in verse 17 they had come from every village of Galilee, Judea and from Jerusalem, so this had to be orchestrated, this had to be mapped out, planned, everybody was having to come from various places. This is hyperbole, it doesn't mean every single solitary town and village, obviously, there were thousands of those. But what it does mean is that they came from everywhere, including not just Galilee but Judea and more importantly some of the high mucky-mucks came up from Jerusalem.
They were already on the trail of Jesus because too much had happened already to assault their comfortable status. Their self-righteous kind of religion, their religion of works was being attacked and assaulted by Jesus. They were really the people who prided themselves on being the rich and the free and the sighted and the delivered. And Jesus said, "There's no salvation for them, it's for the poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed." They were being attacked by His message. They had been attacked by Him, actually, in the temple. Although most of the operatives in the temple were Sadducees, they still got the picture that Jesus was after the existing contemporary form of religion.
Now Luke will show us these people together all through the gospel. We'll see it again in chapter 5 and we'll see it in chapter 6 and right on through Luke we'll see them together. We'll also see these scribes and teachers of the law sometimes with the Sadducees because the Sadducees were dependent upon them and they got together for certain purposes. Particularly, even though they disagreed, they were in two theological camps, they got together on one thing, they all wanted Jesus dead. And so we're going to meet these folks time and time again as we march through. And the clear message of forgiveness by grace runs right into this existing legalism. If you wanted an interpretation of the law you went to the doctors of the law, to the scribes, who made judgments on the matters related to the law.
Now this was a large group of them. I don't know how large this place was. I don’t... There's no indication as to what it was, we know it was in Jesus' own town, as Matthew tells us, and that was Capernaum. So we don't know what house it was, but it must have been a fairly large house to accommodate this group alone. If nobody was there but the Pharisees and teachers of the law, had come from every village all over Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, that would be enough to fill up a pretty good sized house. And it seems as though the indication of Mark is that there were other people there as well. So there was a large crowd, this group very prominent, they would be very identifiable as would a group of Orthodox Jews who walked in here today and all plunked down in the front row. You'd really recognize them readily. They would have been easily recognizable. And there they were. They came to hear Him. They came to see Him, looking to indict Him, get rid of Him. Already here we are barely out of the wonderful account of the birth of Christ, the baptism of Christ, the triumphant of Christ, He just begins His ministry and already the hostility of His enemies has reached the point where a concerted effort to do something to destroy Jesus is in motion.
Now the end of verse 17 tells us something very, very important. This is another thing that needs to be recognized. "And the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing." And I remind you of something that I've been saying along the way here, Jesus when...Jesus, of course, never ceased to be God, He was God, He came to earth in the form of a man, the God-Man, He never ceased to be God. But one of the things we learn in His incarnation, He humbled Himself, He took upon Himself the form of a servant. What that means is He set aside the independent use of His own deity. He set aside the independent use of His own divine power and attributes and He did only what God willed Him to do and He did only what the Holy Spirit did through Him. If the Holy Spirit hadn't done it in Him, He wouldn't have healed. It was the will of the Father and the agency of the Spirit that did the miracles. That's why in Matthew 12 when the Jews came to the point that they said His power is the power of Satan, Jesus said, "You have blasphemed the Holy Spirit." The incarnation was a self-emptying, it was a kenosis, it was a humbling, it was a becoming a servant. And here in His condescension He set aside His own use of those powers and submitted to the will of the Father expressed through the agency of the Holy Spirit. And on this occasion the power of God by the Holy Spirit was present for Him to perform healing. And if the Spirit of God hadn't been there in that power, He wouldn't have healed because He limited Himself to that.
That's why it's so important. You go back to chapter 3 at His baptism, verse 22, "The Holy Spirit descended on Him." Chapter 4 verse 1, "He was full of the Holy Spirit," returned from Jordan, led about by the Spirit in the wilderness. Verse 14: "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit." Verse 18, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me." And that is the way it is in His ministry. He is subject to the will of the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit in the time of His humiliation. Acts 10:38, Peter preaching says, "You know Jesus of Nazareth how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit, and with power and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil for God was with Him." He was God but He set aside the independent use of deity and God had to be with Him in the form of the Spirit to do these things. That tells you the depth of His incarnation. And as I said, eventually His enemies decided that what was being done was being done by Satan which was opposite the truth, 180 degrees opposite, and Jesus says, "You have blasphemed the Holy Spirit, and made a conclusion that is damning to you." It was the Pharisees who made that conclusion. They were so wrong, thought they were so right.
Well Jesus provides these hostile visitors with an unforgettable experience and a formidable challenge to their theology. And just for a moment, this morning, let me have you look with me at what happened. Verse 18: "Behold, some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed." Now whenever Jesus was teaching anywhere, He drew a crowd of people and within the crowd were lots of people who had physical problems because He was healing people everywhere, as I noted earlier. And here comes a group of friends bringing a man who's paralyzed. Mark tells us there were four men coming and so there were four plus the man on the bed. The word "bed," klin, is any kind of a bed. This would have been a portable bed. It's referred to later in the passage as a stretcher, a pallet, could have been a mat with a wooden frame, a very simple bed that this man could be carried on, indicates that the man was not mobile. The man couldn't move. He had paralysis.
And I remind you again that whenever you study the New Testament, people who have an illness are described as to their symptoms. They're not described as to their pathology. When we talk about people, we don't do that anymore. They used to say... We used to talk about crippled people, or talk about handicapped people. We tend now to talk more about the person in a clinical way. The person had polio, or this person has muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis or a person had a spinal-cord injury. We are a little more clinical and a little more pathological, where in ancient times before they knew all that pathology, they would describe a person's illness with regard to the symptoms. And so here is a man who is paralyzed. It could have been a form of muscular dystrophy, some kind of progressive thing or it could have been a result of some spinal-cord injury, it could have been a defect, some genetic defect. It is also very possible that this could have been caused by syphilis which had this effect, a venereal disease that caused forms of paralysis in ancient times. People who were in this condition were generally left out of society. They weren't like lepers in that they had a highly communicable disease such as leprosy which with such vividly deadly effects, disastrously manifest in the physical form of the face and the extremities of a leprosy victim. And so they were allowed, of course, into society but they were stigmatized. This man bore a social stigma that would have alienated him, made him somewhat of an outcast and he would have been typically shunned. And people tended, super sort of pious people, to think that people like that were like that because of some sin. Remember in John 9 when they went to Jesus about the man who was born blind and they said, "Who sinned, this man or his parents?" And Jesus said, nobody sinned, this is an illness for the glory of God. But they always felt that in their self-righteousness people who were physically diseased or injured perhaps were simply bearing the consequences of their sin. So he would have been somewhat of a social outcast.
And here his four buddies bring him and the view is to bring him to Jesus. And they wanted to get him right up there. They were trying to bring him in and set him down in front of Him. As I said, it may well have been that his paralysis was related to syphilis and so what was the goal of the men was to get him in front of Jesus. You might assume on the front of it that they wanted him to be healed, but in the man's heart what he came for was forgiveness. He may have connected his sickness to his sin and it may have been, if indeed it was syphilis, that that was the cause. That is something we can't be certain about. But the man wanted forgiveness and along with the forgiveness, of course, the healing. He knew Jesus could do both. I think that he believed Jesus... Whether he knew He was God, I don't know. He believed Jesus was from God and he believed Jesus represented God and he believed Jesus spoke for God. That's implied in what happens. Surely he believed Jesus could heal him, but more than that, he believed... He hoped that Jesus would forgive his sin.
Well these men tried to bring him in and set him down in front of Jesus. But unfortunately they had no handicapped access and nobody moved. I mean, if somebody who was...you can... You could figure if you were there that day and somebody comes in a state of paralysis and there are four people who have got him on a stretcher and this is somebody who has been carried perhaps some long distance and they say to you, "Could we please, could you move? We'd like to get this man in front of Jesus," you would assume that somebody would move the crowd and they'd get him in there. And you can be sure these men begged and pleaded and asked and nobody responded. Those kinds of people tended to be, "Go away," you know, "get out of our sight, don't bother us here." Especially if they happen to run into a group of Pharisees and teachers of the law; the crowd formed a barrier with their bodies and with their hearts. There wasn't any side door, there wasn't any window. There wasn't any way to get in. And they wanted to get right up there in front of Jesus and put that man right down there because the man was desperate and they had captured something of his desperation. Whether or not people liked it, whether there was comfort in that, whether there was a certain amount of embarrassment that they should have felt was long past, we want this man right in front of Jesus so He can't overlook him.
Verse 19 says, "They couldn't find any way to bring him in because of the crowd." Very resourceful, they went up on the roof. Now I don't want to get too much into early Israeli architecture. This is not complicated. Most of the houses were one-story houses. This was probably a big house, sort of a ranch style house in the typical square form or rectangular form that houses were built in the world of that time and they were built out of sticks and mud. And the walls were built...and then it could be a large house, probably was a large house for a crowd like this, just the crowd of the Pharisees and the scribes would have been big enough. But spanning the walls were beams and the beams were set below the height of the walls so that they would create a short wall and a roof and then the roof would act as a patio. The beams would cross and then in between the beams would be a combination of sticks and mud in general that would be put in there. That was the typical way to build them so that they had sort of a mud roof and they would cover that with a form of sticks and mud that would make a patio on the roof and they'd have an outside staircase. You just walk up and you're on the roof. The climate over there was suitable to that and the second floor was a very common place. There were times when you would even sleep up there as well as eat up there. And that was the...the roof.
In this case it probably was a large house because it had tiles. Luke tells us they got up on the roof and they let him down through the tiles. Archeologists have told us, I don't think it's even arguable, that tile roofing did exist prior to this time in the Mediterranean region and even in Israel. And so, if you put tile on your house, you probably had a little more money. So it might have been a bigger house with a tile roof. They got up on top. There must have been a patio area and some portion of that roof tiled, or else they were heavy tiles that could support people who walked. The word for "tile" is keramos, from which we get ceramic. And there are all kinds of tiles that you can walk on. So it wouldn't be brittle tile, but something suitable for a roof, something in a house that would be fairly expensive because it would then indicate that people who owned it had some means. And that would be consistent with having a meeting there big enough to house this kind of crowd.
So they start peeling off the tile. Now they've calculated exactly where Jesus is down below so that they can take the right tiles off and put the man right straight down in front of Him. They do not want Jesus to miss this man. This indicates the passion of this man's heart, "Get me there and I don't want to be outside and I don't want to be inside, I want to be right in front of Him." And so they calculate where that is and Jesus is teaching and all of a sudden tiles start coming off above His head. And you can imagine this stuff is dropping down around Him as they're taking the tiles off. There's no comment on that but it is an interesting scene. And then you can imagine the people wondering, "What is going on up there? There are guys peeling the tiles back." And the next thing they know, down through the hole comes this man, let him down through the tiles with his stretcher right in the center in front of Jesus. That's exactly where he wanted to be. That's where they came to bring him and that's where they got him.
Well the drama is really fascinating to me. If you're just sitting there watching all of this, your thoughts are, "What are these guys doing?" And if you're the owner of the house, you're saying, "What are these guys doing? They're taking my roof apart." But what it...But it had already gotten to the point where with Jesus everything was drama anyway. And when they saw a guy coming down on a stretcher, their thoughts were probably, "This could really be something. Can He heal this man?" Freeze that picture in your mind and then look at verse 20. "And seeing their faith, He said, 'Friend, your sins are forgiven you.'"
He knew exactly what was in that man's heart. He knew that. As God, He knew everything. Healing, sure; far more important, I can't stand the weight of my sin. Here was a poor, prisoner, blind, and oppressed, in the language of chapter 4 verses 18 and 19. Here was the perfect candidate for forgiveness. And verse 20 says, "And seeing their faith." All of them had faith, all of them. You don't get saved by proxy. It wasn't the faith of the four guys. It was his faith, too. They all had faith. And it was more than just ordinary faith, this is strong, insistent, persistent. This is dismantling faith. This is indefatigable faith, overcoming all barriers, all barricades, all obstacles.
Now Jesus did heal people with no faith and sometimes He healed people with little faith. And sometimes He healed people with great faith. But this was not a healing, first of all. No healing here. This is salvation. If your sins are forgiven, my friend, you're saved. Right? That's what it is. Jesus saved the man from his sin. This is salvation. And this indicates where the faith of the man was directed. It was directed at the matter of sin in his heart.
Strangely, no one spoke. At least the narrative doesn't indicate anybody spoke. They didn't make any requests, and that's common, that's usual in the healing accounts. And the man comes in. He's lying there in his paralyzed condition before Jesus. Jesus looks right at what's in his mind. He said, "Friend," and let me tell you something, God doesn't call people "friend" lightly. Matthew and Mark say He also said, "son." So he was both a friend and a son. "Son," Matthew writes, take carriage...“take courage." "Friend, your sins are forgiven you," pluperfect in the Greek, means a permanent condition. "Your sins are and always will be forgiven."
The man is shaken with grief and fear over his sins; that's what's gripped his soul. He wants to get to Jesus because he's heard the message to the poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed and he knows it and it's reflected and illustrated, and analogous to his physical condition. Yes he wanted a heavenly healer, but more, he wanted a heavenly forgiver. Jesus knew what he wanted. Jesus knew what he needed.
Let me tell you something. No one's ever forgiven apart from faith, and no one's ever forgiven apart from repentance. And so we know that if Jesus forgave his sins, he believed that God would forgive and he had a penitent heart. Jesus saw in the man's heart repentance. He saw in the man's heart a longing to be forgiven. He saw the wretched spiritual condition of the man and He said, literally, "Your sins are dismissed permanently." At that moment, Jesus by His own personal authority absolved that man of all guilt permanently. Jesus came to save sinners, didn't He? And here He saves one. This man is the prototype of many to follow in His ministry.
How interesting, and we close with this, all the Pharisees, all the Sadducees — all their self-righteousness — are unforgiven. And one poor, prisoner, blind, and oppressed, one sad, wretched, vile, outcast sinner with a penitent heart desperately wants to get right in front of Jesus and have his sin exposed and forgiven, and he's forgiven. It's like Luke 18, the publican beating on his breast is forgiven, and the Pharisee who told God how good he was, was not. Here it is. Two kinds of people get in front of Jesus, the self-righteous and the wretched. The wretched are forgiven. The self-righteous are deluded and damned. Which are you? Jesus came to save the sinners and that day, at that moment, He forgave that man's sins permanently based on his faith and his repentance. He did that for me one day, did that for most of you, didn't He, one day? One day Jesus said, "Your sins are forgiven, friend, son." And that was it forever. That's the Christian gospel. Do you know that forgiveness? Have you received that forgiveness? Join me in prayer.
Father, how can we come with a heart of penitence if we don't even admit we're sinners? So, Lord, please do what You did in the man's life, the paralyzed man, and bring conviction of sin, overwhelming conviction of sinfulness, wretchedness, of judgment to come. Produce in the unforgiven sinner fear and dread and an honesty and may any who hear this message confess their sin, repent of their sin and ask You, the great forgiver, to forgive their sins. Would You do that, Lord, to Your glory?
Those of us who have heard those words in Scripture and know they've been applied to us we praise You and we thank You. We are the fellowship of the forgiven. We grieve over the self-righteous who think they know You because they follow all their ceremonies and all their little rituals and all the paths of self-righteousness. We grieve over their self-delusion and ask that You would shatter that which is so hostile to grace and repentance and faith and awaken sinners to their true condition. And may they repent and come with hearts crying for deliverance, to receive that forgiveness which You freely offer if we ask. In the Savior's name we pray these things. Amen.
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