This is Jesus’ first confrontation with the religious authorities recorded in Luke. The Pharisees were a Jewish sect that was originally very good. Many of their views were correct, as opposed to the Sadducees, the other major sect mentioned in the Gospels, who had most things wrong. The Pharisees emphasised obedience to the Law of Moses and encouraged the people back to God. By the time of Jesus however, they had become rigid and hypocritical. The teachers of the Law were mostly Pharisees. Jesus’ reputation was growing at this point so it isn’t surprising that the authorities came to check him out. The passage is available here.
I suspect that most of us, when confronted with the religious authorities, men with power and influence, would be on our best behaviour. Thankfully, Jesus is not like us. Four men came to bring a friend, who was paralysed, to Jesus. The house was packed, with no possibility of access, so they took the radical step of getting onto the roof and then breaking through the roof in order to lower the friend to the feet of Jesus. It must have been chaotic, dust and rubble falling on all in the house, the house owner probably had something to say, and I can’t imagine the lowering of the friend going without incident. The determination of the men meant that the paralysed man ended up exactly where he was supposed to be, at the feet of Jesus. All present must have held their collective breath waiting for Jesus to command the man to be healed. If Jesus had wanted to keep everyone on side and maintain his popularity, that’s just what he would have done, but Jesus was not interested in keeping influential men on side or being popular, he has another agenda altogether.
Jesus’ words would have shocked to the core all who were present. He said; “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” We have seen so far that Luke has demonstrated that Jesus has authority; over evil spirits, sickness, nature (the catch of fish), even leprosy. Now Jesus claims to have authority over sin. All of the religious experts would have thought the same thing, only God can forgive sins, what’s more, they’re right. What they don’t know is that Jesus is the unique Son of God who has power to forgive sins and what’s more, he’s about to prove it. It’s another example of Jesus looking past what’s on the surface and seeing this man’s deepest need. All present saw a paralytic, Jesus saw a person made in the image of God who desperately needed forgiveness.
Jesus did not calm things down in his next statement, he said; “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?” the experts have no answer because they cannot say either, Jesus might as well of asked them to fly, they cannot forgive or heal him. Jesus’ challenge only works if the man is healed, if he pronounces the paralysed man healed and then he remains paralysed, Jesus would have been a false prophet and probably stoned to death immediately. If the experts were waiting, willing the man to remain paralysed, they were very disappointed, Jesus has authority to forgive sins and heal a paralysed man. The man was healed, and praised God, a response that was appropriate, and everyone else gave praise to God as well, what else could they do? What would you do?
We thank you Lord that through Jesus, sins can be forgiven and sinners set free to praise. Thank you that you saw our deepest needs and met them in Christ. Help us to praise you and to live lives of worship.