The Faith of Friends: Luke 5:17-26

Focus Passage: Luke 5:17-26 (CEV)

17 One day some Pharisees and experts in the Law of Moses sat listening to Jesus teach. They had come from every village in Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem.

God had given Jesus the power to heal the sick, 18 and some people came carrying a crippled man on a mat. They tried to take him inside the house and put him in front of Jesus. 19 But because of the crowd, they could not get him to Jesus. So they went up on the roof, where they removed some tiles and let the mat down in the middle of the room.

20 When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the crippled man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”

21 The Pharisees and the experts began arguing, “Jesus must think he is God! Only God can forgive sins.”

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said, “Why are you thinking that? 23 Is it easier for me to tell this crippled man that his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk? 24 But now you will see that the Son of Man has the right to forgive sins here on earth.” Jesus then said to the man, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk home.”

25 At once the man stood up in front of everyone. He picked up his mat and went home, giving thanks to God. 26 Everyone was amazed and praised God. What they saw surprised them, and they said, “We have seen a great miracle today!”

Read Luke 5:17-26 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Often times, when we think of Jesus healing someone, we think that the person being healed must be the one who has faith in order to receive the healing. However, after a closer reading at a number of the miraculous healings that are included in the gospels, it would seem that the necessary faith may be able to come from other sources.

In the passage for this post, we have such an event. Little if any evidence is given that prompt us to see the crippled man as the one who has faith. However, all three gospels that include this event point us to the fact that the crippled man’s friends were the ones who had faith: “When Jesus saw how much faith they had . . .” (v. 20a)

The “they” that Luke is referring to is this man’s friends, who have just carried the man up to the roof, removed ceiling tiles, and lowered the crippled man down to Jesus because there was no way to get the man through the crowd.

While Jesus focuses His message on the subject of forgiveness, we must not minimize the faith these four men had that Jesus could—and would—heal their friend. Had the friends not had any faith, or if their faith wasn’t strong enough to have made them be persistent in their mission, the crippled man would have finished his life as a cripple, and we would have missed learning the key lesson Jesus wanted to teach that day – the lesson of forgiveness and His role in the process.

This leads me to the theme I see in this passage: My faith is important, not just for the benefit of my own relationship with God, but for the benefit of those I spend time with as well. For faith to be effective, it must inspire the one who has it to act in a way that shows it is present.

The faith of these men showed, and because of it, their friend was healed.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

Flashback Episode — Blessed By God: Matthew 5:1-12


Read the Transcript

As we move further into the gospel of Matthew, we come to one of the most famous events in Jesus’ entire ministry. While Luke’s gospel hints at a similar event, no gospel writer devotes as much time to a single event as Matthew does to Jesus’ first big sermon, often called the Sermon on the Mount. The only other significant event that all the gospel writers spend a lot of time on is the events leading up to the cross.

The three big focus points of Matthew’s gospel are the sermon Jesus shares near the beginning of His ministry, the parables and teaching Jesus shares about the time of His return, and the details surrounding Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion.

In our time for this episode, we’ll look at the opening section of Jesus’ big sermon, often called the Beatitudes, or the list of blessings. Jesus’ sermon starts in Matthew, chapter 5, and we will be reading from the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 1, Matthew tells us that:

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up a mountain and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them:

“Blessed are those who recognize they are spiritually helpless.
    The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
Blessed are those who mourn.
    They will be comforted.
Blessed are those who are gentle.
    They will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for God’s approval.
    They will be satisfied.
Blessed are those who show mercy.
    They will be treated mercifully.
Blessed are those whose thoughts are pure.
    They will see God.
Blessed are those who make peace.
    They will be called God’s children.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing what God approves of.
    The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you,
    persecute you,
        lie, and say all kinds of evil things about you because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad because you have a great reward in heaven!
    The prophets who lived before you were persecuted in these ways.

Let’s stop reading here because I want to focus on what Jesus has shared in this opening list of nine blessings. For a long time, whenever I would read or hear this list talked about, I imagined this list was an either/or type of list, and similar to a multiple choice list, I had to pick one characteristic and one blessing from the list Jesus shares.

However, as I have grown, studied, and learned, I am beginning to wonder if the items in this list shouldn’t be seen as exclusive to each other, but instead as different aspects of a Christ-like character. The more I have read the characteristics and blessings, I believe all Jesus’ followers are called to be all these things because this is what Christ has modeled for us.

To open the list of characteristics, we have those who recognize they are spiritually helpless. While we have been given so many spiritual blessings through what Jesus has done for us, without Jesus, we are definitely spiritually helpless. I believe the essence of this blessing is directed towards those who recognize their need for a Savior and that Jesus fits all the characteristics we could ever want in Someone sent to save us.

The second blessing is for those who mourn. While this blessing doesn’t seem that significant, I wonder if a deeper angle to this is that we acknowledge the bad in the world and we bring our challenges and our pain to God. While some might challenge us to ignore our feelings or to push them to the side, according to this characteristic, we are blessed when we mourn, because by bringing our pain to God, we are able to be blessed with His comfort.

The third blessing is for those who are gentle. Jesus tells us that gentle people will inherit the earth. While it might be tempting to think that gentle people will take over the earth, this is not the gist of what it means to inherit something. When something is inherited, it is only after someone else has died. In the context of this blessing, we could conclude that when all the proud, self-centered, violent people have died, then the gentle people who are left will inherit the earth. Those who are gentle don’t take over the earth, they wait patiently for God to act and they are ready to accept the inheritance God has for them when He is ready to bless.

Next in our list of blessings are those who hunger and thirst for God’s approval. Those who whole-heartedly seek for God’s approval will discover where God’s approval can be found, and they will be satisfied.

Half way through our list of blessings comes a blessing for those who show mercy. Jesus promises that those who show mercy will be treated mercifully. In a way, this is similar to saying that those who are forgiving towards others will be forgiven.

Next, we see a blessing for those who have pure thoughts. Jesus promises that those with pure thoughts will see God. While there are several angles we could understand this to mean, I wonder if the first portion of this blessing is simply eyes that are open to how God is moving through the world around us. While those with pure thoughts may ultimately be saved and will see God when He returns, I’m curious if this specific blessing refers to more than just pointing us to the second coming, specifically that when we are living for God with His thoughts in our minds, we will see Him clearly moving in the world today.

Next comes a blessing for those who make peace. Jesus tells us that those who make peace will be called God’s children. This is fascinating in my mind because society wants to frame those who carry Christ’s name as anything but peaceful, and there are many in Christianity who have chosen to live in a way that does not promote peace. I wonder if God has a different word to describe those who claim to be His but who He isn’t going to claim as His own. This blessing ties making peace to being described by God as His children.

The last two blessings in this list are blessings related to being persecuted for doing what God approves of. If the world hates us for following God, then we should be happy and satisfied, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to us and we have a great reward in heaven.

This does not mean that simply calling ourselves a Christian and doing things that the world disapproves of will warrant being blessed. We must be doing things God approves of and be persecuted by the world in order to receive God’s blessing. We are called to live our lives following and obeying Jesus and then let God manage our inheritance. Some of these blessings may be realized in this life, but I am confident that regardless of how we are blessed in this life for following this list of characteristics, God is storing up a much larger inheritance for us in heaven, which He will be happy to reward us with when He returns!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first and choose to apply all of these characteristics into your life. Choose to place God ahead of everything else and let Him bless you as you are a blessing to others. Don’t worry about what happens in this life or in this world because God has something better in store for all of us!

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to grow closer to God each and every day. Only through prayer and study can we learn what God is really like, and when we learn more about God, we are better able to be His witness and representatives in today’s busy, crazy, secular world.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or deviate away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year in Matthew – Episode 6: As Jesus opens His most famous sermon, discover in a list of blessings some major characteristics of His people, and the people who will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven!

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

The Least Shall be First: Luke 24:13-34

Focus Passage: Luke 24:13-34 (NASB)

One thing that has fascinated me about the resurrection story is who Jesus appears to first, before appearing to the group of disciples. The passage in this post is one of these early appearances, but it is one that also summarizes many of the first people who Jesus appears to.

This passage’s event happens on the road between Jerusalem and Emmaus. Jesus appears to two of the lesser known disciples, one named Cleopas and the other one is not given a name. It would seem that these two disciples were followers, but were not listed among the twelve.

However, these two disciples were not the first ones Jesus appeared to. In verses 22-24, we read a summary of what happened that morning: “But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.

John’s gospel (John 20:11-18) describes Mary Magdalene as being the first to see Jesus. Luke’s gospel shares the message that the angels share through the first women visitors to the tomb. However, after they deliver the message, and then return with some of the twelve to see the evidence but no angels, everyone but Mary leaves. It is then that Mary encounters Jesus, and she is regarded as the first person to see Jesus following the resurrection.

The next appearance is either the one in this passage, or one that is directly referenced in this passage when it concludes by saying, “And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, ‘The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.’” (Luke 24:33-34)

Now Simon could be the other disciple with Cleopas, but with the way the passage is worded, it is less clear whether these two disciples arrive while the others are talking about how Jesus had appeared to Simon, or these two disciples arrive with the message that Jesus had appeared to Simon.

I am inclined to think that these two disciples were not carrying the message of an appearance to a single disciple, which means that at this point, there were three appearances on the day of the Resurrection.

Now for a question: Did Jesus appear first to those traveling on the road, or to Simon?

Emmaus was seven miles away from Jerusalem, so at the very least, if these disciples sprinted all the way back, it would have taken at least 30 minutes, if not 1-2 hours to make the return trip. If these disciples arrive just after the news of Jesus appearing to Simon, then it would seem that immediately upon disappearing from the house in Emmaus, Jesus reappears somewhere in Jerusalem, at the place where Simon is.

Now which Simon is it? There were two disciples who were known as Simon: Simon Peter, and Simon the Zealot.

Since we have a clear record of Jesus appearing to the fishermen a few days later, this most likely was Simon the Zealot, who is one of the twelve Jesus called, but not really known for much else except his past life.

This means that Jesus appeared first to a woman (the lowest position in that culture), and an not reputable one at that considering Mary’s past; He then appears to two of the least significant disciple followers, since one is unnamed and the other is not one of the twelve; and only then does Jesus appears to one of the least disciples of the twelve: Simon the Zealot. In a typical fashion for Jesus, He reverses the order of importance and begins showing Himself to the lowest, working His way up from there. If one was creating a legend, they probably would go from the top down, or name-drop themselves in the mix of people who were first, but none of the gospel writers do this, which makes their gospels all the more credible in the eyes of those throughout history.

If you feel too small or insignificant for Jesus to be interested in you, pay attention, because He may just surprise you! Jesus often likes working from the bottom upward.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

In God’s House: Luke 2:39-52


Read the Transcript

As Luke’s gospel transitions out of sharing about Jesus’ birth and childhood, Luke shares one last event that took place while Jesus was young. This event, while being very scary on one hand, is also especially funny to me on another hand. This event also contains a powerful overall theme, while also containing some amazing insights within the details.

Let’s read about what Luke describes happened during Jesus’ childhood. Our passage for this episode is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 2, and we will read from the Contemporary English Version. Starting in verse 39, Luke tells us that:

39 After Joseph and Mary had done everything that the Law of the Lord commands, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. 40 The child Jesus grew. He became strong and wise, and God blessed him.

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for Passover. 42 And when Jesus was twelve years old, they all went there as usual for the celebration. 43 After Passover his parents left, but they did not know that Jesus had stayed on in the city. 44 They thought he was traveling with some other people, and they went a whole day before they started looking for him. 45 When they could not find him with their relatives and friends, they went back to Jerusalem and started looking for him there.

46 Three days later they found Jesus sitting in the temple, listening to the teachers and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was surprised at how much he knew and at the answers he gave.

48 When his parents found him, they were amazed. His mother said, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been very worried, and we have been searching for you!”

49 Jesus answered, “Why did you have to look for me? Didn’t you know that I would be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he meant.

51 Jesus went back to Nazareth with his parents and obeyed them. His mother kept on thinking about all that had happened.

52 Jesus became wise, and he grew strong. God was pleased with him and so were the people.

In this event, as we read it just now, I noticed an interesting set of ideas contained in verses 48 and 49. These verses contain Mary’s scolding Jesus for staying in the city, and Jesus’ response to Mary.

First, I think it is interesting and significant that Mary does the talking. While I’m certain she spoke accurately for Joseph, what she says and how Jesus replies would not have the same significance if Joseph had said it rather than Mary. In verse 48, on finding Jesus in the temple, Mary scolds Jesus by saying, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been very worried, and we have been searching for you!

While Mary is clearly referencing Joseph as Jesus’ father, Jesus has a different perspective. In Jesus’ response, He tells Mary, “Why did you have to look for me? Didn’t you know that I would be in my Father’s house?

While Mary references Joseph as Jesus’ father, which was accurate from one perspective, Jesus shifts perspective and references God the Father as His father. The temple Jesus was standing in was known as being God’s house on earth, and in a subtle way, Jesus reminds Mary and Joseph that He has a much bigger mission because He is God’s Son while also being her Son.

In a similar way, when we accept Jesus into our lives and hearts, we are adopted into God’s family and we too can call God our Father!

However, while that theme is powerful, another theme in this passage is even more significant in my mind. This other theme stresses the importance of staying connected and close to Jesus. While Mary and Joseph only travel one day apart from Jesus, it takes them three days to find Jesus.

For a while, I had thought that the three days of searching included the travel time back to Jerusalem. While the day’s trip away likely was covered in less time going back, the way Luke frames this search is that the three days begins when Mary and Joseph arrive back in the city.

Since time is counted inclusively in first century culture, the first day of searching is day one, and the third day of searching, when they ultimately found Jesus, is day three. After two nights of being without Jesus, I would imagine Mary and Joseph would be very worried. This leads us to discovering a powerful theme that: It is easier to lose Jesus than it is to find Him! One day without Jesus may ultimately result in three days of searching and worry to find Him again!

However, I also wonder if the three days is significant. Looking at the big picture of Jesus’ life, is there another block of three days that stand out?

In my own mind, I can think of no more significant of an event as crucifixion weekend. While Jonah’s time in the belly of a fish is used to foreshadow Jesus’ time in the grave, I wonder if the three days Jesus’ spent apart from His parents also subtly foreshadowed the time Jesus would spend away from His family while in the grave. Luke clearly wrote this event from Mary’s perspective, and I don’t believe this was accidental at all. I wonder if Luke had interviewed Mary when he was gathering material about Jesus’ life.

But the biggest theme I see in this passage is found in Jesus’ reply to Mary: “Didn’t you know that I would be in my Father’s house?

While it is easy to lose Jesus, and finding Him after we have lost Him can take more time than we might expect, this is only because we don’t understand what Jesus is doing. Perhaps Mary and Joseph’s emotions got in the way of thinking logically, or perhaps they simply didn’t think Jesus would be interested in returning to the temple, but regardless of the reason, it took Mary and Joseph longer to find Jesus because they didn’t go to the place where God had led Jesus.

There are many possible reasons for Jesus spending these three or four days in the temple. However, while we don’t have time left in this episode to discuss these, I find it amazing that even though the Jewish traditions had corrupted the religion God had set up through Moses, God had not left His people or His temple. This tells me that when we are ready to find Jesus, He is ready to be found among people who are seeking after Him, even if they don’t have all the details right!

In our own lives, it is more important that we seek Jesus first and let Him teach us than it is for us to try to get our lives straight and accurate before coming to Jesus. Coming to Jesus first leads us to life, trying to get our lives ready first will always keep us away. Jesus is the only way we can be transformed into people who are savable in God’s eyes!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and choose to place your faith, hope, trust, and belief in Jesus. If you find yourself missing Jesus, go to where you see God moving in the world today, go to where people who are seeking God are meeting, and/or go to where there are those God wants to help. In all these places, don’t be surprised to find Jesus show up. The worst thing you can do when having lost Jesus, is give up searching. Those who give up searching will likely never find Jesus again.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to grow closer to Jesus each and every day. While pastors, authors, speakers, and even podcasters can give you ideas to think about, choose to filter and test everything you learn to see if it matches the truth found in the Bible. Any “truth” that contradicts the Bible will not last beyond our sinful world and because of this, it isn’t worth paying significant amounts of attention to.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Luke – Episode 5: While Luke transitions out of Jesus’ childhood, he includes one last event that has some powerful themes we discover about finding and staying with Jesus when Mary and Joseph lose Him in Jerusalem.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.