Faith to Forgive: Luke 5:17-26

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As we move forward in our year looking at Jesus’ miracles, we come to one of my favorite examples of Jesus healing while also challenging those present. This miracle is probably the single greatest example of persistence that we find included in the gospels about how far some men would go to get help for their disabled friend. Not only do we find an amazing example of persistence in this miracle, we also discover one amazing way that Jesus challenges the religious leaders regarding who He is.

Let’s read about what happened, and specifically about this incredible miracle that happened only because of the persistence of a group of friends. Our passage is found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 5, and we will be reading this passage from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 17, Luke tells us that:

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!”

In this passage and event, we discover that Jesus took the faith of this man’s friends and He used it to challenge everyone present. Jesus knew that the friends had displayed enough faith in their creative and unusual way of getting Jesus’ attention to heal their friend. We have no idea what Jesus was talking about at that moment leading up to this miracle, but it is fascinating to pay attention to how this passage opens.

Luke begins the passage by saying that “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.

This marks the point in Jesus’ ministry when enough things have happened that people, specifically the religious leaders, have taken note of Jesus, but before enough has happened that the religious leadership as a whole had condemned Jesus.

While the faith of the men bringing their friend to Jesus is amazing, the phrase I want to point out in this episode is the one the Pharisees challenge Jesus with. In verse 21, the Pharisees and religious experts argued among each other saying, “Jesus must think he is God! Only God can forgive sins.

This statement is logical on one hand, while causing challenges on another.

When we sin, the act we commit may affect another person, but the sin we committed is against God. Forgiveness only means something when the persons involved in a sin do the forgiving. It doesn’t mean much if I say that I forgive someone else for what they did to someone else. Unless I was affected in some way, giving third-party forgiveness doesn’t work. When we sin, it is against God, and because of this, only God can forgive sins.

However, in John’s gospel’s great commission to the disciples, Jesus gives His followers an unusual ability, and that is the ability to forgive sins. John chapter 20, verses 21 through 23 tells us that:

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

On the surface, these two passages and ideas conflict with one another, but when we look closer, we see something amazing. When Jesus claims to have the power to forgive sins in this passage, it is because He has the Holy Spirit, and when He gives the disciples the commission to forgive sins, it is only after they have accepted and received the Holy Spirit.

The proof Jesus gave for His claim of sin forgiveness is a miraculous healing. This wasn’t healing to prove a point, even if a point was proved through it; this healing was to validate the faith of this man’s friends, and perhaps the faith of this man who might have been injured while doing something sinful.

In this miracle and Jesus’ response, we also see that talk is cheap when compared with action. A miracle is significantly more difficult to do, and the challenging thing to think is that if Jesus came for Himself, and for His own glory, He could have made claim after claim and they all would have fallen flat. Without the Holy Spirit supporting His ministry, Jesus would have done nothing miraculous. It is because Jesus came to glorify God that we see the Holy Spirit so visibly present in His ministry.

At this early stage of Jesus’ ministry, I don’t think it was accidental that all these religious leaders were present, and I don’t think it was a coincidence that these men brought their friend on a stretcher with the faith that Jesus could heal their friend. Everyone present praised God and declared that they had seen a great miracle, but with this miracle is the challenge we all must grapple with: Will we believe that Jesus had God’s authority when He was here on earth – including the authority to forgive sins?

This question divided the religious leaders regarding Jesus, and it divides people living today. Will we accept Jesus’ difficult truths and claims because we see God moving in a strong way validating His ministry, or will we reject Him and all the claims He is recorded making?

And if we accept Jesus at His Word, will we realize and remember that only God can forgive sins, but when God, specifically the Holy Spirit, is living inside of us, we have the power to validate God’s forgiveness of sinners? Forgiving sins and validating God’s forgiveness may be one of our highest callings as followers of Jesus while the Holy Spirit lives in and works through our lives.

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

Always continue seeking God first in your life. Choose each day to live within His will and to do things that will grow His Kingdom. Know that forgiveness is a big part of God’s character, and He has called us to live lives of forgiveness as well.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn, grow, and move closer to Jesus. When we grow closer to Jesus, we can know Him better, and we can more fully receive the Holy Spirit in our lives. Always use your time spent in the Bible as a filter on your life and the world we live in. The Bible is the best guide we have to navigate the crazy lives we live.

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 drift away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 13: When four men bring their friend to Jesus for healing, Jesus attributes this miracle not just to the faith of these men, but to His own ability to forgive sins. Discover what we can learn about Jesus and our own responsibility as Christians regarding forgiveness and forgiving sins.

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