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.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

The Death or the Life: Luke 13:1-9

Focus Passage: Luke 13:1-9 (NIV)

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

Read Luke 13:1-9 in context and/or in other translations on!

One thing that always amazes me about Jesus is how He is able to avoid the traps and tricks of the Pharisees and other religious leaders. Time and time again Jesus sidesteps their logic and shares an even greater truth.

This passage doesn’t have a clear “Pharisee Trap” present, but Jesus does take the perspective of those present and redefines it. Like most interesting dialogs, some people bring Jesus a statement or question and wait to hear His response. Luke 13 begins by saying, “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.(verse 1)

These people may have wanted to simply inform Jesus about something bad that had just happened, or perhaps they were warning Him to consider moving His ministry to a different location, but in either case, they were asking for Jesus to give a response to this information. Like Jesus usually did, instead of responding directly to the surface statement, He responds to the underlying concept and perspective.

The subtle trick that is present here is not seen in the statement, but instead in Jesus’ response.

One thing those present were trying to pin Jesus into saying is that how one dies is more important than how they lived. The thought among those present seemed to be that one’s type of death, especially if they were killed while worshiping, would overshadow any wrong they had done during their lives.

The other big thing that those present were trying to get Jesus to say was that the type of death that someone experienced was directly a result of the type of life they had lived. It stood to reason that those who died early, especially if it was an “accident” like a tower falling, must have been hiding worse sins that only God knew about and that He determined it good to punish them for it.

These are the two sides to this seemingly innocent piece of news – and Jesus sees right into the preconceived ideas and into the trap. So Jesus takes the opportunity to shift the perspective of each side of the trick. Continuing in verse 2, we read, “Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’(verses 2-5)

First Jesus steps in and brings the implications to the surface. Is how one dies a revelation of how they lived? Does the type or time of death matter?

Then Jesus gives us the big truth: How one chooses to live from this point forward determines their ultimate destiny. Unless repenting, which means turning away from sin and towards God, is a part of your path forward, you will face the same fate. The amount/level of sin in our lives is not as important as the one we put our faith, hope, and trust in to deal with the sin that has stained our past.

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!

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Helping the Hurting: Luke 14:1-6

Focus Passage: Luke 14:1-6 (GW)

On a day of rest—a holy day Jesus went to eat at the home of a prominent Pharisee. The guests were watching Jesus very closely.

A man whose body was swollen with fluid was there. Jesus reacted by asking the Pharisees and the experts in Moses’ Teachings, “Is it right to heal on the day of rest—a holy day, or not?” But they didn’t say a thing.

So Jesus took hold of the man, healed him, and sent him away. Jesus asked them, “If your son or your ox falls into a well on a day of rest—a holy day, wouldn’t you pull him out immediately?” They couldn’t argue with him about this.

Read Luke 14:1-6 in context and/or in other translations on!

As I read through the gospels and specifically about the miracles Jesus did, I am surprised at the places where Jesus heals someone while also knowing that it would bother others. One such example is when Jesus healed the man who was swollen with fluid while visiting a Pharisee’s home. In this event, we see plenty of evidence that the whole situation was set up to catch Jesus doing something that these religious men could use as evidence to claim Jesus worked on the Sabbath.

The question that comes to my mind when I read events like this why would Jesus knowingly place Himself in situations like this knowing that it is a trap. Perhaps Jesus didn’t know this situation was a trap when He arrived, but since He was so connected with the Holy Spirit and the Father in everything He did and said, I would be very surprised if Jesus simply walked unknowingly into this trap.

In contrast, if Jesus knew everything about this trap beforehand, and He chose to walk into it, the only two reasons for this that I can see are (1) healing someone who needed help and (2) pushing these religious leaders past their legalistic view of Sabbath observance.

We can see both reasons being present in this passage, and this teaches us that God has called us to love and help others regardless of the day of the week we are in, and while His Sabbath day is holy and special, it should never be an excuse to not help someone in need!

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!

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Flashback Episode — Great Faith from a Roman: Luke 7:1-10

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While Jesus performed countless miracles during His three-and-a-half years of ministry leading up to the cross, one of these miracles stands apart from the rest. This miracle stands out because Jesus isn’t directly present for the healing, though He may have planned to be, and because Jesus praises the faith of the man requesting help.

This miracle stands out in my mind because of some details Luke includes that the other gospel writers didn’t. Let’s read about what happened, from Luke’s gospel, chapter 7, using the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 1, Luke tells us that:

When Jesus had finished saying all these things to the people, he went to Capernaum. A Roman officer there had a servant who was very dear to him; the man was sick and about to die. When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his servant. They came to Jesus and begged him earnestly, “This man really deserves your help. He loves our people and he himself built a synagogue for us.”

Let’s pause reading hear for a moment because Luke just shared some details that I don’t believe Matthew included. In Luke’s version of this event, the Roman officer asks some respected Jewish leaders to ask Jesus for help. Whether this Roman didn’t think Jesus would be interested in helping him directly, or whether he believed that these Jewish leaders would make a stronger case for help, I cannot escape noticing that Jewish leaders came to ask for Jesus’ help.

It is also interesting that this miracle happens in Capernaum, which is one of the locations Jesus lived while He was in ministry. Several of the disciples may have even lived here as well. While it seemed as though Jesus had alienated Himself from most every other religious leader in Israel, these leaders in Capernaum had not written Jesus off – or this event happened early enough in Jesus’ ministry that not every religious leader had turned against Him.

I am also fascinated by the way these Jewish leaders ask Jesus for help. They open by saying that this Roman deserved Jesus’ help, and they support this statement by saying that the officer loved the Jewish people and that he built (probably financed) the synagogue where they worshiped. A subtle implication on both the part of the Roman officer and these leaders is that this officer knew he was outside of the circle Jesus was in, and these religious leaders were inside the circle with Jesus. This distinction is present in both the act of Jewish leaders making the request, and in the request itself when these leaders describe this officer’s love for “our people”.

This Roman officer might not have realized it, but Jesus came to bless both Jew and gentile, and He is happy to help this officer, but I doubt for the reasons that the Jewish leaders present.

Continuing in verse 6, we read:

So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the officer sent friends to tell him, “Sir, don’t trouble yourself. I do not deserve to have you come into my house, neither do I consider myself worthy to come to you in person. Just give the order, and my servant will get well. I, too, am a man placed under the authority of superior officers, and I have soldiers under me. I order this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; I order that one, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and I order my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

Let’s pause reading again because I want to point out a very interesting contrast. When the religious leaders make their case for Jesus’ help, they tell Jesus that this officer “deserves” Jesus’ help. In contrast, when Jesus is on His way, the officer’s friends bring Jesus the message that the officer does not “deserve” Jesus’ presence, and that this officer believes he is “unworthy” to come in person. While the religious leaders make a case that is founded on pride, the officer counters this case on the foundation of humility and his unworthiness.

Whether the officer believed he was too sinful, or whether he was simply self-conscious about Jesus seeing something he was not proud of in his home, this Roman understood that Jesus was not the one directly performing the miracles. Instead, Jesus was the “commander” so to speak, and God gave the healing. I don’t know if there had been any prior miracles where Jesus hadn’t been directly present before this point, but I don’t think this was the case. The parable of Jesus turning the water into wine comes close though, and this miracle also happened in the city of Capernaum.

How does Jesus respond? Let’s continue reading in verse 9 to find out:

Jesus was surprised when he heard this; he turned around and said to the crowd following him, “I tell you, I have never found faith like this, not even in Israel!”

10 The messengers went back to the officer’s house and found his servant well.

I am always amazed at this miracle because Jesus ultimately gives this Roman official a higher compliment than He had given to anyone else in Israel. In what was likely one of the more secular parts of the region of Israel, Jesus recognizes the unconventional faith that this gentile officer had. This Roman knew Jesus could help, he asks Jesus for help, and he lets Jesus know that His presence is not required.

From the moment this officer learned that Jesus would help, he knew that his servant would live because of Jesus. The proof of this was not getting Jesus to touch this servant directly, but simply the servant getting well. I believe if the servant had gotten well weeks later, rather than minutes, this officer still would have attributed this healing to Jesus, and he might have simply written off the time difference as something potentially necessary when dealing with long-distant miracles.

But this passage concludes that the servant was well, we might even say fully healed, by the time the messengers arrive back at the officer’s home. Jesus was not going to let this opportunity slip by with a slow miracle. Even though this officer didn’t believe he deserved Jesus’ help, or even Jesus’ presence, Jesus honored both.

We can learn from this Roman officer because when we think honestly about our own lives, we don’t deserve Jesus’ help. We have sinned, and we are to blame. Any help we request could fall on deaf ears – except that they don’t because of who God is and what He is like.

Also, we can learn from this Roman officer because he trusted Jesus’ word without Jesus’ presence. Jesus is in heaven right now and it is unlikely that He will personally come and answer your request. However, He is willing to help from a distance, and when we are willing to accept Jesus’ long-distance help and believe He wants the ultimate best for everyone in our situation, then with whatever happens, we can know that He has reasons for what happened – even if we don’t know His reasons.

God’s goal for each of us is not an easy life here in a sin-filled earth.

God’s goal for each of us is that we will live forever with Him starting in heaven before ultimately moving to a new heaven and new earth.

As we conclude another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always be sure to seek God first in your life. Trust and believe in your heart that He wants the best for you from eternity’s perspective, and sometimes that means we won’t get the answers we want in this life. God loves us and He wants us to be with Him forever in the new heaven and the new earth.

But don’t take my word for it. Be sure to study the Bible for yourself and learn this directly from God’s word. God has protected the Bible for thousands of years, and if we trust God to keep us safe for eternity, we can trust that He is able and willing to keep His words safe over a few thousand years.

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 reject where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 12: Discover how Jesus responds when asked for help from a Roman. While this event happened thousands of years ago, learn how and why it is still amazingly relevant to our lives today.

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