17 One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby. (It seemed that these men showed up from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem.) And the Lord’s healing power was strongly with Jesus.
18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, 19 but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. 20 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.”
21 But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts?23 Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’?24 So I will prove to you that the Son of Ma has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
25 And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God.26 Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, “We have seen amazing things today!” (NLT)
This is a well-known story of the New Testament. By this time Jesus has performed many miracles and healed many people. In the verses before this, Jesus heals a man with leprosy.
Jesus is being followed constantly by people listening to his teaching, as well as people coming to be healed. In this particular story we see some men bringing their paralyzed friend to Jesus to be healed, but the crowd is so thick that they cannot get to him inside the house where He is seated. Desperate to help their friend, and believing Jesus was the only one who could heal him, they made a hole in the roof and lowered him down in front of the Lord.
Jesus saw the faith of the paralyzed man and his friends. To the surprise of the crowd around Him, He didn’t touch the man to heal him, but instead said, “Your sins are forgiven”.
Some religious officials and teachers were among the crowd, since they had begun watching the man who was followed by so many. They immediately took offence by Jesus’s words and called it blasphemy. C.S Lewis explains why they responded this way:
“Now unless the speaker is God, [forgiving sins] is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself…But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on another man’s toes and stealing other men’s money? … [Yet Jesus] unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin.”
Jesus knew what the Pharisees were thinking and he verbally answers their thoughts in verses 22-24:
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts?23 Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’?24 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
Immediately the paralyzed man gets up, picks up his mat and leaves glorifying God. He arrived that day with faith in a big God, and left with a greater faith in a bigger God. Everyone who witnessed this miracle was filled with amazement. They recognized they had seen the power of the Lord that day.
Of course, people in the crowd were filled with awe and wonder. Can you imagine witnessing this miracle? If I saw it, I would be praising God too. I would want to continue to follow Jesus and hear His teachings and witness His miracles. I often wonder how there were people around Jesus who did not believe in Him; all that He did, all that taught – how could anyone not recognize Him as the Son of God?
I admit that I am sometimes envious of the people who were able to see Jesus in the flesh and to hear His voice. They could look upon Him, touch Him, eat with Him and be close to Him. I would love to have that physical experience.
Even though we do not get to see Jesus in the flesh now, His presence is everywhere. I see and feel Jesus in my daily life. I see Him in blooming flowers, in the eyes of strangers, in the actions and compassion of others. I hear Him in laughter, in the songs of the birds, in the breeze rustling the trees. He speaks to me. He comforts me. He listens to me.
He has performed miracles in my life and in the lives of those around me. He has rescued me in so many difficult situations and trials. He has carried me in times of weakness. He is always here, and I am so grateful for His presence around me and in me.
How do you see Jesus? How do you know He is there even though there is no physical presence?
In verse 24, Jesus refers to himself as the ‘Son of Man’. This is the first time He does that in Luke, and it’s meaning is significant. I will finish with the words of Charles Swindoll in his commentary on Luke, referring to Jesus calling himself the ‘Son of Man’:
“It reminds the listener that Jesus, as a human, identifies with us, but that He came to accomplish great things on our behalf. He is human, yet much more than human. His authority is, in fact, divine in origin.”