17 One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting nearby (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal.* 18Just then some men came, carrying a paralysed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus;* 19but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd* in front of Jesus. 20When he saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend,* your sins are forgiven you.’ 21Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, ‘Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ 22When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 23Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you”, or to say, “Stand up and walk”? 24But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the one who was paralysed—‘I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.’ 25Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. 26Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’
Notice, this third story begins with “once” or, in this case, “one day”. Luke takes these stories together, but does not imply time or sequence or context. He simply says, these things happened.
As it happened, a group of Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting around Jesus – they had come from all around, from Galilee, Judea, even Jerusalem. But the little house where he sat was also filled with people coming to be healed – for the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal. If you recall the little town of Capernaum, the houses were close together, and the streets were narrow. The crowd was blocking the entry to the house; people were leaning in every window.
There were some men who brought their friend to Jesus for healing. But the crowd was so close, so tightly packed around the little house, that they could not get in to meet Jesus. They had carried their friend on his bed, or mat, all this distance, and now they could not get in! They believed that Jesus could heal their friend, that he could be healed and could again walk and work and care for their family, and join them in the synagogue. And because they really believed that they climbed up onto the roof and removed the tiles from the roof – who would take such a risk if they did not believe? And they attached ropes to their friend’s bed, and let him down in front of Jesus. This is one of my favorite stories of Jesus – because of the next line. When Jesus saw “their” faith – not the faith of the paralyzed man they wanted him to heal, but the faith of the friends who had taken a great risk, to take the man up onto the roof, tear a hole in the roof, and let him down, just to get him close to Jesus! Jesus saw their faith.
When we pray for those who are ill, I think of this story. Jesus healed many people in Galilee, but not any whom someone did not bring to him, or who did not come to him themselves. I think, we are taking him or her to Jesus, getting him or her close enough for Jesus to touch, when we pray. Our prayers are not magical words, but a bringing of the person to Jesus for healing.
But this man needed something more than healing; he was sick in his soul. Those friends who brought him did not know that; the Pharisees sitting around did not understand. But Jesus did! Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus knew what the man needed most, and it was not the physical healing. But, of course, the Pharisees were looking for something to criticize, and they thought, “This is blasphemy! Only God has the power to forgive.” Jesus, of course, knew what they were thinking. He likely spoke the way he did in order to make them question their assumptions. And he responded to their unspoken question – so that they might know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, he told the man to stand up and take his bed and go home. And the man did just that, glorifying God (and likely thanking his friends) as he went. This is the first time that Luke uses the title “Son of Man” for Jesus in his Gospel. This is a reference to a prophecy in Daniel, and is a reference to Jesus as the Messiah. The Pharisees will be enraged by this reference, although Luke doesn’t tell us that just yet.
What do we learn from this story? Jesus forgives sins; Jesus heals; Jesus knows our hearts. We must bring people to him in prayer, so that they may be healed.
image is from another town where Jesus taught and healed, Bethsaida.