The Pharisees’ Paralysis

Luke 5:17-26
Isa 35:1-10 / Psa 85:9-14

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
(Luke 5:20)

Repentance is what we must seek
If we are paralyzed by sin.
Pride keeps us bound, makes our faith weak
If what needs healing lies within.

One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to think, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Knowing what was in their minds, Jesus asked them, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up, took his mat, and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. (Lk.5:17-26)

Reflection

We see two reasons why our Lord first forgave the paralytic’s sins before healing him. The first was to stir a controversy in the minds of the Pharisees and scribes who were present regarding His authority to forgive sins, and then proving it. Only God could give instant healing to a paralytic, just as easily as He could forgive sins. But the Pharisees and scribes were the ones so paralyzed by their sins of envy and pride that they failed to see Jesus as the promised Messiah.

The second reason was to emphasize to one and all that spiritual healing was far more important than the physical healing that the paralytic and his friends so desperately sought. And yet, both were freely given. The friends of the paralytic went to all the trouble for him to find relief from a debilitating disease, but they never thought that he would find freedom from a worse condition, the sins that would have paralyzed his soul forever. Jesus healed both his body and soul, all because of their perseverance and faith.

The same could not be said about the Pharisees and teachers of the law, who, for all their knowledge and intelligence suffered a greater disease because of their stubborn pride. Convinced of their own misplaced piety and righteousness, they refused to admit that they needed repentance, and so remained trapped in their wicked state.

Our state is almost always a matter of our own choosing. We can choose to be critical and content with our righteousness like the scribes and Pharisees; or we can choose to be like the friends of the paralytic who refused to be deterred by any obstacle to bring the paralytic to Jesus for healing. Seeking Jesus in the midst of our trials is never easy, and can even be costly (as those men must certainly had paid for the repair of the roof). But perseverance in bringing others to Christ always pays a very high dividend, far greater than the cost.

Dear God, we were no different from that paralytic, helpless and bound, before You forgave our sins. But now You have empowered us with Your Holy Spirit, Lord, and so we must also go to all lengths to bring others who are still paralyzed by sin to our Lord Jesus, so that they too may find peace and health of both body and soul. Amen.

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