Sunday, February 19, 2012

Luke 5:12-26 - Up on the Housetop

Healing the Paralytic (James Tissot)
Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 5:12-26 to teach believers that Jesus has authority both over our worst disease – sin and to forgive and restore.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about forgiveness and restoration.
Pray and Read:  Luke 5:12-26

Sermon Points:
1.   Jesus has authority over our worst disease -- sin (Luke 5:12-16)
2.   Jesus has authority both to forgive and restore (Luke 5:17-26)

Contextual Notes:
Luke introduces his Gospel with a call to believe that Jesus is the Messiah who fulfills the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants (Luke 1-2). Repenting of sin is the first step in believing (Luke 3:1-20) in this Jesus who is set apart as God’s suffering Servant through his sacrificial death (Luke 3:21-23a). Unlike sinful Adam, Jesus is the completely obedient Son of God (Luke 3:23b-38) who defeats Satan himself in a test of every sphere of human life: body, mind, and spirit (Luke 4:1-13).

In the power of the Holy Spirit, then, Jesus moves into his ministry in the region of the Sea of Galilee (Luke 4:14-9:50). After encountering unbelief and rejection at Nazareth (Luke 4:14-30),[1] Jesus finds belief, freedom, and healing for the captives in Capernaum (Luke 4:31-44). Here he calls his disciples (Luke 5:1-11), but his ministry arouses the hostility of the religious leaders when he announces forgiveness for sins (Luke 5:12-26).

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   In the last of a series of incidents establishing Jesus’ authority and demonstrating his Nazareth sermon (Luke 4:18-27), Jesus exercises his authority over the most widely-feared disease of His day. (|| Mark 1:40-45; Matt. 8:1-4). Lepers were outcasts from society, and most non-lepers would never touch them. In fact, Jewish law did not permit it.
b.   Luke 5:12 – This disease is not the same disease as modern day leprosy (Hansen’s disease). The descriptions given in Leviticus 13-14 suggest a variety of skin disorders. Because no one knew how contagious they may be, the OT set out strict guidelines for examination and isolation of them. If the priest deemed a person leprous, then you were isolated, required to wear torn clothes, cover the lower part of your face, and cry out “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever anyone approached. Leprosy is a symbol, then, of sin.
c.   Luke 5:13 – Imagine how your heart would have been moved to stand there and see a man falling on his face before Jesus, pleading, “if you are willing, you can make me clean” (Luke 5:12; Mark 1:40; Matt 8:2). Jesus was indeed willing, demonstrating his authority over the disease and his compassion for the man. Since lepers were not only ostracized from society, but also from worship of the Lord, Jesus’ command, “Be clean,” represents spiritual as well as physical cleansing and restoration. In Luke 7:22, Jesus will say that these physical healings are evidence that the time of salvation has arrived (Isaiah 49:8-9) and that He is the One who was to come, the Messiah.
d.   Jesus commanded the man to carry out the requirements of the Torah (Lev 13; 14:1-32), to report to the priest for a certificate of cleansing. By doing so, Jesus does nothing to violate the law or to offend the priests. The leper lives to testify of what the Lord has done for him (Luke 5:14).
e.   APPLICATION: We all carry the leprosy of sin which covers us and isolates us from a relationship with the Lord. The Lord has authority over sin, and there are no untouchables, no one too far from sin for him. Today the Lord is saying, “I am willing. Be clean!” At the end of this service of worship, I will invite you to come to me here the front, to ask the Lord to cleanse you of your sin, and to submit your life to Jesus Christ. It is the most important decision you can make in your lifetime. Prepare to do that as we continue.
f.    Luke 5:15-16 – Jesus’ ministry drew a large following, and while he was fully God, he was also fully human. He got tired. He needed time alone. He needed time to refuel in prayer and time with the Lord. Prayer with the Father is Jesus’ source of strength and vitality. In it he models for us how to live as a believer, in communion with the Father, submitted to the Son, living in the power of the Holy Spirit.
g.   APPLICATION: And if Jesus needed time with the Lord in prayer and the Word, time to get away and recharge, we certainly do.
a.   Now Luke makes it even more clear that the physical healings point to a much deeper healing which needs to take place in our lives, healing of our souls from the ultimate terminal illness of sin.
b.   Luke 5:12-26 (|| Mark 2:1-12; Matt 9:1-8). Luke, with parallels in Mark, records five events in which the Pharisees and scribes react with offense and violence against his claims. We saw a foreshadowing of opposition at the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:14-30), but now the real opposition begins. When four men bring their paralytic friend for healing, they cannot get close to Jesus, so they let him down through the roof. Recognizing his spiritual need as more important, Jesus assures him of forgiveness of his sins, only to be accused of blasphemy.
c.   Luke 5:17 – Luke says the Pharisees[2] and scribes have come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. The Pharisees were one of the groups of religious leaders within Judaism. They were the conservatives in Biblical interpretation, more middle-class businessmen and merchants involved in the synagogues. (The Sadducees were more theologically liberal, more upper class, & dominated the ruling council, the Sanhedrin). Most Pharisees seem to have lived near Jerusalem, three days’ walk to the south. Thus, the “scribes,” or “teachers of the law,” who lived in the villages of Galilee, who could read and write, who could execute legal documents, and who trained children in the law of Moses. These religious leaders plainly observe God’s power at work but will still reject Jesus’ authority. They see God’s power but reject the messenger.
d.   APPLICATION: Beware you are not one “sitting by,” watching God work, judging, criticizing, arm-chair quarterbacking. Often those who sit along the sidelines and like to give their opinions are operating in unbelief. It’s not about how much religious training you have had or your seminary degrees. They mean nothing when God is calling you to simple faith in what He is doing in front of you. Don’t sit back and criticize. Get up and get involved in what the Lord is doing and join Him in his work. These Pharisees in their first encounter with Jesus responded negatively. They were offended at Him. But their offense was not genuine offense. It was something else. Genuine offense is when someone willfully reaches out and attacks you without sufficient cause. Conviction over sin is different. There is a twinge of discomfort that comes from the Holy Spirit in the grace of conviction of sin. Beware of confusing conviction with genuine offense. When we mistake the Holy Spirit’s conviction for offense, we operate in unbelief and disobedience. When we recognize the grace that is found in the conviction of the Holy Spirit over sin in our lives, we find the joy and release of confession and repentance, then freedom from the bondage of sin. Personal pride throws off your ability to distinguish between the two. Ask the Lord to help you learn humility. It is critical for you to know the difference between offense and conviction, or you will either not come to Christ for salvation to begin with or you will not grow as a believer if you are already saved.
e.   Luke 5:18-19 – Excavations in Capernaum show that the largest homes in the first century had a span of 18 feet. Thus, the average Capernaum home may have held a maximum of fifty standing persons. They were built with an outside staircase, so there was no problem getting to the top of the house. Roofs were normally flat, with beams covered with reeds and a layer of clay, and some had tile roofs. Luke uses a more precise word for roof than Mark’s ordinary stegé (from verb “to cover”). Luke uses tiles (keramos). Mark tells of them “digging through” the roof while Luke says they lowered him through the tiles.
f.    Luke 5:20 – In contrast with the religious leaders who watch God extraordinary work but reject the messenger, the paralytic and his friends demonstrate extraordinary faith by tearing apart the roof to get to Jesus. Here we see again Luke contrasting unbelief and belief. The paralytic is rewarded for walking in belief by being able to walk home. But he is also forgiven of his sins. The people stand in awe and praise God.
g.   Psalm 103:3 makes a connection between disease and forgiveness of sin, the Lord “who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.” But in John 9:2-3, Jesus refuted the belief that all disease is a result of sin in that person’s life. Disease is a part of this world because sin is in the world. God is not the author of disease, but God can use disease for His own glory in our lives and the lives of others. It is not clear whether the man’s paralysis was connected to his personal sin, but it is clear that Jesus came to destroy the power of sin, and since disease is a result of sin in the world, then his healing power is meant to confirm his authority to announce the Kingdom of God and the end-time forgiveness of sin. This is why Jesus is more concerned with the forgiveness of this man’s sin and with his condition secondarily.
h.   Luke 5:21 – “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy?” In Judaism, only God could forgive sins, but most Jews had no problem with one of God’s representatives speaking on God’s behalf (2 Sam 12:13). Their charge of blasphemy is serious, since blasphemy for them involved pronouncing God’s divine name (Lev. 24 10-23; Mishnah), inviting people to worship other gods, or at the very least dishonoring God. Strictly speaking, these legal scholars are mistaken in calling Jesus’ words blasphemy, even by their own rules. They are accusing Jesus of being arrogant and usurping the authority of God.
i.    While the leper lived to testify to the Lord’s work in his life, the paralytic goes home healed both physically and spiritually – his sins forgiven and in right standing with God. Healing involves restoration to one’s family, friends, and community.
j.    ILLUSTRATION: In the West with our broken families and transient communities, we have largely forgotten this, except for some pockets of the American South. But in Liberia, West Africa, people ask a total stranger, “How da body?” Then, “How da family-o?” Similarly, every farewell, even with distant acquaintances, involves sending a greeting to the family. They understand that good health involves right relationships with the ones with whom we share DNA, with whom we share a zip code, and with whom we share a pew, but if those relationships are broken, then your health is in question.
k.   Luke 5:22-26 – While some Jewish teachers accepted miracles as verification that a teacher was truly God’s representative, others discounted them as proof, especially if they disagreed with that teacher’s interpretation of Scripture.
l.    Luke 5:24 – Son of Man. This is the first time in Luke’s Gospel in which Jesus is called (and here Jesus’ himself calls himself) the Son of Man (Luke 5:24). The Greek phrase “ho huios tou anthropou” is a literal translation of the Hebrew ben adam (son of man)[3] meaning simply a human being. Ezekiel uses it to address the prophets (Ezek 2:1; 3:3; 4:1, etc.) and the Psalms use the term to refer to humanity (Psalm 8:4; 144:3) or Israel (Psalm 80:17), but there is a special designation in Daniel 7:13-14 (which Luke will develop later in his Gospel: Luke 21:27, 36; 22:69), where an exalted, divine Messianic figure “like a son of man” (having human form) comes with the clouds of heaven and is given great glory and power. Jesus probably uses the term because (1) it emphasizes his true humanity; (2) it points to Daniel 7:13 and reveals his identity as Messiah and his coming glory (Luke 22:69).
Invitation: Today you can receive that Son of Man.

[1] The incident parallels the beginning of the birth narrative, in which the priest Zechariah responds in unbelief to the announcement of the angel Gabriel. The Capernaum synagogue’s faith parallels the believing faith of the Virgin Mary.
[2] Luke’s first mention of the Pharisees is here at Luke 5:17.
[3] Aramaic: bar ‘enash