Luke 5

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Jesus Heals a Paralytic

There are parallels to this story in Matthew 9 and Mark 2.


Verse 17: One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting near by (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. (NRSV)

  • This passage starts with “in one of those days”, referring back to verse 15 when huge crowds of people would show up.
  • It is interesting that even though there was a crowd of people and others couldn't come in it was not standing room only. The people are specifically mentioned as sitting.
    • This explains how they could make room for the paralyzed man when he was dropped onto them. They just didn't want to get up when his friends tried to come through.
    • By saying these leaders were “sitting nearby”, Luke makes it clear that they were not the center of the teaching, but bystanders.
  • Jesus' fame had apparently grown a lot because these were not average Joe's at this house but the elite, the teachers and religious leaders.
  • Luke specifically describes this as a gathering full of religious people.
    • Pharisees, and in particular “teachers of the law” which is a rare term probably meaning leaders within the Pharisees, are here.
    • ”Teachers of the law” is one word, not used in Philo, Josephus, or nearly anyone else. So it's, meaning is kind of unclear. It could be Luke's form of “lawyer (Ftizmyer 580).
    • That Luke mentions them coming from “every village” is an obvious hyperbole, but it does indicate that a lot of them were there.
  • Even though Jesus is mentioned as having the power to heal, he is not mentioned as actually healing anyone other than the paralyzed man. Perhaps that was the only healing of the day and it is mentioned here to set the stage for what follows.
  • The location of the healing is not mentioned, until verse 19 where tiles needed to be removed to let the man down. It is presumed to be a house, but that is unclear.
  • Even though this passage makes the case for Jesus being God, it still attributes Jesus being able to heal as being because God's spirit was there and not just because it was Jesus.


Verse 18: Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; (NRSV)

  • Mark says four friends came with the mane, though Luke leaves that out.
  • The man here is specifically mentioned as being paralyzed.
    • This is the technical term for “paralyzed” (Green 239).
    • This makes sense as Luke was a doctor.
  • The paralytic was not allowed to fully participate in the community (Green 239), and was often shunned. So a crowd was not where you would normally have found one.
  • That the paralyzed man still had friends is remarkable, and probably indicates that he is recently paralyzed. Most people back then died fairly soon after becoming paralyzed from bed sores or complications.
  • That the friends want Jesus to heal the man is assumed, it isn't even mentioned directly. But the will of the paralyzed man isn't ever mentioned.


Verse 19: but 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. (NRSV)

  • As the paralytic was not part of the community, it is completely appropriate that the crowd was a large part of the obstacle between this man and getting healed.
  • Jewish roofs were made with stone or brick walls.
    • Then the roofs were wooden beams and reed/thorn roofs with a clay covering (Fitzmyer 582). Usually one story buildings for personal houses.
    • Luke was written to Greeks and so he changes the roof material to be more Greek, with clay tiles.
    • This would not have been a tall building, so they probably lowered him directly onto either the heads of those underneath like a crowd surfing move (it was crowded after all) or at most it was a short drop.
  • If this involved removing any of the roof, it would have let in a lot of light, given that the windows were rather small. This would have been a great show.
  • What he was lowered down on was a diminutive form of “stretcher”, which is what he was carried in on.
    • This object is a “klinidion”, compared to the bed being a “kline”.
    • Whether this means they took apart his stretcher to lower him in or what, we don't know.
    • This same term is used for what the man picks up and leaves with.


Verse 20: When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” (NRSV)

  • It is not the faith of the paralyzed man that is praised here, but of the friends as it is plural. But it is the man who is forgiven and healed. Perhaps the man is included in this general statement.
  • This is the first time “faith” is mentioned in Luke (Green 240).
    • Faith in this setting does not mean cognitive belief, but a willingness to action in the extreme.
  • “Friend” in verse 20 is literally “man.” That's it, just man.
  • Most versions translate this forgiveness as a present action, Jesus forgiving him. That is not in the Greek. In the Greek, this is a perfect passive verb.
    • This was a past action that was affecting the current situation (perfect tense). The man's sins were previously forgiven, not forgiven at this moment.
    • Being a passive verb, this is not talking about Jesus forgiving, but someone else (God) forgiving. Just as God empowers Jesus to heal, it is presumed that God empowers Jesus to forgive as well.
    • This is an announcement of forgiveness, not the act itself.
    • This is also a singular term, forgiveness not given to the friends up above, but just to the man.


Verse 21: Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (NRSV)

  • These “scribes” were the “teachers of the law” from earlier, but their title has changed now.
  • The NIV reads this as the Pharisees thinking these thoughts. That isn't clear in the Greek. Literally, the scribes and Pharisees began “to reason, saying.” This could be among themselves, or reasoning on their own in their minds. The next verse seems to indicate that most of this was thinking.
  • Technically, blaspheme was saying the name of God, not using God's authority or speaking in God's stead. But the Pharisee's always took the law in the Bible and went one better.


Verse 22: When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? (NRSV)

  • The form of “knowing” Jesus has about their questions is complete knowledge. He perfectly knew it. Whether this is because they were so predictable, because he heard them, or because he read their minds is not mentioned in the text.


Verse 23: Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Stand up and walk'? (NRSV)

  • There is a rabbinic tradition that said “no-one gets up from his sickbed until all his sins are forgiven” (Nolland 236). So Jesus' actions were proving the sins are forgiven.
    • We don't actually buy that idea anymore. And Jesus seems to be disproving it as well, but he does show these people what they needed to see in order to understand.
    • The Jews thought forgiveness would be given by God at the last day (Nolland 238), and Jesus was moving that forward to right now.
    • Jesus only gives forgiveness himself in this story and one in Luke 7.
  • Neither healing nor forgiving is easy, that's the point. But if it takes God to forgive sins (ie insults to God) and God to heal, then theoretically, whoever can do one can do the other.


Verse 24: But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the one who was paralyzed—“I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.” (NRSV)

  • The “son of man” was expected to be a prophetic figure, coming with judgment. This implies the power to forgive, but they didn't expect it (Marshall 215).
  • Again, the power does not come from Jesus himself, but he is given authority to do this.
  • Authority in Luke is the right to act, and power is the ability to act (Green 242).


Verse 25: Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. (NRSV)

  • ”Immediately” is a key word here. This shows that what Jesus said was accomplished immediately. This is one of the few physical examples that demonstrate the speed of forgiveness. If he was healed this fast, then he was forgiven this fast as well.
  • That this man still has a home is another indication that he was recently paralyzed.
  • This is not saying that the man had faith in Jesus, but was thankful.


Verse 26: Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.” (NRSV)

  • This isn't a response to Jesus' statements, but to Jesus' actions. There is no response to what Jesus asked them.


Message Ideas/Scripts/Liturgy That Use This Chapter

 VerseDirectionTopicAudienceOccasionCategory
Healing Inside First17-30Get forgiven and healed inside first, the outside stuff can come laterHealing
forgiveness
Adults, YouthGeneralMessage Idea