Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
April 2, 2017
17 On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. 18 And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, 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 midst before Jesus. 20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 25 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. 26 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
— Luke 5:17-26, ESV
Have you seen anything extraordinary lately? If so, surely it involved a savior. A savior is an incredible person who does amazing things, things that make life better.
When a phenomenal athlete leads his team from worst to first, we consider him a savior of the franchise. When a highly skilled surgeon performs an operation that saves a life, we consider him a savior for the one who was sick and dying. When a shrew businesswoman takes over as CEO of a floundering organization and brings it back to profitability, she is the savior of the company.
A savior is someone who takes on our greatest problem. He or she has extraordinary wisdom or skill to solve the problem. And, when the problem is solved, lives are changed for the better. This is a pretty good definition of a savior. But there is no Savior in the world quite like Jesus.
The primary purpose of Luke’s Gospel is to convince a generally Gentile audience that this Jewish carpenter from Galilee is the God and Savior of the world. He does it with aplomb in every pericope, especially in a story like this one. Here, Jesus takes on a man’s greatest problem, although it is somewhat hidden at first behind a lesser affliction. He solves it, as only Jesus, as only God, can do. In the balance, lives are not just temporarily, but forever changed.
A Problem is Laid at Jesus’ Feet
A major problem is literally laid at Jesus’ feet. Perhaps it would be more humane to say a person with a major problem is put before him. He was brought by “some men” according to Luke, though Mark marks the men as four.
The man’s problem is paralysis, a dilemma that even modern medicine cannot adequately solve. The four men feel bad about it, obviously, and perhaps had even been involved in it. Maybe they injured their friend, or maybe he simply fell on the rocky terrain as together they ran around the Sea of Galilee. Whatever the cause, these four friends were determined to move heaven and earth (and literally moved some of the earthen tiles from above) to get their friend to the one person who had the potential to make the problem go away.
Friends bring friends to Jesus. In most cases, gaining access by busting through a roof is not required. A sincere testimony and a winsome invitation will do. But in this case, with a paralyzed pal blocked by a parade of people packed into Peter’s house, drastic measures were necessary.
In Luke’s prior episode, a leper fell down at Jesus’ feet. Here, a paralytic is laid at Jesus’ feet. It’s amazing the things you find at Jesus’ feet in Scripture. It’s mostly problems, problem people, like you and me, with a big problem that only the person and work of Jesus Christ can conquer.
Jesus Solves the Big Problem
Jesus, possessing the infinite wisdom of God, identified two problems where mere morals saw only one. The paralysis was a pitiful indeed, but not the primary problem according to Jesus. The bigger issue was sin.
Some might interpret this as an indication that this man’s sin caused his paralysis, and that could have been true. Maybe he was breaking and entering and injured himself while leaping to escape. Maybe he was a horse thief thrown by his embezzled equine. Most likely, Jesus was not referring to a single sin that left his body paralyzed, but the condition of sin and collection of sins that had stricken his soul and left him spiritually dead.
We live in a culture where the only thing that is sin is saying something is sinful. Such was not the case in Jesus’ day, but the remedy He applied was considered scandalous. Here is where the manifold wisdom of Jesus and the utter foolishness of the Pharisees come together to preach the gospel in a prolific way.
Jesus, who was in the house to preach and heal that day, did both to this crippled man. Christ cared deeply about his broken body, but cared even more for his lost soul. He fixed the latter first, than later allowed him to walk, yes walk, home with his faithful friends. Both the gospel and the miracle are God’s, and God’s alone, to give. But which of the two miracles is greater, costlier, more permanent, according to Jesus?
The enemies of Christ, who have Him on their radar now, are introduced in the narrative to further prove two powerful points. First of all, they confirm “sins” are the issue, not a single sin. People have the power to forgive a single sin committed against them by another, but only God has the authority to forgive all of our “sins.” The foolish Pharisees were quite right, only God Almighty can forgive such sinfulness. So, in their resentful and roundabout way, they help to prove that Jesus is Lord, that the carpenter from Nazareth is Immanuel, God with us, Messiah, Savior of the world. Do the math. Jesus forgave this mans sins. Only God can forgive sins. Jesus is God! Jesus is Lord! Jesus is the Savior!
Lives Are Changed for the Better
All of life is essentially a search for a savior. We have problems, we want them solved, so that our lives will be better. Education is an exercise in problem solving to pave the way for a better life. Romance and other relationships solve the problem of loneliness so that life is more complete. Religion is the greatest search of all for the solutions to the problems that vex us most, sin and forgiveness, death and life.
The search continues until we meet Jesus. We cannot come on our own, we have to be brought. We lie paralyzed before Him, unable to contribute one iota to the solution. The Savior tackles our problems, our sins, with a cross and an empty tomb. We walk, yes walk, away free.
This paralytic did what all saved sinners do. He walked, with God, and lived the remainder of his life for the glory of God as he spread the good news of Jesus far and wide.
Waft it on the rolling tide, Jesus saves, Jesus saves!
Tell to sinners far and wide, Jesus saves, Jesus saves!
God is not primarily in the temporary business. Christ bore the cross and wrote the gospel as an eternal love story. Physically healed people eventually die. Christians whose sins are brought to the Savior live forever.
Jesus is the Savior! Bring your problem and burden of sin to Him, and bring your sinful friends, too. Christ alone can conquer sin and death. Your life, and the lives of others, will be abundantly and eternally better.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org