Luke 5: 17-26
17 And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judæa, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.
18 ¶ And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.
19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.
20 And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.
21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?
22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?
23 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?
24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.
25 And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.
26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.
The paralyzed man would not have been able to come to Jesus without the help of his friends. It is his friends’ faith, and their initiative and bravery, as well as his own that work together to find a way to come to Jesus. Jesus is touched by their faith and their friendship. We may think now as well about the help we give others and the help which we receive from others, in matters of faith and as we confess our sins and seek spiritual healing. Our sins can be like a form of spiritual paralysis, in which condition we may rely a great deal on our friends to bring us back to Jesus.
Jesus has travelled widely through the region of Galilee, healing and teaching great crowds of people. Now in a house, his company includes highly educated Jews, Pharisees and doctors of the law. We may imagine a high order of intellectual religious discussion taking place alongside the miracles of healing.
Christ now does not initially say that he is healing the paralyzed man of his paralysis. Rather he tells him that his sins are forgiven him. This must have seemed very mysterious, and perhaps hardly what the paralyzed man was looking for, and now Luke’s narrative develops our understanding of Christ’s healing, which is both spiritual and physical, as of his divinity.
The scribes’ and the Pharisees’ response suggests a scene of great tension. This is an outrage; it is blasphemy – and it is hard not to think that Jesus was deliberately provoking them, so that he could make his point more forcefully, to drive those people present to think again and so to understand his purpose in being here. So then, at this moment of heightened tension, Christ brings to mind the Jewish belief in physical handicap as a punishment for sin, and, by way of answer and challenge to the scribes and Pharisees, he heals and absolves in one utterance. Amazement seizes the people and they are afraid, not knowing how to understand what they have seen and heard. Christ has made a momentous claim, and his miracles prove it.
Let our prayer rise like incense before you, Lord,
so that we may come
in humility and purity of heart
to celebrate the great mystery of your Son’s incarnation.
We make our prayer through our Lord.