The Authority of Christ to Forgive Sins
Topic: Walk By Faith Verse: Luke 5:17–5:26
“The Authority of Christ to Forgive Sins”
Theme: Jesus’ authority extends over those who believe and those who do not.
I. It Interests Sinners Differently – 5:17-19
A. The Rejection of Christ by the Self-Righteous – v. 17
- Like the previous depiction of Jesus being “in one of the cities,” Luke simply identifies this next account as “one day He was teaching …” – intimating that these are routine and typical stories that repeated themselves over and over in Jesus ministry.
- Jesus’ fame was continuing to spread to the point where he was limited in where He could go because of the crowds that followed Him – cp. Mark 1:45.
- Mark tells us that this next event happened when Jesus had gone back to Capernaum – cp. Mark 2:1ff
- His ministry was looked upon with disdain by the religious leadership – who Jesus had already alienated through His teaching and actions (ie. Cleansing the Temple a year earlier).
- His enemies were constantly inspecting Jesus as He ministered to see if He in any way stepped out of bounds or taught something that would make Him vulnerable to accusations.
- Like Daniel of old – these religious leaders were unable to find fault with Him – cp. Daniel 6:4-5
- Thus, we find these men lurking in the crowd – “… and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there …”
- This is Luke’s first reference to “Pharisees” [Φαρισαῖος] – that group of separatists who piled on traditions to safe-guard the Law from inadvertent violations while neglecting the weightier matters – Matthew 23:23.
- The “teachers of the law” – describes a subset of the “Pharisees” who were professional scholars who focused on interpreting the Law.
- These men were antagonistic toward Jesus and sought opportunities to make accusation against Him – to discredit Him – and prove Him to be unfit to enjoy the respect of the crowd.
- We are told that they had gathered, apparently at some call sent out from “central command” in Jerusalem as we are told that they “had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem”
- The work of Christ was powerful as He both preached God’s Word and worked miracles to the glory of God as Luke commented: “and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing” – once again demonstrating that Jesus’ miracles were the result of His yielding to the Holy Spirit in His humility.
- These men were exposed to this “power of the Lord,” yet sat completely blinded to the glory of God because of their self-righteousness and formality.
B. The Reliance on Christ by the Sinner – vv. 18-19
- Yet there were others who recognized the “power of the Lord” and sought to humble themselves before it to gain God’s favor.
- The crowd around Jesus was too great – partly because of the deference that most had paid to the Pharisees who had taken the “front rows” and jammed the house full.
- Those who were there out of faith in Christ were held back from getting to Christ because of the obstruction by these religious leaders!
- We are told that “some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him.”
- However, they were “not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd …”
- None of these self-righteous religious leaders would yield way for this needy man who, because of his paralysis, was an outcast – commonly thought to have deserved what suffering he endured – cp. John 9:2.
- It was a very popular view in ancient days was that whenever someone was sick, personal sin was always the reason; thus, this man was plagued by guilt – probably raking through his heart to determine what it was that was causing his illness – cp. Job 4:7; 8:4
- But his friends – out of love for this desperate man – wouldn’t give up – “they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus.”
- This was quiet the feat – as they had to literally dig through “the roof” – cp. Mark 2:4
- This man was compelled by his awareness of his need to come to Christ – to find in Christ the answer to his soul’s dilemma and find grace to remove what he had come to believe were the consequences of his sins.
- What contributes to your ability to sit under the teaching of God’s Word and be unaffected?
- What are the most common elements that obstruct your approach to Christ Jesus?
- How does the persistence in the paralytic’s friends inspire your own desire to interact with Christ?
II. It Interacts with Sinners Differently – 5:20-23
A. The Pardon in Response to Dependence – v. 20
- As a result of this man’s faith and the faith of his friends, Jesus responds to Him with compassion and grace!
- Luke describes the setting – “Seeing their faith, He said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven you.’”
- Jesus knew the heart of this man – the great remorse over his sin and the desperate desire to be forgiven.
- He clearly believed that Jesus has the power and authority to do this.
- “seeing” [εἶδον] carries the idea of perceiving or “feeling” – that is that this was not merely on the basis of the great pains that these men went through to get the paralytic in front of Jesus – Mark 2:3-4.
- Faith is always the vehicle through which God works in the life of the sinner to bring Him to enjoy the benefits of grace.
B. The Prosecution in Response to Defiance – vv. 21-23
- This powerful testimony to the compassion and grace of God providing a response to the faith of a sinner was immediately dismissed by the defiant, self-righteous, religious antagonists as inappropriate.
- These “scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, ‘Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?’”
- The only option – if Jesus were not to be believed as the Son of God – is that he “blasphemes” – a term [βλασφημέω] that means “to speak against” or “to insult” and in this sense it refers to someone insulting God by usurping the divine prerogative of forgiving sins.
- Unfortunately for them, they were in the presence of God Himself – who was “aware of their reasonings” – understanding their thoughts even as He was aware of the faith of the paralytic - a sign to them of His divine attribute of omniscience – cp. John 2:25; 1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39
- He immediately demonstrates His authority to both forgive and condemn by indicting them for their lack of faith in the face of such obvious demonstrations of divine power and His verdict exposes their wickedness.
- Instead of avoiding His identity and authority, Jesus pushes the point by doubling down on His authority – “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins have been forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?”
- Since the prevailing view of the day was that all sickness was the result of sin, could you really heal someone without dealing with the sin?
- If Jesus could countermand the disease – something that He had demonstrated repeatedly and publicly – He is necessarily commuting the verdict of sin; and therefore forgiveness is not more difficult than healing.
- However, some may say that it is an unsubstantiated claim – a blasphemous claim – to say someone’s sins are forgiven – so that is easy – but to actually remove the consequences of sin in an observable way would not be a hollow claim.
- Therefore, Jesus says: “’But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ – He said to the paralytic – ‘I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.’”
- The lack of faith and underestimation of Jesus by these hypocrites were indicted by Christ’s compassion on the sinner who was filled with faith.
- Reflect on the phrase “seeing their faith …” - what causes us to be more interested in others seeing our faith that God seeing it?
- Discuss the difference between confessing a sin and confessing that one is a sinner
- The Pharisees clearly underestimated Jesus - how do we do the same in our approach to sin?
III. It impacts sinners differently - 5:24-26
A. The Alleviation through His Power - vv. 24-25
- In response to Jesus’ command – “Immediately he got up before them, and picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God.”
- There wasn’t any lingering effects of his paralysis – no gradual strengthening of his body, no rehab required, but a simple and immediate restoration of health and strength.
- This speaks to the immediacy of the power of grace in our lives – when Christ cleanses and forgives us of sin, there isn’t a time of rehab or gradual cleansing – but immediate, complete, and total restoration of purity.
- Jesus had not only demonstrated His authority over the guilt of sin, but had also demonstrated His power over the effects of sin and this man went away the beneficiary of both.
- This man’s “glorifying God” was the result of his experience of God’s grace and was intense, personal, experiential, and filled with joy and wonder – even as ours is when we know the grace of God and the forgiveness of sin.
- The man served as a living, walking, testimony of Jesus power both to heal and to forgive sins.
B. The Apprehension at His Power – v. 26
- Mark tells us that the man walked home in the sight of everyone – cp. Mark 2:12
- The response to what they saw was essentially apprehension – an astonishment mixed with fear – “They were all struck with astonishment and began glorifying God; and they were filled with fear …”
- “astonishment” [ἔκστασις] – from where we get the word “ecstasy” – describes a “state of profound emotion to the point of being beside oneself” or to be in “a state of consternation” or dread
- “fear” [φόβος] – describes being intimidated by something or terrified by something
- They thought what they had seen was awesome, but such authority and power – belonging to God – meant that God’s presence was uniquely present and that bothered them.
- Nevertheless, the self-righteous were angered and repelled by such clear evidences of God’s presence in front of them – desiring to thwart this power from gaining any credibility or further popularity.
- But, the crowd all knew that they had “seen remarkable things today.” – nevertheless, most refused to believe that Jesus was Himself God – cp. Matthew 9:8; John 12:37.
- Jesus dealt with not only the consequences of sin, but the sin itself; are we more concerned about sin or it’s consequences?
- There were two different participants in “glorifying God” - the paralytic and “all the people” - with which do you identify most and what causes that for you?
- What are the three most “remarkable things” that you have seen God do in your life?