Bible study: Luke 5:17-26
The story of the paralysed man is familiar to many Christians. Four men bring their paralysed friend to Jesus for healing and, finding that they cannot get into the house where he is teaching, carry their friend up to the roof of the house where they proceed to make a hole and lower their friend through it to Jesus’ feet. Jesus, seeing the faith of the friends – their belief that Jesus can solve the problem – says to the man, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven’. In doing so, Jesus makes a tacit claim that he is God, the only one who can forgive all sins for ultimately all sins are sins against God.
Upset, the Pharisees and teachers of the law think to themselves, ‘Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’
Jesus makes an interesting response. He does not respond with words, declaring ‘I am God’. After all, just like saying ‘Your sins are forgiven’, anyone can say the words. Saying them does not make them true. This is why it is said that actions speak louder than words, and why the apostle James says that if you see someone in need and only say nice things (‘Go in peace; stay warm and well fed’ James 2:16) then your words are useless and, if you also claim to be a Christian, your faith is in fact dead.
So Jesus responds with actions. Jesus says to the man, “Get up, take your mat and go home”. Because Jesus is indeed God and has the power to heal as well as forgive sins, the man stands up, takes his mat and goes home praising God. Jesus’ actions confirm, back up and prove his words. They show the watching crowd that Jesus is not merely a man of nice words but a man of good deeds. He is not a charlatan or a hypocrite or a peddler of false hope. He really can save, and we know this because he really can heal. Ultimately, Jesus’ ability to save is proven through his resurrection from the dead, but his healing ministry on earth demonstrates that Jesus cares about our earthly as well as our future post-death state, and proves that when he commands his disciples to love everyone, even their enemies, even if it means dying, he really meant it. Jesus practiced what he preached. Christians should do the same.