Sunday, July 23, 2017
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Luke: the Gospel for Everyone
Luke 5:17-26—Four Friends and a Healing
Introduction and offering:
Welcome to our Summer Bible Series; we’re working our way through the gospel of Luke, “the gospel for everyone.” Last weekend, Pastor David walked us through the story of Jesus touching the leper and healing him—Jesus touched a man who was untouchable, loved a man who was unlovable and forgave a man who was unforgivable. Jesus took all the “uns” away. Don’t you love Jesus? He’s awesome—in the truest and deepest sense of that word.
Last Sunday, I was in my home town, Sweet Home, Oregon, for our extended family reunion. My mom is one of 12 kids. Ten of them are going strong; the oldest is 98 and we celebrated the youngest’s 80th birthday while we were there. And I brought my Momma home to stay a couple weeks with me—wave Mom! I’m blessed to be part of a great family!
The next best thing to great family is great friends, and today we read a story about a man who had some great friends. He was paralyzed, and these friends carried him on a stretcher to Jesus to be healed. When they couldn’t get to Jesus because of the crowd, these friends refused to give up and creatively made a way to get to Jesus. When my kids were little, we would act out Bible stories together, and since the kids are with us today, I’m going to read the story and some friends are going to help act it out.
17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
We are going to talk about two things: the faith of the four friends and the authority of Jesus.
- The faith of the four friends.
I love this story! These four guys bring their friend to Jesus to be healed, and when they can’t get to Jesus because of the crowd, they get creative. Homes in Palestine had flat roofs. Usually they were made of poles crisscrossed with sticks, and filled in with mud and straw. There was a stairway on the side of the house to access the roof and grass grew on top, so the roof was a favorite place to relax—much like a deck or patio would be for us. When these guys couldn’t get to Jesus through the doors or windows, they decided to go through the roof. So they estimated where Jesus was sitting, made a hole above him, and lowered their friend through the hole to Jesus. Imagine the scene inside the house and the different reactions!
- As dirt and straw started falling from above, people must have wondered at first, and then laughed as the hole opened above Jesus. Crazy!
- Mark tells us this took place in Capernaum, Peter’s home town, so maybe it was Peter’s house. If so, imagine Peter as he saw a hole opening in his roof! “Hey, what are you doing? Who’s going to pay for that?”
- Imagine the paralyzed man as he was lowered through the hole. “Hi! How you doing? Sorry for the mess!”
- And then there was Jesus. As Jesus looked up, he must have seen something like this: four expectant faces framed against the blue sky.
But Jesus saw more than four faces—He saw their faith.
20 When Jesus saw their faith
Jesus saw their faith. Jesus saw that they believed in Him—they believed that Jesus could heal their friend. Here are two things about their faith that we should imitate.
- It was visible and active faith.
How can you see someone’s faith? I can’t see into your mind or your heart to see what you believe—so how can I see your faith? Faith becomes visible through action. When you really believe, it changes how you behave. Real faith results in action.
ILL: If you believed that it was going to rain all day, what would you do? Take an umbrella, wear a coat and hat—or stay indoors!
If you believed that God gave you the winning lottery numbers, what would you do? Buy a ticket!
If you believed a certain person was the best candidate for an elected office, what would you do? Vote for him/her—and campaign for them!
If you believed that Jesus could heal your friend, what would you do? Get your friend to Jesus!
If you believed that Jesus is Lord, what would you do? Follow Him!
Real faith always results in action. If you really believe, you do something about it; you act on that belief. James says it like this.
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Very clear, isn’t it? Faith that is not accompanied by action is dead. It’s not faith at all. Don’t say you believe unless you’re willing to act on that belief. Imagine these four men sitting around talking, saying they believe that Jesus could heal their friend, but doing nothing about it. What would you say them? “If you really believe that, you’d do something! You’d move heaven and earth to get your friend to Jesus.” They did believe, and while they didn’t move heaven and earth, they moved a roof and got their friend to Jesus!
By the way, almost everyone Jesus healed was brought to Him by friends like this or family—80% of the healing stories include someone who brought the sick person to Jesus. If you believe Jesus can heal, you bring your sick friends to Jesus. If you believe that Jesus can save and give life, you bring your lost friends to Jesus. We call it Find-Tell-Bring. Find someone you love; tell them what you know; bring them to church. If you really believe that Jesus is Lord and gives life to the full, do something about it: bring your friends to Jesus!
Real faith is active faith. When you really believe you do something about it. If you say you believe and don’t do anything, you’re just a poser.
Did you know that in one study, 99.8% of the people who liked a Facebook page for a very noble cause (stopping genocide in Darfur) did not donate a dime? They indicated on social media (so other people could see) that they believed this was important—but were unwilling to do something to help. Posers. Or did you know that a growing percentage of people buying exercise apparel will never exercise? For example, sales of yoga clothing grew by 45%, but participation in yoga increased less than 5%. A large percentage of running shoes are sold to people who will never run, and hiking boots and flannel shirts are sold to people who will never hike. Posers.
Don’t be a Christian poser, saying you believe but doing nothing! Faith without action is dead. Is your faith visible? And active?
So this is first: faith leads to action. Faith is made visible by what it does. If you really believe Jesus is Lord, follow Him. If you believe, do something!
- It was persistent and determined faith.
They believed that Jesus could heal their friend, and they refused to be turned away. They were persistent and determined. When they could not find a way, they made a way. This is a stubborn faith, a persistent and determined faith.
I meet so many people whose faith is paper thin. When something bad happens, their faith wavers. “Why did God let this happen? Where is He?” Or if things don’t go the way they hoped, or they encounter obstacles or setbacks, they give up.
ILL: I just talked with a pastor who was counseling a friend who experienced a huge tragedy, and his faith was rocked. I encouraged the pastor to help his friend see that there are two ways to respond. One is to let this tragedy get between you and God and push you away—thin faith. The other is to let this tragedy push you closer to God—stubborn faith.
So many people have a thin faith and give up when it’s hard.
Not these guys. I imagine this story potentially happening two different ways. First, maybe the men approached the door and asked to be let in, but were rebuffed. Then, maybe they tried a window and were refused again. Maybe they tried several times at each opening to no avail. Or second, maybe as the men approached the house, they saw that it was so crowded inside and around the house that they knew it was useless to try to get in. Either way, they could have shrugged their shoulders and said, “Oh well, we tried. It just wasn’t meant to be,” and lugged their friend back home.
But they refused to give up. Necessity is the mother of invention. They had a necessity—their friend needed healing—so they got inventive and created the world’s first skylight! They got their friend to Jesus. No matter what!
How is your faith in Jesus? Is it stubborn, strong, persistent and determined? Or is it paper-thin, weak and easily discouraged? Do you have a “no matter what” faith in Jesus? That’s what we’re all working on.
- The authority of Jesus.
The main point of the story is to show the authority of Jesus. Jesus has authority to forgive sins—an authority that belongs to God alone.
When the man is lowered before Jesus, He surprises everyone by saying, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” The religious leaders were offended, thinking this was blasphemy, because only God can forgive sins. Jesus knew what they were thinking and called them out. “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Get up and walk?’” It is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” because no one can prove or disprove that it’s happened—it’s invisible. But if you say, “Get up and walk” to a paralyzed man, it’s pretty easy to see whether it happens or not. Jesus continued, “But so that you may know that I have authority on earth to forgive sins,” then He turned to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, take your mat and go home.” And the man did! Jesus did the visible to prove He can do the invisible. Jesus proved His authority to forgive, and in the process showed His power to heal and to know what we’re thinking. But this is really about the divine authority to forgive.
When Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven,” chaos must have broken out. The man’s four friends were thinking, “Excuse me! That’s not the problem. He can’t walk.” The religious leaders were thinking, “Who does He think He is? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins.” Peter was probably still thinking about his roof. What was Jesus thinking?
I don’t think that Jesus was using the man to make a point—to provoke the religious leaders so He could demonstrate His authority. That would seem unlike Jesus. He didn’t use people. And I don’t think you can deduce from this that all sickness is related to a specific sin, because there are many other times when Jesus heals but makes no mention of sin. I think that Jesus knew that this man’s illness was somehow related to sin, and the man knew it too. Jesus knew he wouldn’t be healed until he was forgiven—so Jesus went straight to the root of the problem.
“Your sins are forgiven.”
That’s something that only God can say—and Jesus said it to this man—and went on to prove that He had authority to do it. “Who does He think He is?” they asked. He knows that He is God in the flesh, and He has authority to forgive sins. “Your sins are forgiven.”
Here’s the good news: your sins are forgiven too. Jesus died to pay the just penalty for our sin—all our sins—and fully forgive us. When He died, Jesus shouted, “It is finished!” The Greek word there was stamped on a bill when it was paid, much like we’d stamp, “Paid in full.” In His death, Jesus paid for all sins for all time for all people. Once for all.
Hebrews 7:27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
Hebrews 9:12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
Hebrews 10:10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Once for all. The author of Hebrews uses this phrase 5 times of Jesus. Jesus paid for our sins once for all: once for all sins, once for all time, once for all people. It is finished! Paid in full! Your sins are forgiven.
ILL: John Ortburg told this story.
In May 2009, my family was in Azusa, California, because one of our kids was graduating from Azusa Pacific University. My wife, Nancy, was going to speak at the commencement ceremonies, so she and I were invited to a special gathering of about 50 people—people from the graduating class of 50 years ago and a few faculty members. During the gathering, John Wallace, the president of APU, brought out three students who were graduating that year and told us that for the next two years, they were going to serve the poorest of the poor in India.
These three students thought they were there just to be commissioned and sent out with a blessing—which they were. But then something happened that they did not know was coming. John turned to them and said, “I have a piece of news for you. There’s somebody you do not know—an anonymous donor—who is so moved by what you’re doing that he has given a gift to this university in your name, on your behalf.”
John turned to the first student and said, “You are forgiven your debt of $105,000.” The kid immediately starts to cry. John turns to the next student: “You’re forgiven your debt of $70,000.” He then turns to the third student: “You are forgiven your debt of $130,000.” All three students had no idea this was coming. They were just ambushed by grace—blown away that somebody they don’t even know would pay their debt. The whole room was in tears.
This is what Jesus did for this paralyzed man; and this is what Jesus did for you, for me, for all of us. Jesus has authority to forgive sins. He is God. He said to this man, “Your sins are forgiven.” And it was true. And He says it to you: “Your sins are forgiven.” And it is true.
Only God can forgive our sins. Jesus is God, and He says your sins are forgiven. He has authority to forgive.