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Bold Declaration

Sermon Date:March 8, 2020

Sermon Topics:Luke 5:12-26

Author:Allen Burns

Bold Declaration

There are many miracles that Jesus performs, but not all of Jesus’ miracles are written in Luke’s account. The fact that Luke gives details surrounding these two miracles in chapter five, the healing of a leper and a paralytic, we may expect that they reveal very truths into the person of Jesus. These miracles reveal the extent of Jesus’ authority. They will show that Jesus has the authority to declare the unclean clean and that He has the authority to forgive sin.

Jesus is willing to cleanse (v. 12-13)

As Jesus is in a city in Galilee, a man covered with leprosy falls on his face and calls out to Jesus.

Leprosy is a disease that causes nerve damage and muscle weakness. The disease creates deformities of the skin, cripples, and can lead to blindness. Surprisingly, leprosy exists today in more than 100 countries. It is mostly found when there are unsanitary conditions. It is transmitted much like a common-cold; through coughing and sneezing and long-term contact.[1]

The Law of Moses gives detailed instructions about leprosy (Leviticus 13-14). God assigns priests the responsibility for determining if someone is infected. If infected, they must stay at least six feet away from others. Isolation is the only way for people to contain the contagious spread. They live in colonies until they are better or die.

The Law declares lepers unclean both physically and spiritually. The only thing more defiled, according to the Law, is a dead body. Anything defiled is prevented from being in the Temple. God forbids lepers in His presence and in the presence of His people. The Law of Moses commands lepers must declare to others, “Unclean! Unclean!” (Leviticus 13:45). They may as well say, “Not holy, not holy.”

In Luke’s account, the leper keeps a lawful distance. He calls out to Jesus. He knows Jesus is a holy man with the power of God. What is interesting is that the leper desires, not healing, but cleansing. Imagine, as a Jew, knowing the Law of God declares us to be defiled and unable to be in God’s presence.

The leper proclaims faith in Jesus’ ability to make him clean. He doesn’t say, “Lord, can You make me clean?” Instead, He says, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

Jesus stretches out His hand and touches the leper, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately leprosy leaves the man and he is made clean.

The situation is shocking to the disciples of Jesus. First, Jesus touches a leper. Nothing can make Jesus unclean, not even a leper. The other shocking aspect is that Jesus has the authority to declare the unclean clean. The proof of His authority is demonstrated in the immediate healing of the leper.

Luke highlights this miracle from the many miracles Jesus performs because it proves Jesus has the authority to make the unclean clean.

Application for today

We may not have the disease of leprosy, but in the eyes of God, all people are defiled. The Bible says that there is no one who is holy and clean. No, not one.

Nobody is too unclean and outside of the reach of Jesus. Jesus has the authority to declare us clean. He is able and He is willing.

We need to be like the leper. The leper knows he is unclean. We need to recognize that we are unclean. The leper believes, and we need to believe Jesus is willing to make us clean. We can do it right now, where we are sitting. Ask Jesus, are you willing, Lord? Will You make me clean? All who come to Jesus in faith are made clean.

The leper believes Jesus can make him clean. We need to believe Jesus has the authority and is willing to make us clean.  

Jesus submits to the Law (v. 14)

Jesus instructs the man to tell no one, but instead, go to the priests and fulfill the Law. Luke doesn’t tell us why Jesus orders the man to tell no one.

What is important for Jesus is that the cleansed man obeys the Law of Moses. The authority of Jesus does not undermine the authority of the Law. The authority of Jesus upholds the Law.

Jesus shows the Law of Moses to be authoritative. Jesus did not come to abolish the laws of leprosy, but to fulfill them.

The Law points to Jesus and speaks about Him (Matthew 22:40). Jesus points to the Law because the Law points to Jesus. Jesus is the goal (telos) of the Law (Romans 10:4). Jesus validates that the Law is holy (Romans 7:12).

Application for today

It is important for us to know the Law of Moses. Modern-day Christians too often are ignorant of the Law of Moses. We need to know the Law and how it points to Jesus. It speaks about Him. The Law of Moses is written by God, so we know Jesus more fully.

When reading the Old Testament, study to see how we might know our Savior because of the Law. The early church didn’t throw away their copies of the Old Testament, but they value the writings and study to understand the depths of truth. The Law is a tutor that teaches us about Jesus (Galatians 3:24).

Jesus honors and values the Law of Moses, and we need to have the same attitude. We don’t live by the Law because we live by the Law of Christ. We need to read the Law as a witness giving a testimony about Jesus. It’s a voice describing the holiness of our Savior and the beauty of His perfection.

Jesus prioritizes prayer (v. 16)

In between the two miracles, Luke gives testimony to Jesus’ prayer habits. Jesus often slips away to pray.

News about Jesus spreads throughout all of Israel. People gather from far-away places to hear His teaching to feel His healing touch. But Jesus does not always make Himself available. Jesus slips away into the wilderness to pray.

Are some people still sick because Jesus is not around to heal them? Are there some who don’t hear His gospel because Jesus is nowhere to be found? Imagine the questions the disciples need to answer.

“Where is Jesus? My child is very sick. Can you find Him for me? We’ve traveled for days. When is He coming back? We hear He speaks the truth. We want to know about God and the kingdom. Please tell Him to we need Him.”

“Jesus is praying in the wilderness. We are not sure where He is or when He will return.”

Application for today

If your ministry is more important than Jesus, you have permission to skip praying. Your time is valuable.

Nobody in the history of the world has a more important ministry than Jesus. Imagine having the ability to meet the needs of all the people.

Jesus knows everyone needs Him. He knows the importance of the gospel. But Jesus makes prayer a priority. He chooses prayer first.

What about us? Do we pray often? Do we fool ourselves into thinking we are too busy to pray? Is prayer one of the first things we remove our schedule when we get busy?

We need to follow the example of Jesus and take time to pray. The busier we get, the more we need to pray.

Jesus’ authority attracts opposition (v. 17)

One day, a special audience gathers to hear Jesus. A large contingent of Pharisees and scribes are sitting there.

We don’t know how many Pharisees and scribes are present, but they are coming from all over Israel to hear Jesus. Josephus says there are over 200 villages in Galilee[2]. In looking at a map[3], I counted at least 35 villages in Judea. It’s not unrealistic to estimate that there may be up to 250 Pharisees and Scribes present.

Luke doesn’t tell us why they are present. What’s interesting is that Luke emphasizes that they are from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. It’s as if they made sure to send a representative from every village in Israel. Did they plan to listen to Jesus together? Did a letter go out? Was there a pre-meeting? What is their purpose in being there? It must have appeared very unusual to everyone else.

We can gather from reading the gospels that their intentions are not to endorse the ministry of Jesus. The religious leaders are jealous of Him. Pilate, a non-Jew, knows them to be envious of Jesus (Matthew 27:18).

The Pharisees and Scribes are religious authorities. Their role as scholars is to interpret the Law of Moses. They serve as judges of the Law. They decide good teaching and teaching with an error.

They are likely there because Jesus is a renegade, not under their authority. They may be wondering how dare Jesus teach without their permission. Who gives Him the right? Under whose authority does He teach (Luke 20:2)? They are likely there to listen to Jesus and correct His teachings. Their likely goal is to disqualify Him in front of the popular crowds.

If a large group of Pharisees and Scribe concludes Jesus to be in error, they will expose Him to the crowds, and His popularity will dwindle. Then, things can return to normal.

Application for today

When we tell people to follow Jesus, we imply that Jesus is an authority. To be a Christian is to willingly obey Jesus.

The Great Commission is clear. Jesus begins by saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Most people are opposed to Jesus because they want to be the authority of their life. They want to have fun when and how they choose. People don’t want Jesus to tell them how to spend their money. People want the choice to pleasure their bodies and their lusts. Being a disciple of Jesus requires submission to His authority.

Therefore, when sharing the gospel, be very clear. Jesus is Savior and Lord (authority). Seldom will people oppose the salvation benefits of Jesus, but often they will oppose His authority. Don’t be surprised when people oppose the authority of Jesus.

Jesus is worth seeking (v. 18-20)

The stage is set for the next miracle. Jesus is teaching in front of the Pharisees and scribes. They listen intently for Jesus to commit an error.

Outside the house, men carry a stretcher with a paralytic, hoping to bring him to Jesus. The men are having difficulty getting through the crowd to get to Jesus.

They devise a plan. Rather than fight the crowd, they decide to go through the roof. They will disassemble the roof so they may lower the man down into the presence of Jesus.

Their actions make for quite a memorable event. Imagine what it was like to be in the room and to start hearing the noise on the roof and to see pieces of the roof being removed. Imagine it happening today in church. We can’t help but admire the men for their clever approach.

Application for today

The friends of the paralytic are the kind of friends we want. They are willing to do whatever they can to help their paralyzed friend. They get off their couch and carry their friend across town on a stretcher. They leave their comfort zone and take a risk. The owner of the building just might take legal action.

The paralytic’s condition is visible. People can see he needs Jesus. They strive to bring their friend to Jesus because He is the only solution.

There are people all around us who need Jesus. They may not be paralytic, but they need Him. Everyone needs forgiveness of sins. People are spiritually dead and not breathing. We need to carry them to the one who gives life.

To what extent are we willing to bring them to Jesus? Are we willing to bust through a roof? Will we carry them on a stretcher? Will we give them a ride to church? Are we willing to step out of our comfort zone? We need to see the spiritually wounded, dying, and paralyzed. Let’s be true friends and strive to bring people to Jesus.

Jesus sees faith (v. 20)

Jesus sees the faith of the man’s friends. Everyone who is present that day sees their faith. Their faith looks like a hole in the ceiling. It is blatantly obvious. Their faith is seen because their works are seen. They believe Jesus is the only one who may help their friend. They believe it so much, they are willing to cut a hole in someone else’s roof.

Application for today

How much do we believe Jesus may help our friends? Do we believe that only Jesus is able to bring people into eternity?

If Jesus is life-saving medicine, to what extent will we get medicine for a dying person?

Our faith needs to be visible so people can see us bring others to Jesus. We need to have actions that reveal our faith. We need to get out of our comfort zone for the sake of God’s Kingdom. Let Jesus see our faith.

Jesus claims to be equal with God (v. 21)

The picture of the men letting the paralytic down through the roof is interesting, but it is not the main point of the story. The main is what Jesus says to the paralytic. Jesus does not say, “Friend, you are healed.” Instead, He says, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”

The reason Luke mentions the scribes and the Pharisees at the beginning of the account is now apparent. They hear Jesus and begin speaking. We don’t know if they are speaking to one another, or the entire crowd, but what they say is very important. As interpreters of the Law of Moses, they believe they caught Jesus in the act of blasphemy. They say, “Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” (It’s like a row of people in our church that start questioning what is said in the pulpit.)

Their reasoning is doctrinally sound on the surface. God tells Moses that it is the glory of God to forgive sin. As God passes before Moses, declaring His glory, God tells Moses that He forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin. Forgiveness of sins is what makes God glorious. It sets Him apart from His creation (Exodus 34:6-7). It is the glory of God to show mercy on whomever He wishes (Exodus 33:19).

Other passages in the Bible echo the truth that God forgives sins. David confesses his sin to God seeking forgiveness (Psalm 32:5) and declares it is God who pardons our iniquities and heals our diseases (Psalm 103:3). Isaiah says that it is God who grants forgiveness of sin (Isaiah 1:18, 44:22).

When Jesus declares the authority to forgive sin, He makes Himself equal with God. In doing so, the scribes and Pharisees accuse Jesus of committing blasphemy. The Law of Moses commands that those who commit blasphemy are to receive the death sentence. The religious leaders seek to incite the crowd and put Jesus to death by stoning Him (Leviticus 24:16).

Application for today

If you are a Christian, you know Jesus is God in the flesh. But, if you are not a Christian, and you are learning about Jesus, know that Jesus claims to be equal with God.

There are many people who say Jesus is a good teacher. Let’s be clear. Good teachers don’t claim to be equal with God when they are not.

And, this applies to all people, Christian and non-Christian, if Jesus is equal with God, He presents to us an authority issue. If He is equal with God, He is to be obeyed. Jesus is claiming supreme authority that is equal with the Creator of the Universe and equal with Scripture. How much are we willing to accept that Jesus claims equality with God? If we believe Jesus to be equal with God, then our obedience to His commands must be obeyed without question.

Jesus has all authority (v. 22-24)

Jesus responds to what they are saying. He asks them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts?”

He hears them speak. It is out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). Their mouths are speaking what they reason in their hearts. The scribes and Pharisees do not believe Jesus has the authority to forgive sins.

A crowd of people is present. Jesus is accused of blasphemy. He must make a defense. Jesus knows their reasonings and Scripture. The scribes and Pharisees arrive at a faulty conclusion. Jesus is the Messiah and does have the authority to forgive sins.

Jesus says to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins have been forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?”

The answer is that it is easier to say, your sins are forgiven. That’s because nobody will know the difference. Nobody present will know if his sins are forgiven until the man stands before the Judgment Seat. There is no outward sign of forgiveness. Saying, get up and walk is harder because it involves an outward sign that everyone can see.

Jesus gives a two-part defense for the accusation of blasphemy. He will prove He has the authority to forgive sins. The first part of His defense is subtle. Only a Jew well-versed in Scripture will catch the reference. Jesus assigns Himself a title. He refers to Himself as the Son of Man. Every scribe and Pharisee knows the Son of Man is the title for the Messiah.

Jesus is the authoritative Son of Man (v. 24)

In Daniel’s vision, he assigns the title Son of Man to the Messiah. We find the reference in Daniel chapter 7.  

I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.  And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

The Ancient of Days is God. God gives the Son of Man all authority. It is from this passage we see the purpose of God in all things is to make Jesus Lord over all things. Jesus, the Son of Man, is given dominion. To have dominion is to have ultimate and supreme authority.

By calling Himself the Son of Man, Jesus declares to be given authority by God, as stated in Daniel. The Messiah has ultimate authority over all things, which includes the authority to forgive sins.

But, the passage in Daniel does not specifically include the authority to forgive sin. So, Jesus adds to His defense.

The proof of His authority is in the healing

Jesus continues, “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.”

To prove that his sins are forgiven, Jesus says both. He says to the paralytic, “Get up and walk.”

Jesus gives proof that the Messiah has the authority to forgive sins by telling the man to get up and walk. When accusing Him of blasphemy, the scribes and Pharisees failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Their accusation proves false with the miracle. Jesus is the Son of Man. And, the Son of Man is given all authority by God. His authority includes forgiving sin.

Jesus brings glory to God (v. 25-26)

There is no question that people believe Jesus can heal. The men who brought the paralytic to Jesus know Jesus can heal and expect Him to do so. What is surprising to people is that Jesus declares Himself to have authority to forgive sin, and proves it by telling the man to get up and walk.

We don’t know how the scribes and Pharisees respond, but everyone is struck with astonishment and begin giving glory to God. They are filled with fear, which means they are filled with reverence and awe. They say, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

Closing

We are to have the same reaction as the people present when Jesus heals the paralytic. Jesus has the authority to declare us clean. Jesus has the authority to heal our diseases. And, Jesus has authority to forgive sin.

The authority of Jesus ought to fill us with reverence and awe. As we leave today, the words on our lips ought to be, “We have seen in the Scripture remarkable things today.”

All who Jesus helps is by faith. They believe. The leper demonstrates faith in Jesus when he calls out for Jesus to make him clean. The friends of the paralytic demonstrate faith in Jesus by letting their friend down through the roof. We need to believe Jesus is God and has the authority to forgive sins.

[1] https://www.leprosy.org/lp/what-is-leprosy/

[2] Cline, Austin. "Profile of the Region of Galilee - History, Geography, Religion." Learn Religions, Feb. 11, 2020, learnreligions.com/profile-of-the-region-of-galilee-248850.

[3] https://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/israel-first-century.html