September 15, 2019
Conversations with Jesus – Luke 5
As we start our time this morning I want you to look up at the ceiling. Now we’ve got a great ceiling here in the sanctuary. There’s some very nice lights up there-but when was the last time you stared at our ceiling? Probably not very often-or maybe you stare at it all the time! But what would happen this morning-if halfway through the sermon one of those lights came loose and fell down because 4 men had just cut a hole through our ceiling? Can you imagine the reaction-if 4 guys had scurried onto our roof and midway through the sermon while we’re all sitting here fired up the saws-all and cut a hole so that all of a sudden we’re seeing broad daylight in the sanctuary? That we’re looking up at the sky through a big gaping hole? I think we’d all be a bit shocked and freaked out, right? Like what in the world? Who does vandalism in broad daylight during church? That would something for the ages. And take it a step further-what if then through this gaping hole a guy started getting lowered down on a mattress by a system of ropes? That there’s this guy just waving to us as he’s coming down into the sanctuary on his bed-the 4 guys still up on the roof are saying look out below! Could you even fathom that? What would be your reaction? A guy just came through our ceiling on his bed-this is crazy church!
Now I’ve heard the legendary tale-that one time this did happen here. Maybe you were here and remember it-but while Pastor Arters was preaching his son, Kyle, scurried up into the attic and somehow fell through the ceiling and dangled there in order to illustrate this idea! My son, Jacob, is right here-so don’t worry! But I’ve heard this from lots of people-someone coming through the roof on a Sunday morning is not quickly forgotten! And I don’t think it was quickly forgotten in Jesus’ day either. Because that’s exactly what happened as He was giving a sermon once.
Turn in your Bibles to Luke 5 as we’re continuing our series on Conversations with Jesus. If you remember from last week the first conversation we encountered with Jesus was in Luke 4 when He talked with the devil and battled temptation. Now as we move into Luke 5 the conversation centers upon Jesus and a bunch of people in a crowded house. Look at how it begins-v. 17a-and this would have been a lot of people. The 1st century historian Josephus says there were about 6,000 Pharisees in Jesus’ time. Now I don’t think 6,000 Pharisees had crowded into the house on this particular day-but Luke is saying that many Pharisees and teachers of the law had showed up. And the text tells us why-v. 17b-18. Obviously that makes sense because Jesus had been healing lots of people. Just glance back to Luke 4:40-41. Jesus is healing lots and lots of people with sickness and fever and leprosy and diseases-even casting out demons. But He’s purposely trying to keep a low profile so that something like this in Luke 5 doesn’t happen. Go back there-v. 18-makes total sense because of what Jesus has been doing-except-v. 19a. Or look at how Mark’s gospel describes it-Mark 2:2. You couldn’t even get into the house if you wanted. Now I don’t know the last time you were in a place that crowded. I can think of 2 examples. The first was the day after Christmas in Rockefeller trying to see the Christmas tree. We were meeting some friends for dinner a few blocks beyond-but thought we’d see the tree on the way there. You could hardly get close-it was body to body in there-good thing it’s tall to see from a distance! But the other example I picture is when you’re waiting to get a table at a crowded restaurant-so there’s either a line out the door or they get you in the restaurant-but then there’s no room to wait for your table. All the chairs and benches in the front waiting area are filled up-they’ve told you it’s like a 45 minute wait-so you’re wondering how in world you’re going to stand in this crowd for that long. You’re weighing your options-thinking McDonalds sounds just as good at this point! Monica and I and the kids have been there-and it’s like if you see a chair open up-it’s a serious mission-Chair at 2 o’clock just opened up, chair at 2 o’clock-go-get it! Have you been there? That’s exactly what’s going on here. These guys certainly can’t get a chair, they can’t even find space to bring their friend into the house. So what do they do-v. 19.
This crazy plan is described in one little sentence. But to actually visualize it, roofs back then weren’t covered in shingles like today instead they had timber beams laid out parallel with slabs of thatch and hardened clay crosswise on top. In fact, most roofs had about a foot of clay and soil on top that was really tightly packed down in order to minimize the rain and water leakage. So to actually get through to the beams and roof tiles these friends had to first do a lot of shoveling and basically perform a mini excavation. I love how one Bible commentator describes it-Hughes, 180. Incredible scene-but these four men were incredibly persistent, going through a huge deal of trouble and effort-and yet that really demonstrates the confidence and dedication of their faith-which Jesus notices-v. 20a. And if you think about faith it’s certainly an inner attitude, an inner trust in the Lord-faith isn’t something your eyes can actually see-but faith always reveals itself in outward actions. It’s like love-you can’t see love-but you certainly see the actions of someone who’s in love by all the great lengths they’re willing to go to shower their special someone with gifts on Valentine’s Day-or an elaborate proposal or date night. Likewise, the faith of these four men can be clearly seen by the great lengths they’re willing to go to bring their friend to Jesus.
And that part of this story challenges me every time-because I have to pause and ask the obvious question, would I be as persistent in bringing my friends or family members to Jesus? Would you be as persistent and dedicated in bringing your friends or family members to Jesus? It’s a convicting question because usually we aren’t. One little obstacle, one bit of resistance or inconvenience and we’re out, right? We’d see the crowds and say-Too bad, I guess God hasn’t opened a door-but these guys didn’t think that-they grabbed some shovels and a ladder and opened a roof. These men had a faith with a wonderful boldness and confidence to it that’s so challenging! How often do we let our faith remain only inward and hidden? I won’t say anything, I’ll keep quiet. I don’t want to upset or offend anybody. That wasn’t the attitude of these men at all. An inward, hidden faith probably would have kept them outside the house; a timid faith would have made them walk away; a hesitant, afraid-to-offend faith certainly wouldn’t have brought them to the rooftop-but with great boldness and confidence in Jesus-without fear of other people or social norms-they dismantle a roof! These men were willing to do temporary vandalism to someone’s property in order to see to Jesus. Now I don’t think the passage is promoting vandalism-but it’s certainly saying these guys had a faith that was willing to rip open roofs-and that’s incredible! While we would have opted for politeness these guys are willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of their friend. When was the last time you were inconvenienced for someone? They’re saying-Get our friend to Jesus-for only He can help him! Whatever it takes we’ll do it! Their faith is something to inspire us! Do you confidently seek Jesus like that or do you bashfully and hesitantly hold back because you’re afraid of what other people might think or doubt that God will answer your prayers?
Honestly ask yourself-because look at how Jesus answered these men-v.20. Here’s how He begins this conversation-and right away He answers their request-or does He? Isn’t His response interesting? Jesus rarely does what we assume or expect. Of course He’s God so He can do that-but don’t you find His response a little odd? Here’s this paralyzed man on his bed, hanging from the roof, and Jesus doesn’t actually respond to the reason his friends brought him here. Why? That’s the core issue we want to explore in this conversation. So Pt1:Jesus seems disconnected from the immediate request-physical healing. It seems that at the start Jesus is ignoring that part. That’s He’s brushed aside this most obvious and pressing need. Clearly this guy needs healing-so why haven’t you done it already? His hopes may have been instantly dashed. And maybe you’ve felt that way about Jesus too-that He’s acting disconnected from what you’re going through. Maybe like the paralyzed man, you’ve come to Jesus with some very clear prayer requests and desires-and He didn’t seem to answer them. Like maybe you asked Jesus to heal you from some sort of sickness or pain, or maybe you asked Him to heal a dear friend or a loved one and it didn’t happen. Or maybe you asked Jesus to mend a broken relationship in your life or to heal your marriage, or even bring someone into your life to marry-and He didn’t do it. Maybe you prayed for a better job-or different circumstances in life and He didn’t answer your request-and you’ve wondered why He seems so disconnected and unresponsive. Lord, what are you doing? You know I’m hurting here, you know I’m struggling and crying out to you-why don’t you fix it? We’ve all been there at one time or another-wondering why the Lord didn’t answer our prayer requests the way we thought He would. No doubt this is what the paralyzed man thought-Hello, Jesus, isn’t my request a little obvious? I’m just lying on a bed here-have been my whole life! Won’t you do something about it? And the reality is that Jesus can do something about it. He can give us what we want right there on the spot-He’s God, that’s His power. He’s able to give us anything we desire or ask of Him-yet He often doesn’t. And the reason is because in His perfect wisdom and grace He gives us what we truly need.
You see, Jesus wants us to think a little more deeply than just what we see on the surface. Sure this man is paralyzed-but is his paralysis his greatest need? On the one hand, I’m sure being able to walk is what this guy has dreamed about most in life. Whether he was paralyzed from birth-as a little kid just wanting to be able to run around with his friends. Or even if his paralysis was the result of an accident later on in life-now he looks back at when he could walk and thinks of all he did. Day after day saying to himself-If only I could walk again, then my life would be set. I’d never wish for anything else or worry about anything else. I’d never complain again-I’d be perfectly content if only I could walk again and stroll along the beach feeling the sand between my toes. And as his friends have labored to get him to Jesus that possibility is right in front of him. Jesus is the one person who can grant that wish-and He doesn’t do it. Yet, on the other hand, Jesus goes a step further and identifies a much greater need, a much deeper problem-and it’s not his physical condition-it’s his spiritual condition. So Pt2:Jesus seeks to connect us to what matter most-forgiveness of sins. The man is certainly paralyzed but even more than that-the man is a sinner which has far worse consequences. Certainly, the problem of his paralysis is bad-but it only lasts through this life-70, 80, 100 years at most. The problem of his sin lasts for eternity. God told Adam and Eve that when they sinned they would die-and He wasn’t merely referring to physical death but spiritual death. Remember the words from-Rom 6:23. Jesus says it this way-John 5:24. Jesus is saying our default mode is death-that unless you believe in Him to be forgiven and saved you won’t pass from death to life-but will stay in the realm of death. That’s where the human race resides. In Ephesians 2 it says that as sinners, mankind is the object of God’s wrath. Now wrath isn’t a popular topic these days-it sounds rather old-fashioned. We generally think of God as love-therefore the idea of punishment and Hell doesn’t seem to fit. But consider it this way-a loving God must punish evil and wrongdoing while only an unloving God would let it slide. Have you ever thought of it that way before?
We would consider a judge totally corrupt if he continually let criminals slide by unpunished and let them walk free on the streets. People would immediately demand that judge’s resignation because we would want to see justice done and criminals locked up. Or when someone harms you or wrongs you, restitution needs to be made. Somebody plows into your car on the parkway-you want them or their insurance to pay for the damages. You’re not just going to say no big deal and drive away with your totaled car that can barely run. Justice must be done. And it’s no different with God. We have to recognize that His wrath towards sinners is both just and necessary; that God’s justice is the natural offshoot of His holiness. God can’t just sweep our sins under the rug as if they’re no big deal. Our sins are ultimately an affront to God, they’re our rebellion against His rule and authority in our lives-and they must be dealt with-and death is the means by which that happens. Jesus spells it out very clearly-Mark 9:43-45. Notice the eternal perspective Jesus is painting. Your biggest fear shouldn’t be health concerns-your biggest fear, your biggest problem is the just punishment your sins deserve which affects the eternal state of your soul. So notice where paralysis-as bad as it is-fits on this spectrum. Nowhere close to the problem of Hell. Now in our society we try to ignore Hell and pretend it isn’t real so it’s easy to be short-sighted when it comes to understanding Jesus’ priority. But we can’t do that. Not at all!
Think about it this way-if Jesus only heals this man’s paralysis but does nothing else then it’s like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. Sure it might stop the blood flow for awhile but until the bullet’s removed, there’s no true healing. Same with the doctor at the ER-he can give you some pain meds to soothe you but unless he does some testing and actually determines what’s causing the pain you’re not going to experience true healing. Unless Jesus restores this man’s spiritual condition by first forgiving his sins, physical healing is merely a temporary relief that doesn’t truly solve anything. So Jesus doesn’t begin by giving the man what he wants. He gives him what he needs. Back to Pt2. Jesus forces us to completely rethink everything we’ve normally thought. In our human mind-things like pain or sickness or suffering or sadness or depression or unmet dreams and desires often seem like our biggest problem-but they really aren’t. Our true problem goes so much deeper. In fact, disease and sickness are just the results, the symptoms of our sin-cursed world. And Jesus isn’t only interested in treating the symptoms, He gets to the heart, the root of the problem. What does He say later in the chapter-5:31-32.
That’s precisely why Jesus has come. He’s saying, I am here to heal, to fix, to mend, to restore-but it’s not just physical. I’m here to heal sinners, to forgive them and regenerate their hearts into something new. And yet what was most surprising was that all these religious Pharisees didn’t get it. Go back to where we left off in the story-v.20-21. Jesus is now shifting His attention from the paralytic to the Pharisees. And they’ve raised two logical options-either A) Jesus is blaspheming by claiming to forgive sins when He really can’t-or B) He is God and can-because-Who can forgive sins but God alone? Now I love how this part of the scene unfolds. This is where the conversation with Jesus gets very interesting. Look at His response to their questions-v.22-23. And let me say-shouldn’t their questions already be answered? Luke just pointed out that Jesus has read their thoughts in front of everyone so isn’t it clearly choice B)-You are God! But if you know the Pharisees, they’re not willing to admit that about Jesus yet. But Jesus has posed it as a riddle by asking what problem is easier to fix? What would you say? What’s easier-to tell this guy to walk-or to forgive his sins? As I said-it’s a bit of a riddle. I love that scene in the Hobbit where Bilbo and Gollum are exchanging riddles. But here it’s Jesus and the Pharisees.
So what’s easier? On the one hand, it’s easier to say-Your sins are forgiven-because no one can really tell if it’s happened. Forgiveness of sins is an inner reality that occurs in someone’s heart-but we can all tell with our eyes if the paralyzed man is walking because that’s a visible, outer reality. So you might conclude that it’s easier to say your sins are forgiven-there’s nothing you have to prove. But on the other hand, truly forgiving someone’s sins is something only God has the authority to do-and that means it can only be done if Jesus is truly God-which is a lofty thing to claim! Especially as the Pharisees are doubting Jesus’ identity as God. So I love what Jesus does to solve the riddle-v.24a-so that you can see this invisible, inner reality-v. 24b-25. Jesus does both! He forgives the man’s sins and heals him. He fixes his heart and He fixes his legs-it’s a 2 for 1 deal! But notice that Jesus is using the physical healing to prove His ability to accomplish spiritual healing. He has restored the physically sick in order to declare His power to restore spiritually sick sinners-which includes you and me. It’s an incredible truth. A formerly paralyzed man is now running around! He’s no longer confined to his bed. The man’s earthly life has been reborn as he can now use his legs to carry his own bed home. He can go visit all the people who used to look at him in pity sitting there. But more importantly, his spirit’s been reborn as he’s been forgiven and set free from the penalty of his sin. He didn’t just need a doctor, he needed a Savior-and that’s what he got–new life, eternal life, from Jesus. I bet the first thing this guy did with his new legs was to say, Hey, I’m coming by tomorrow to fix that roof-it will be my pleasure to climb up the ladder and patch it up! But the underlying question from the Pharisees and everyone in that huge crowd-Could this Jesus really be God in the flesh? Does He have the ability to forgive our sins and save us? And the answer-as the once paralyzed man is now skipping home down the street- is a resounding Yes! How did Jesus conclude the conversation-v. 24. What further proof did they need?
So the miracle forced those people back then to wrestle with some serious issues as it does for us today. As we’ve said-it’s your sin which separates you from God, bringing His wrath and eternal punishment. There is no bigger lie that you can believe which says-You’re okay, you’re a pretty good person, you’ve made a few mistakes but who hasn’t-no big deal, it doesn’t matter-because the truth is that it does matter. Too many people are under the false hope that when they die, they’re going to heaven because they’ve tried their best-and that Hell is only reserved for the likes of terrorists and murders-the really bad people of the world. But the rest of us are good people who’ve tried our best so we’re getting in. But we know that isn’t the case. So our first application question-Q1:Do we recognize our biggest problem? Good people don’t go to Heaven. And the reason for that is the truth we’ve been examining all morning-none of us are good. We’ve all made mistakes and gone our own way and rejected God. None of us are good enough for His holy standard. Jesus words in chapter 5 are so ironic-but true-5:31-32. And that first group doesn’t exist! There isn’t any of us who are well enough, there aren’t any of us who are righteous. Now the Pharisees thought they were-they elevated themselves and looked down on others they deemed sinful. But the reality is that they were just as sinful-and we are too. We all need a Physician, we all need the Savior. None of us can honestly admit we’re without sin. Our sin plagues us throughout life causing us to do things we wish we wouldn’t, say things we end up regretting and acting in ways we’re ashamed of. Sin is an addiction we can’t shake-there’s no pill to remedy it-there’s only Jesus-and that’s why He came. Look at-1 John 1:8-9. Only Jesus has the power to forgive your sins because of the Cross. You didn’t live good enough to erase your own sins-instead you trust that Jesus bore the punishment of your sins upon Himself when He died on the Cross. He faced all the wrath you and I deserved-so we could be forgiven and saved.
And that leads us to Q2:Do we remember our greatest hope? Forgiven people do go to Heaven. That’s what we’re called to trust in. You are not saved because you’ve lived well, you’re saved because you’ve been forgiven much. And only Jesus has the power and authority to do so because of who He is-v. 23-25. This was a proof of Jesus’ power not only for the people in that crowded house-but for you and me today! Jesus can and does forgive us of our sins! Do you remember your greatest hope and how it impacts your destiny? Or do you get caught up in the here and now and lose sight of what Jesus has come to do?
I don’t know about you, but in a lot of ways, I can find myself living like this paralyzed guy used to live, saying, Jesus, if only you’ll fix this problem in my life (like he wanted to walk)-if only you would restore this thing to me-if only you’ll give me that-then I’ll be set in life and never wish for anything else. But whatever the that is it doesn’t go deep enough. We don’t just need someone to grant us our earthly wishes (as much as we think we might), what we need is someone that we can know and worship for all eternity-and that’s Jesus. I love how Tim Keller says it-King’s Cross, 30. And that’s because the only thing that forever satisfies the depth of our souls is Jesus. Have you gone deep enough and realized that He’s who you need? Q3:Do we respond with our deepest amazement? Jesus fully forgives us! It’s the thing we need most!
Don’t miss the fact that this is story of worship! Of course the formerly paralyzed man went home worshipping the Lord-but look at the rest of the crowd in the house-v. 26. Do you see all those words piled up-amazement, awe, we have seen extraordinary things! No doubt! This paralyzed man was walking-but again why was he walking? So that Jesus could reveal His authority to forgive our sins. And that’s where this story goes from seeing to experiencing! Often in life we’re observers of awe and amazement-we see it on the movie screen at the newest blockbuster film or on the stage at a Broadway show or our favorite team doing something amazing on the field. We see something extraordinary. But Jesus hasn’t just come to show us something, He’s come to do something-and it’s exactly what He did here. Forgive our sins. This morning you don’t have to be a spectator of what Jesus did in a crowded house for a paralyzed man-you can be a participant. What He did there can happen to you. Jesus can forgive all your sins; He can remove all your mistakes, wipe the slate clean and make you new. Awe and amazement doesn’t need to be something you read about-it can become something you can experience when you turn to Him for forgiveness. Yes, Jesus will address the hurts and longings in your life-like he did for this paralyzed man-but He begins by going straight to your soul and forgiving you! If you’ve never experienced the joy and freedom of His forgiveness do so today.