Luke 5:12-13 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean. Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. I am willing, he said. Be clean! And immediately the leprosy left him.
Several conditions were called leprosy, back then, but this man’s case was severe—he was covered with it. Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, Unclean! Unclean! . . . They must live alone; they must live outside the camp (Leviticus 13:45-46), wrote Moses.
This man was living a lonely and miserable life until he discovered Jesus Christ. Perhaps he heard him preach from a distance, and learned about his miracles. He likely sought him out, and by God’s grace was able to find him. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him.
This man’s desperation left no room for dignity. He bowed low, as before a king, and pleaded for his life. [I]f you are willing, you can make me clean, he said. Perhaps there was a moment when he was not sure what Jesus would do. Maybe Jesus would send him to the Jordan to wash (2 Kings 5:10). Or maybe Jesus would turn him away because of his sin. But Jesus did the unthinkable. He reached out his hand and touched the man.
Fear of catching the disease kept anyone else from touching him. It may have been years since he felt the loving touch of his wife, children, or anyone else. Jesus could have healed him with a word (Matthew 8:8), but he reached out his hand and touched the man. To everyone else he was untouchable, but not to Jesus Christ. I am willing, he said. Be clean!
This is what Jesus says to the foulest sinner who comes to him for cleansing. The dreadful disease of sin is far worse than any case of leprosy. And apart from Jesus Christ, the only prognosis is death, followed by eternal judgment (Hebrews 9:27). But no matter what we have done, or how many times we have done it, Jesus will cleanse us from our sin, if we are willing to ask. I am willing, he said. Be clean!
Luke 5:17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there.
They were not there to support Jesus, but to scrutinize and oppose him. Most preachers would be intimidated by this, but Jesus was the most confident person who ever lived. He often clashed with religious leaders, but was never put to shame.
Luke 5:18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus.
These men heard that Jesus could heal, so they brought their paralyzed friend to the place where Jesus was teaching. The place was so packed, however, that they could not get in. So they went up on the flat roof porch and started tearing it off. The people inside heard the noise, then they saw the light of day. Then they saw a man on a cot, being lowered by ropes, until he was right in front of Jesus Christ. This was not a boring meeting.
The homeowner is not mentioned, but he was remarkably gracious, even while his house was being destroyed. Most people would say, Get off my roof! But he was willing to let his roof be destroyed for the sake of the gospel. He must have been an honorable man, and it will be a joy to hear him tell this story in heaven.
Luke 5:20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, Friend, your sins are forgiven.
This is a little unusual. Notice that Jesus responded to their faith, not just the paralytic’s faith. They may have had more faith than their friend, since they were the ones who brought him to Jesus. Those who are strong in faith should be a friend to those who are weak.
A godly man’s faith began to spiral down when he lost his wife of many years. Months later, he told his friends that he no longer believed in God. They said, That’s okay, we’re going to believe for you. Every week they gathered for prayer and encouragement until the dark night of this man’s soul began to pass. He was able to believe again with a little help from his friends.
We should also notice that Jesus ignored the man’s paralysis, and addressed his greater need of forgiveness. It was not the response the paralytic was hoping for, but God knows that being forgiven is more important than being healed.
A friend of mine was a model of fitness before an accident left him a quadriplegic. I only knew him after the accident, but at his house I saw a poster of a water skier putting up an enormous wall of water. It was the kind of poster you would buy at a store, but it was my friend before his accident. He said, I thank God every day for my accident, because that’s what he used to bring me to Christ.
It is also interesting that Jesus was more controversial than necessary. He could have simply healed the man, as he did for many others, but he made the extraordinary claim of forgiving the man’s sin. If Jesus wanted to upset the religious leaders, he could not have done it any better.
Luke 5:21 Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy?
Blasphemy was a serious charge since, anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death (Leviticus 24:16), wrote Moses. In fact, it was the charge of blasphemy for which Jesus was put to death. [T]he high priest tore his clothes and said, He has spoken blasphemy! . . . What do you think? He is worthy of death, they answered (Matthew 26:65-66).
And they were right. If Jesus was not God in human flesh, then much of what he said was blasphemy, and he was worthy of death for impersonating God. But Jesus was God in human flesh, so he could forgive sins. And he was willing to prove it.
Luke 5:23 Which is easier: to say, Your sins are forgiven, or to say, Get up and walk?
Anyone can say, Your sins are forgiven because it cannot be disproven. But to say, Get up and walk required a miracle. If Jesus could heal the paralytic, he could also claim to forgive sins. So he said to the paralyzed man, I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home. Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God (Luke 5:24-25).
Imagine the man’s delight as power surged throughout his body, making him completely whole. This reminds us of what Jesus will do for us when he returns. [He] will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:21), wrote Paul.
One dear lady wrote the following: I still can hardly believe it. I, with shriveled, bent fingers, atrophied muscles, gnarled knees, and no feeling from the shoulders down, will one day have a new body, light, bright, and clothed in righteousness – powerful and dazzling.
Can you imagine the hope this gives someone spinal-cord injured like me? Or someone who is cerebral palsied, brain-injured, or who has multiple sclerosis? Imagine the hope this gives someone who is manic-depressive. No other religion, no other philosophy promises new bodies, hearts, and minds. Only in the Gospel of Christ do hurting people find such incredible hope (Joni Eareckson Tada).
Reflection and Review
How is sin like leprosy?
How can we strengthen each other’s faith?
Why is being forgiven more important than being healed?