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Luke 5:17-26: Jesus' Ministry
Individuals: Take time to think back about your past week. Where have you seen God work in your life or answer prayer? Write down any prayer requests you have.
Group: Open the study by sharing life updates, reviewing highs and lows of your past week, or sharing prayer requests and praises.
Icebreaker: What is the most significant miracle you have witnessed or heard about? How did that change your life?
All: Begin the study with a word of prayer, asking God to open your heart for today’s study. You can also pray for any prayer requests now, or save that for the end.
Read today’s passage: Luke 5:17-26.
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.”
What is the context for this passage?
In Luke 4, we read about the early miracles in Jesus’ ministry. He drives out demons and heals the sick. But Jesus was more concerned with teaching than with healing. So Jesus has established a reputation as someone who can heal the sick.
Then early in Luke 5, Jesus performs a different kind of miracle. He tells Simon Peter to go back out to fish even though they haven’t caught anything all night. They caught so many fish that the boat began to sink. So Peter (and his brother Andrew) and Peter’s partners James and John were recruited as disciples. They left everything to follow Jesus.
As Jesus continues to teach and heal people, the crowds continue to surround him. The story in today’s passage is just one single encounter with someone who wanted to be healed, but it teaches some very important lessons.
Read the passage again.
Explore a different version if you have one available. If you are online, here is Luke 5 in NIV through Bible Gateway. You can change the version by using the dropdown menu at the top right of the page.
Try to summarize the passage in your own words.
Answer these three questions about the passage:
1. What does the passage say about God?
Jesus was an authoritative teacher. Jesus was such a captivating teacher that even the Pharisees and teachers of the law were listening to him teach. People came from near and far to hear him and to have him heal their sick. This started even back when he was a young boy, from the age of 12 (Luke 2:41-52).
Jesus had the power to heal the sick. This goes back to our discussion from Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3. Jesus received the power of the Holy Spirit, and this is the power that Jesus used to heal the sick. People came from all over the region to bring their sick to Jesus. The friends in this story knew that Jesus was their only hope for their friend being healed.
Jesus could recognize faith in people. When Jesus saw the efforts of the friends to bring the paralyzed man before Jesus, he recognized their faith. They didn’t even have to say anything. Their actions spoke volumes of their faith, and Jesus was quick to recognize that.
Jesus had the power to forgive sins. This passage clearly establishes that Jesus had the power to forgive sins. Even though forgiving sins isn’t a visible process, he tied forgiveness to a visible process—healing. Jesus clearly stated that the same power that allowed him to heal the paralyzed man was the same power that gave him the authority to forgive sins.
Jesus had the ability to know people’s thoughts. The religious leaders were thinking that Jesus had committed blasphemy, and Jesus spoke directly to those thoughts even though there is no indication that the religious leaders said anything out loud. Jesus simply knew their thoughts. This is God’s omniscience (all-knowing) on display.
2. What does the passage say about people?
People listened to Jesus’ teaching, even the religious leaders. When you hear something authoritative on a topic of interest to you, you can’t help yourself. You stop and listen. The religious leaders had that same response. They were curious about this new teacher who didn’t seem to have any training yet spoke with authority.
People came from all around to have Jesus heal their sick. What would you do if you had a loved one with an incurable medical condition, and you hear about someone who is performing miracles and healing all kinds of diseases? Wouldn’t you do your best to get your loved one in to see that person? Perhaps get a little bit of that healing touch? People who heard about Jesus had this same response. If Jesus was anywhere near them, they took the initiative to bring their sick to him for healing.
Friends were willing to do whatever it took to have Jesus heal their loved ones. Many people brought their loved ones to Jesus for healing, but few took it quite as far as these friends. They made a hole in someone’s roof just to have access to Jesus! That’s the love of a friend right there. What are you willing to do to bring your friends before Jesus?
The religious leaders were skeptical about Jesus. Even though they listened to Jesus’ teachings, the religious leaders didn’t seem to have the same faith that the friends had. As soon as Jesus indicated that he had the power to forgive sins, the religious leaders were immediately skeptical, thinking that he was committing blasphemy.
People’s natural reactions to miraculous healing was to praise God. Just like the shepherds we read about in the lesson about Jesus’ birth, the crowd in this story had an encounter with Jesus, and they were amazed and went home praising God.
3. What does the passage say about God’s plan?
God is more concerned with people’s spiritual state than their physical state. I find it interesting that Jesus didn’t immediately heal the paralyzed man, like he seems to have done with so many others. Instead, he made a point to forgive the man’s sins first. God seems to be more concerned with the man’s spiritual state, which has eternal consequences, than his physical state, which is only temporary.
God’s plan was to turn the religious leaders against Jesus. This seems odd, but this is ultimately how God’s plan was fulfilled. Later in Jesus’ ministry, the religious leaders were the ones who had authority among the Jews to turn the crowd against Jesus, ultimately leading to his crucifixion. The accusations that the religious leaders had against Jesus in this story were just the beginning of this process.
How does the passage fit into the overarching story of the Bible?
Sometimes it’s easier to understand a passage if you have a little outside knowledge from other passages in the Bible. This section will help provide that outside perspective.
This story serves a couple important purposes in the overarching story of the Bible. First, it sets the stage for the religious leaders having a vendetta against Jesus. They thought he was blaspheming by claiming to be God. Throughout his entire ministry, Jesus is pitted against the religious leaders, and in the end, it is the religious leaders who call for Jesus to be crucified. It is through Jesus’ crucifixion—the sacrifice of the perfect one for the sins of many—that we can be saved from our sins for all eternity.
Second, this story establishes that Jesus has the power to forgive sins. Yes, it is true that only God has the power to forgive sins, just as the religious leaders thought. But they didn’t take into account that Jesus is the Son of God. So he, too, has power to forgive sins. By stating first that the man’s sins were forgiven, and then showing that he had the power to heal, he was showing the religious leaders and everyone who was watching that he had God’s power in him to both heal and forgive.
Individual: Answer the following questions thoughtfully for yourself.
Group: Pose these questions for discussion.
All: If you are willing to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts to these questions. Feel free to use the comment section to start a discussion about this passage.
What else strikes you about this passage?
How does the passage affect how you view God? How you view yourself?
How does this passage affect how you will live your life?
For Bible Essential studies, you can use my thoughts as your devotional, or you can download and use the journaling sheet to work through the passage on your own. If desired, you can then compare your thoughts to mine. Journal sheets can be downloaded and used now or later. They can be printed and filled in by hand or saved and filled out electronically. Journal sheets are available for individual or group use.
If you plan to lead a group study, a PowerPoint presentation is also available.
You can access these resources by clicking here: Luke 5 Resources