March 25th: “Forgiveness as Healing”

This Week’s Passage: Luke 5:17-26

Highlights: Although the Son of Man has the power to forgive sins, some unnamed neighbors became instruments of God’s grace and healing. So too can we.

I. Establish the text

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

17a The Pharisees and Teachers were sitting in the periphery of Jesus’ classroom.

17b Was the power of the LORD to heal not always with Jesus?

18 When Jesus is in the house it’s full.

19 Name four friends who might disassemble someone’s house so you might be healed.

20 Not the faith of the man on the pallet, but the faith of his friends, yields grace! Who might we cover with faith? Consider friends at a funeral, covering each other’s doubts to assuage grief.

21-22 NB: Jesus did not say: “I forgive your sins,” but notes that “His sins have been forgiven,” allowing that God alone forgives sins.

23-24 Thus if any should attempt to allow Jesus to weasel word out of blasphemy, he takes on the mantle of forgiving sins and healing.

25 The healed man glorifies God, not Jesus!

26 Everyone, presumably including the Pharisees and Teachers, praises God for the awe inspiring deed done before them.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Verses 17-26 include a complete story. Abrupt scene changes define its beginning and ending.
  • It is preceded by another healing story and followed by another teaching in front of the Pharisees.

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

  • Mark 2:1-12 – Omits phrase about the power to heal being with Jesus. Specifies four friends dig through the roof.
  • Matthew 9:1-8 – Omits lowering through a roof because of the crowd. Explains the awe as due to giving humans authority to forgive.

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

The paralyzed man is reduced to an object, until he has been healed. Healing unparalyzes his mouth.

The man’s friends actions speak more loudly than any words they might have spoken.

The Pharisees cling to orthodoxy, and deny their responsibility for healing and grace.

Jesus uses a miraculous healing to teach about his power to forgive.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Jesus has the power to forgive sins.
  • Emotional Center: Friends carrying the man to the roof top and lowering him through an opening.
  • Music: “There Is a Balm In Gilead”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Who has power to forgive? Only God in heaven?
  • The neighbors’ faith is sufficient for grace, not the teacher and Pharisees, without a word of confession or affirmation from the man who received grace.

E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?

  • Why were the friends so motivated to lower the man through a roof?

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • The image of the man coming through the roof can easily distract from theological points in the story.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

R. Allan Culpepper (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Luke.” Abingdon, 1995.) notices that Luke surprises the reader with forgiveness after setting the stage for another healing miracle. When the Pharisees question the power to forgive, Jesus neither backs down nor sidesteps, but escalates the conflict, claiming divine authority, and the title of an apocalyptic figure (the Son of Man). Culpepper suggest that Luke used the title “Son of Man,” because of a lack of general knowledge in the first century as to what it meant. He reflects: “Faith is not found in the assembly of scribes and Pharisees from all the surrounding region, but in four unnamed neighbors.” “The real blasphemy … is found in those who resisted Jesus’ ministry to the afflicted, bound, and oppressed.”

Fred B. Craddock (Interpretation: Luke. John Knox Press, 1990.) notes that in this passage, the power to forgive sins is separate from the power to heal. In this passage, the power to heal confirms that Jesus also has the power to forgive.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Jesus’ power to forgive sins is affirmed by the power to heal.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Although the Son of Man has the power to forgive sins, some unnamed neighbors became instruments of God’s grace and healing. So too can we.

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