John T. Willis

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jesus Cleanses a Leper and Heals a Paralytic--Luke 5:12-26

After relating the account that Jesus charges his disciples to be fishers of human beings, Luke recounts two miracles which Jesus performed: the first is Jesus' cleansing a leper; the second is Jesus' healing a paralytic. This falls into two parts.

I. Jesus Cleanses a Leper. Luke 5:12-16.
a. Luke does not specify the location of the event recorded in Luke 5:12-16 or when this occurred in Jesus' ministry. All he says is that this happened "once" "in one of the cities." In the context, this must be one of the cities around the Lake of Gennesaret--see 5:1. Jesus encountered a leper. The Greek word "lepra" in extrabiblical texts means a disease similar to psoriasis. The related Hebrew word "sara`at" means a variety of several inflammatory or scaly skin diseases like favus, lupus, psoriasis, ringworm, white spots, and the like. See Leviticus 13-14"Leprosy" as a modern disease was first identified ca. 1870 CE=AD called "Hansen' Disease." We have only a general idea of the disease described in Luke 5:12-16 and other passages in the Bible (Old and New Testaments). According to Exodus 4:6; Numbers 5:2-3; 12:10-12; Deuteronomy 24:8; 2 Kings 5:27; 7:3-9; 15:5, a leper was excluded from normal interactions with other people and had to stay away from others and live in an isolated house. He had to cry out to others coming near: "Unclean! Unclean!" to warn everyone to stay away. When the leper saw Jesus, he "bowed with his face to the ground," a common gesture of reverence and respect. See Genesis 17:3, 17; Ruth 2:10; Numbers 14:5. The leper addresses Jesus as "Lord," probably in that context, "Sir." Then he recognizes that there is something special about Jesus, probably because others had seen and heard Jesus and were impressed by him, building up a good reputation for everyone around--see 4:37. The leper insinuates that Jesus can heal him by an act of Jesus' will. 5:12.
b. Then Jesus stretched out his hand, "touched" the leper, and said, "I choose [to heal you]. Be made clean." It would be unthinkable that a person would dare touch a leper. A leper is "unclean." But Jesus was not afraid. Jesus did not hesitate. He loved the leper, and healed him. There is a great lesson for all of us. Very often, we are afraid to come near and touch another person, because that person might be dirty or "different" or the kind of person we do not want to associate. How wrong this attitude is. Jesus sets the example of encouraging all of his followers to embrace and touch and encourage and help everyone around us. When this happened, "immediately" the leprosy vanished. Jesus performed a miracle by his power and will. Our God is powerful, willing to heal all our sins, all our diseases, all our problems. Let us realize what God can do for all of us. 5:13.
c. Jesus then told the leper to go and show himself to the priest at the temple in the town and make an offering for his cleansing based on the Law of Moses. This law is in Leviticus 13:49. What Jesus does and commands to the leper is rooted in scripture. By doing this, this becomes a "testimony" to all the people. When God does something for us, we all have the responsibility of "telling others" what God has done for us. Each of us MUST give our "testimony" to others. At our church, we often have men and women to give their "testimony." This is a very important charge throughout scripture. 5:14.
d. When the leper gave his testimony, the word spread rapidly like fire. This led many crowds to gather around Jesus to hear his message and to be cured of their diseases. See 4:42-43. Actions are always much more powerful than words. God ACTS, people respond--then spread the word to others what God had already done. 5:15.
e. Frequently Jesus became very tired, so he made the practice of withdrawing from the crowds to deserted places and pray to God his Father in heaven. What an important lesson for all of God's followers. We become heavily involved in the lives of other people, and this is very important. But then, we need to withdraw from the madding crowds, and spend significant time in pray and meditation with God our Father. 5:16.

II. Jesus Healed a Paralytic. Luke 5:17-26.
a. Now Luke relates another event, but does not say when this occurred. All he says is: "One day." And Luke does not relate where this occurred. This event occurred in some village, probably around the Lake of Gennesaret, when Jesus was teaching. On that occasion, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting nearby. Pharisees are non-priestly interpreters of the Law of Moses. They first came into existence as an organized group in the Maccabean period shortly before the time of John Hyrcanus. The Greek name "Pharisee" comes from the Aramaic term meaning "separated one." The Pharisees kept aloof from all other people and avoided Jews who were less observant of the Law of Moses. They insisted on the importance of the written Law of Moses and the oral Torah ascribed to Moses and the elders of israsel. The "Sayings of the Fathers" mentioned in Mark 7:3 were intended to be a "fence for the Law," guarding it against violation. They insisted that the way one achieved the Law of Moses is by education and knowledge of the Torah. This led them to emphasize meticulous observance of the Sabbath and feast days, ritual purity regulations, tithing, dietary rules, tenets numbered belief in human freedom under the control of providence, bodily resurrection, angels, and the coming of the Messiah, some of which sharply set them apart from the Sadducees. They had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem. At that time, the power of the Lord [here meaning Yahweh--God the Father] was with Jesus to heal. 5:17.
b. While Jesus was teaching in an anonymous house in an anonymous village, some men came carrying a paralytic on a bed, attempting to bring him to Jesus to heal the man. The crowd prevented them from coming in, so they went up on the roof and let the paralytic doenw with his bed through the tiles into the crowd right in front of Jesus. The roof of a normal Palestinian house was made of wooden beams placed across strone or mudbrick walls; the beams were covered with reeds, matted layers of thorns, and several inches of clay, sloped and usually rolled before the rain season. One could dig through such a roof--see Mark 2:4. Luke gives the description of the tiled roof of a normal Hellenistic house in the Mediterranean region so Greek readers would get the picture of this record. 5:18-19.
c. When Jesus saw "their faith" (that is, the faith of the paralytic and his companions), Jesus said to the paralytic, "your sins are forgiven." Here "faith" means "trust, reliance, confidence," in this context a personal commitment to Jesus. 5:20.
d. The Pharisees observing this scene, began to question among themselves and to the crowd around: "Who is this [Jesus} who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Such questions assume that Jesus could not possibly be God, because God alone can forgive sins. Thus, by saying to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven," Jesus is blaspheming. Note: Jesus never indicates that HE forgives sins apart from his heavenly Father. But the Pharisees ASSUME this is what Jesus is thinking and saying. 5:21.
e. Apparently Jesus did not verbally "hear" what the Pharisees were saying [they were trying to do this secretly], but he "perceived" what they were thinking and saying. Jesus knows the "hearts" of all people, and thus he can see right through what each person is actually thinking. John 2:24-25 expresses this very truth clearly: "But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone." See also Hebrews 4:12-13. We all try to hide our thoughts, our beliefs, our motivations, but God knows our hearts inside and out--See Psalm 139. 5:22.
f. The Pharisees assumed it would be easier to heal of person of leprosy than to forgive a person of sin, because others can actually SEE the removal of leprosy or any other disease. Sin and forgiveness is another matter. But Jesus assumes there is a close connection between physical diseases and sin. Of course, this does not mean that everyone who is ill is because of sin. But often sin leads to physical illness of different sorts. The Bible is full of illustrations of this. See for example, James 5:14-16. We usually dismiss or reject this truth. But it is a fact that sin often leads to illness or disease. So Jesus declares there is little difference between "Your sins are forgiven" and "Take up your bed and walk" since you are a paralytic. Jesus, as Son of Man [divine], "has authority on earth" to forgive sins. This is a powerful, very important biblical truth. 5:23-24.
g. Just as in the case of the leper (5:13), "immediately" the paralytic stood up before the crowd around, took his bed, and went to his home. As he went, the paralytic was "glorifying God." The paralytic got the message. God the Father through Jesus Christ is the one who healed him. It is important to remember that anytime God blesses us, we must respond in gratitude and thanksgiving. How else could anyone respond but be grateful to the Creator and Healer of all people? 5:25.
h. The whole crowd was amazed, was in awe, and, like the paralytic, they too glorified God, saying, "We have seen strange things today." God always works in the lives of communities of faith, not merely isolated individuals. When God does anything, this affects the entire community around. 5:26.

If we will but pay attention, be observant, God can change our lives daily. These two accounts are motivating, transforming. I hope and pray YOU will meditate on these stories again and again.

Share YOUR experiences and miracles in YOUR life. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis