The Gospel of Luke - Part 17: Jesus is the One we follow
Luke 5:17-39
--Terry Heames

(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for Connection Class Leaders at Hoffmantown church.)


Last week, we looked at the first 16 verses of Luke 5 and examined two miracles. In the first miracle, Jesus gave a sermon from a boat to a crowd on the shore, and then told Simon to move the boat to deep water and lower the nets resulting in a large catch of fish. In the second miracle he heals a leper in the later stages of the disease. From these we learned that Peter was changed.  We saw Peter find out that Jesus was his Lord and how his response was one of being aware of his own sinfulness, while Jesus told him he would become a "catcher of men alive". From the miracle of the healing of the leper we found that the key to our healing was threefold: acknowledgement of our sins, worshipful submission, and faith.

He's the One We Follow:

Today we will look at the rest of Chapter 5. In verses 17-26 a paralytic is forgiven and then cured, in verses 26-32 Levi is called to follow Him and throws a party, and in verses 32-39 we see how the "Law of Moses" and the "Gospel of Christ" are different.

Note: This part of Luke 5 has parallel passages in Matthew 9 and also in Mark 2, hence some believe there are important principles within.

Healing and Faith - (Luke 5:17-26; Matthew 9:1-6, Mark 2:1-12)

One day as He was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for Him to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 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. Jesus saw their faith, He said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." 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?" Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" 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. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today."
v.17 - Pharisees and teachers of the law ... from every village of Galilee...
Luke helps us appreciate the audience before Jesus when the events in these verses occur. This was a significant gathering, a broad based investigative committee, determined to find a flaw in the young rabbi. Surrounded by all the onlookers and then across from them, Jesus. - "and the power of the Lord was present". - I would think that the tension, the expectation, was high in the room.

v.18-19 - some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat ... and they lowered him ... right in front of Jesus.
In comparing these verses with Mark 2:3 we see that the group arrived and couldn't get through the crowd so they took matters into their own hands. They were not afraid of the crowds, they ignored the judgments of those around, they somehow managed to get their friend (family member) to the roof and vandalized the roof. They loved their friend and all of them knew that Jesus was the only way to help him.

v.20 - When Jesus saw their faith ...
Remember what we discussed last week in v.12? The faith of the leper was so important and so pleasing to the Lord that He healed him. These men demonstrated their faith for all to see in going to so much trouble to get their friend to Jesus. What is there in my life that demonstrates my faith in the Lord? Are we digging "holes in roofs" to show others our faith? Are we helping others come to Christ? Are we at least praying for the salvation of others?

v.20 - Friend, your sins are forgiven.
Why did Jesus say this first? He knew the group of Pharisees and teachers were waiting for something to hold against Him, and this would do it. Why didn't He just heal the man? He wanted this man and the crowds (and us!) to understand that the man's greatest need was for forgiveness; or simply that his greatest need was his spiritual need.

We tend to be most concerned about physical needs, don't we? The Lord cares for these but knows our greatest needs are spiritual. What folly to go to eternity physically whole but without Christ.

Not long before she died in 1988, in a moment of surprising candor on television, Marghanita Laski, one of Great Britain's best-known secular humanists and novelists, said: "What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me."   --John Stott in The Contemporary Christian

v.21 - Who can forgive sins but God alone?
These religious leaders were on the right track, weren't they? They were exactly right - only God can forgive sins. Jesus said this publicly so that they would understand that He was God.

Do you think this group of Pharisees and teachers were pleased with Christ's words? At this point yes, they knew they had caught this youthful preacher in an out and out blasphemy, one punishable by death, that of claiming "Equality with God". But what would be the implication if this itinerant preacher actually healed the man?

v.24 - Which is easier? - To say, "Your sins are forgiven," or to say, "Get up and walk"? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority ... to forgive sins ...
Clearly the forgiving of sins would be easier because you could not verify it. So Jesus verifies the moral miracle of forgiveness with the physical miracle of healing.

Only the Lord can forgive our sins. The Lord's Supper is a reminder of the basis of the forgiveness we enjoy as believers - His shed blood, His broken body as payment for our sins.

v.26 - Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today."
So he heals the man and it sounds the like the crowd was cheering and clapping their hands, the paralytic and friends were probably dancing. They had seen "out of the ordinary things" that day, things that gave God the glory.

So Luke has now taken us from the "Nazarene Winter" in Chapter 4, Christ's rejection in Nazareth, through a series of healings and the ordering away of evil spirits. When he called the disciples to be "fishers of men" Luke also shows the subject of sin, as Peter states "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man". Then he heals the leper to show the ravages of sin, now he forgives the paralytic's sins. The Lord can do anything, heal any disease, but his greatest miracle is the "eternal one", this last example, the forgiveness of sin.

In John 14:6 He says: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life…"

Calling Sinners: - (Luke 5:27-32, Matthew 9:9-13, and Mark 2:13-17)

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow Me," Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed Him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to His disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
v.27 - Jesus ... saw a tax collector by the name of Levi ...
Matthew 9:9-17 is the parallel passage in that Gospel to this paragraph. In Matthew 9:9 we learn that Levi is the disciple named Matthew, the author of the Gospel bearing his name.

Note: - A tax collector was one whose "position alienated him from the religious community of his day. He was seen as one who betrayed his nation for material gain. It was a simple system: the Romans decided on a quantity of money for an area and then allowed the highest bidder to officially collect it. There were two types of taxes, fixed (existence and income) and duties and tolls (use of roads, harbors, and anything dealing with transportation). The latter one was the cause of most problems, as it was arbitrary (if the tax man was on the road that day, you would be taxed, and the amount was variable). Hence the tax collectors allied themselves with the thugs of society, to enforce their rules. In Luke 18:11 they were classed with robbers, evildoers, and adulterers, in Matthew 21:11 with prostitutes, in Matthew 18:17 with pagan Gentiles. I think that makes them lower than politicians and their staffs, but it is not obvious.

v.27 - "Follow Me," Jesus said to him ...
No Jew would have ever chosen a tax collector as a disciple.   They would have more than likely reserved him for God's most severe judgment. But Jesus saw something in the heart of Matthew that others didn't see - a heart for God. Matthew demonstrated this heart by (1) leaving everything and following Jesus (v.28) and (2) his desire that all his friends and acquaintances also come to faith in Christ (v.29).

Note that this does not imply he never returned to set his affairs straight, but only that he made a significant break with his past life. His was a significant change, in that once he started down the path, his old job would be taken over by another.  There was no going back.

The important thing is that Jesus saw people differently than the world sees people. He can see what we can become, even while we are lost in sin. The world sees a tax collector, Jesus saw Matthew a writer, an evangelist, a collector of souls. No matter how scarred your life has been, Jesus can make it worthwhile if you allow Him.

v.29 - Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house ...
Apparently Levi had no regrets about leaving his former life. He hosted his own goodbye party. He hosted it, not for selfish reasons, but to celebrate what had happened to him. Jesus was clearly the guest of honor, as he was the cause of this life changing event. Levi invited all his old friends to meet this Jesus who had so affected him. When Christ is living within us, don't we do the same thing? Don't you find yourself constantly hoping and praying that salvation will come to your old friends so that they to will find this peace? This is not uncommon. Remember, Andrew found Jesus and rushed off to tell his big brother Simon (Peter). The Samaritan woman at the well rushed off to tell her neighbors what she had found.  Perhaps it is just the soul not wanting to go to heaven alone.

v.30 - But the Pharisees ... complained ...
The Pharisees were the separatists of that society.  They had developed the idea of "salvation by segregation" to a fine edge. They would have been appalled at even the concept of going to such a party. So it is not surprising that they showed up at this one and complained to His disciples about His eating and drinking with sinners. In their minds it was as if Jesus was saying that what they did was OK. The concept of concern for Gentiles and sinners, was unfathomable to them.

v.32 - I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
In the Old Testament, prophets continually told Israel that God desired mercy, not sacrifice. Micah 6:8, Hosea 6:6, and Amos 5:21 all discuss how religious rituals mean nothing without love and mercy for needy sinners. Even as far back as Saul, Israel's first king, you have Samuel trying to convince Saul that sacrifices and offerings are not the way to God's heart.

I am sure the Pharisees were "good" people.   They regularly attended synagogue, and their homes were in order. But they weren't really righteous.  They didn't see themselves as sinful and in need of a savior.

Fortunately this doesn't happen anymore. -- Or does it?

In the 18th century, the Church of England had become so elitist that John Wesley had to take to open fields to preach the gospel. He did not want to found another church but became forced to when the Church of England tossed him out, hence the Methodist-Episcopal church was founded. Only 100 years later William Booth noticed that the poor were not in his church either. So he organized them and was tossed out of the Methodist church. He formed the Salvation Army.

Can we be "Christianized" right out of Christianity? The record consistently says yes. We must always remember the Pharisees. We must always remember that we are sinners and in need of a savior. Christ is our salvation.

The Old and the New: - (Luke 5:33-39, Matthew 9:14-17, and Mark 2:19-22)

They said to Him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking." Jesus answered, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast." He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.'"
v.33 - John's disciples fast and pray ...
Fasting was an important practice in Old Testament times. It is mentioned several times in the Old Testament, typically as a method of getting one's soul in line with God. By Jesus' time the Pharisees had it as a basic ritual, every Monday and Thursday it was time to fast. When in fasting mode they would wear uncomfortable clothing and look mournful. The effect was to view religion as solemn and joyless, and spirituality as doing whatever you didn't want to do and avoiding what you wanted to do. Sounds eerily familiar to some of us, even now.

v.34 - Jesus answered, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?"
In Jesus' time, a wedding was a multi-day event and the guests of the wedding party were exempted from all ritual duties so that the joy of the week would be maximized. Hence, He was saying while I am here they should be joyful. In verse 35 Jesus then states that when He is gone it will be time to fast. There is a place for fasting in this era.  Unfortunately few have ever tried it. I can tell you that 24 hours is not difficult physically (on the other hand I carry enough weight to handle it). There are excellent reasons to fast, but perhaps some other time we can cover it.

v. 36-38 - He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment… No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins".
Judaism, as good as it was, had become the old worn out garment. It could not be patched (fixed) with a few things from Christ's gospel. A few tried, and Paul seemed to run into them continuously and referred to them as the Judaizers.

The new wineskins were flexible and as the new wine expanded, due to fermentation, the skin would adapt. The old wineskin couldn't contain it. Yes, the same thought as the new patch and the old garment, Christ's gospel was too dynamic and growing to be contained within the Jewish structures (rituals). When Christ is within us we change, we grow, we reach out, we become more joyous. The rules and regulations of some religions stifle this (not only the Jewish religion, but probably most organized ones).

New wine needs new wineskins - there is a great application here regarding form and function. Forms are methods, ways of doing things. As cultures change, so we need to change our forms. If we are doing church the same way it was done even 25 years ago, we've probably fallen into the same trap the Pharisees did.

As church people, we often find security in the old, familiar ways of doing things - the familiar music, the order of service we've always had, Wednesday night dinner at church, and so on. But all of those things (and many others) are just forms, methods.

We need to be committed to Biblical functions (honoring God, loving your neighbor, and bringing others to Christ) and flexible concerning ways of doing things. In fact, we should be continually looking for ways to modify or change methods so that they most effectively accomplish Biblical functions.

v.39 - And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, "The old is better."
Why were the religious people so resistant to His message and ministry?  Because it was new and different. Many will not even try a new way as they imagine that what they have is better.

Principle: - The greater the ownership to the old way of doing things, the greater the resistance to new ways.  Or like the sign says "But this is the way we have always done it."


My Lord - my Healer - my Savior - my Friend:

This passage gives us a fresh appreciation of who Jesus is, of who He wants to be for each of us. And we see who Jesus is, not in some abstract or theoretical sense, but in a real and personal way. The way Jesus related ...

... is the same way He wants to relate to us today. In each case, Jesus was what people allowed Him to be for them.

Are you letting Him be your Lord, your Healer, your Savior, your Friend?

Next week:

Larry is back and will start on Chapter 6, so read at least the first 10 verses.