CONTENDING WITH THE ENEMY (3) Luke 5

CONFRONTING THE ‘ELEPHANT’ IN THE ROOM

Luke 5:17-26

17One 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. 18Some men came carrying a paralysed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19When 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. 20When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” 21The 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?” 22Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralysed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

STAND ALONE PIECES OF INFORMATION

17One 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.

18Some men came carrying a paralysed man on a mat

and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus.

19When 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.

20When Jesus saw their faith,

he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

21The 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?”

22Jesus knew what they were thinking

and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?

23Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?

24But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

So he said to the paralysed man,

“I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”

25Immediately he stood up in front of them,

took what he had been lying on

and went home praising God.

26Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God.

They were filled with awe

and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

SUMMARY IN MY OWN WORDS
  1. Jesus was teaching people in a house
  2. There were many Pharisees and teachers of the law listening to him in the house.
  3. They had come for the purpose from every village in Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. It was a significant crowd of religious leaders.
  4. The power of God was present in Jesus to heal sick people. He was able to heal people from their sicknesses no matter what kind or type.
  5. Some men came bringing a paralysed friend whom they carried on a mat.
  6. They tried to get inside the house to place him in front of Jesus.
  7. The house was so crowded, and the people who had gathered there were not willing to let them inside.
  8. They took the man up on top of the roof.
  9. They removed the roof tiles and lowered him into the middle of the crowd on his mat.
  10. He was positioned right in front of Jesus.
  11. Jesus saw and affirmed their faith.
  12. He turned to the man and told him his sins were forgiven.
  13. The Pharisees and teachers of the law took offence because he had offered the man forgiveness.
  14. They regarded it as blasphemy because forgiveness could only be given by God (and in their view, Jesus was not God).
  15. Jesus knew what they were thinking.
  16. He asked them why they were thinking about such things in their hearts.
  17. He asked them another question: which would be the easier thing to say: be forgiven or get up and walk.
  18. He told them he wanted them to know that he, the Son of Man had authority on earth to forgive sins – in other words, he was God in a human (Son of man).
  19. He told the paralysed man to get up, pick up his mat and go home.
  20. Immediately the paralysed man stood up in front of them.
  21. He picked up the mat he had been lying on.
  22. He went home, praising God.
  23. Everyone in the house was amazed.
  24. They all praised God for what had happened.
  25. They were filled with a sense of awe.
  26. they said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

 

 

WHAT WAS THE WORK OF THE ENEMY AND HOW DID IT BECOME KNOWN?

Much like the previous story, this one gives another example of a situation where there was a more obvious and a less obvious manifestation of the enemy.   The more obvious one came in the form of the paralysed man. The counter-attack on this man’s condition began when his four[1] The friends decided they were going to get him in front of Jesus no matter what. Their persistence is publicly honoured by Jesus and should stir all of us. The picture of four people deciding to go to war against the disability of their mate needs to fill our own hearts with a similar determination – to make sure the people around us and in front of us get “brought to Jesus.”  Just think about it. He was teaching, and the crowd was largely made up of religious leaders, dignitaries from all over Galilee and Judea. In the middle of the teaching, four men start ripping off the roof tiles and then lower him on a mat. Jesus says nothing by way of frustration, or offence. Don’t tell me they performed the whole operation without bits and pieces of roofing dropping on the heads of the people closest to Jesus. Maybe Jesus also had to dodge a few missiles. When the paralysed man finally made it to the ground, the four friends were looking down through the hole to see what was going to happen. The fact that Jesus called their intrusion “faith” must have been a bit of a shock to a few of those present. The gospels have a special place for the actions of pesky people.  They must have wondered from the beginning of the scratching above why Jesus simply allowed it to keep on happening. I think they would have expected the “teacher” to have considered the action to be intrusive or shameful – perhaps worthy of a rebuke. I can think of a few important teachers who might have got a bit upset. Instead, Jesus tolerates it. When the intrusion had completely disrupted the teaching session, Jesus applauds them and calls what they did “faith.”

The text makes a significant reference to the fact that “God’s power was present to heal the sick.” It’s a bit of a mysterious kind of statement. You have to ask why that particular fact was mentioned. If we read the rest of the gospel, there were many other occasions where Jesus healed everyone who came with any kind of sickness, but on those occasions, there is no specific mention of a special anointing for healing. So was there ever a time or place where the power of God was NOT present with Jesus to heal the sick? It seems to me that the statement was there for a reason other than to tell us that Jesus could heal people. What makes this even more likely, is the fact that when the man was brought for healing, even though the power was there for healing, Jesus doesn’t just heal the man. Instead, he offers to forgive his sins. Where did that come from?

The answer to this question will be clear if we identify the more subtle presence of the enemy in the room. I refer to the highly concentrated presence of so many Pharisees and teachers of the law. Just think about it. The gathering involved Pharisees and teachers from a lot of different places: all around Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem. That was some roll-up. They were not there to be part of Jesus’ cheer squad. They were there to validate their view that he was a heretic, a troublemaker or demon-possessed or someone who was out to destroy the traditions upon which their world was based. They were the protectors of that system. You only have to look at what Saul of Tarsus was doing as a Pharisee. He was going from town to town jailing and even killing people who were followers of Jesus. That’s how serious it is.

There is a point in this story that I would call the “kingdom of God tipping point.”[2]. I think such a point exists in almost all of the stories in the Gospels and Acts. All the stories are about normal human circumstances. In that situation, the presence and work of the enemy becomes apparent. Jesus says or does something that turns an ordinary story into a kingdom of God story.

I think that point in this story occurs when Jesus chooses to say to the man, “Son, your sins are forgiven,” [3]instead of saying “Get up, pick up your bed an go home.”[4] And the reason he said these words is made very clear: “But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”[5] This is a kingdom of God tipping point because it is the point at which the primary agenda of Jesus becomes obvious. It is also the point where he attacks the other work of Satan in the room, i.e. the sad conclusions the religious leaders have made about the Messiah they have all been waiting for. Consider the poignancy of this moment. All of them have longed for the coming of the Messiah, but their compromises and manipulations have produced a set of preconceived notions of the “messiah” of their own making, rather than the one spoken about in the Scriptures. Here they are, the custodians of the covenants. Standing before them is Jesus, their Messiah – but they are not only unable to see what is in front of them, but are in the early stages of preparation that will oppose him to the death. It is not a stretch to think that some of those present may well have been among the group which accused him before the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate.

It has always been tragic to see sincere and committed people who believe in God become engaged in the work of opposing his people and purpose. It has happened so many times. I doubt that there has been a work of God anywhere that has not witnessed opposition from the very people who should be the ones to cheer it on. We have often quipped that the most likely people to oppose something God was doing were the group of people who were the pioneers of the most recent previous move of God. The Catholics opposed Reformers. Reformers opposed evangelicals. Evangelicals opposed Pentecostals. Pentecostals opposed charismatics. Most of it has to do with protecting what is regarded as hallowed distinctives. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of variations on this theme built around just about every Christian difference. Most of it comes from the kingdom of darkness. It is mostly destructive, not redemptive. As such it is the presence of the enemy, not of God. We need to look carefully at the way Jesus wrestles not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and rulers of darkness and spiritual forces of wickedness.[6] Let me tabulate these according to the weapons identified by Paul.

TRUTH

My research of the stories from the Gospels and Acts has uncovered the fact that Jesus uses truth as a weapon in a very distinctive way. The truth he makes known is not just sprouting a proposition. What he does is to make known something that is a present accessible reality of the kingdom of God that is not visible or obvious in other ways. Translating from another language always involves choices. There are two English words for the Greek, “alētheia”[7]. One is “truth” and the other, “reality.”

A deeper look at the ministry of Jesus and of the apostles would make the second of those two alternatives as the more correct.  Jesus doesn’t sprout propositions at the enemy.  In a given situation he makes known reality that can’t be seen and that Satan wants hidden or at least obfuscated.  He commonly helps them focus on the part of the whole reality that will keep them from encountering the presence and purpose of God. In this story, Jesus deliberately sets aside the idea of using the power of God to heal in order to show the religious leaders something about himself: namely that he is God, and Messiah (Son of Man). He does it by announcing that the paralysed man is forgiven. This is in a crowd full of people who know that only God can forgive sins. He says something that he knows is going to stir them up.

When they are stirred up with the notion that Jesus has just done something only God is supposed to do. His offer to heal the man is not just so to free him from his disability but as a sign to all present that he is God/Messiah. Jesus’ Messianic identity is not seen. It can only come by way of revelation. But Jesus is challenging the stronghold that had blinded them from seeing what was in front of their eyes. Their long-awaited Messiah had come. Their King had come. They just needed to see that Jesus was the king foretold in all of the Old Testament references, not just a few selected on the basis of human preference. This new kingdom was not one that would raise an army and kick the Romans out. It was one that wanted to heal and rescue Gentiles and Jews, and to offer them a place in the kingdom alongside any other person who decided to follow Jesus. The unseen reality Jesus was made known was the reality of him being the Messiah, the Son of the living God. The devil has no power when that proclamation is happening.

RIGHTEOUSNESS

We must not limit the word righteousness to the metaphor of the legal system. Justice is indeed one facet of righteousness. But the broader, everyday understanding of righteousness is doing what is right. In the life and ministry of Jesus, we see righteousness more commonly as a tangible presence of the love of God. I would define it as indiscriminate redemptive love. Jesus loved people. He genuinely loved them. He motive was love, and his actions and intentions were loving. He valued people and wanted them to be whole and complete. He wanted them to fulfil their God-ordained vocation as serving sons and daughters of God.

To get a perspective on the indiscriminate redemptive love shown by Jesus in this case you have to have a good look at what is going on in the room. It is full of people who don’t like him. They are out to get him. They are listening to his teaching not to gain understanding but to find fault. They are taking notes that could be used in a religious court against him. How would you feel with that kind of audience? A normal person would either be looking for the nearest exit, play it safe, be entirely intimidated – and so on. You might want to take the opportunity to tell them off. But Jesus loved them. In the first place, he went ahead with his teaching. He most likely taught them about the kingdom of God. He didn’t change a single point. He was free from their imposing presence. Then an interruption happened. The roof started to get opened up. Even though there was power for healing and even though he could have simply performed healing, his love for these sincerely mistaken leaders was such that he played out the whole agenda just for their benefit. Instead of making the four friends the heroes and making the paralysed man well he wanted to bring freedom, joy and hope to the hardest group of people from Dan to Beersheba.[8] He wanted them to realise that the Messiah had come. Even though these people were his enemies, he actually loved them. His love became apparent, and that love was greater than the power of enemy deception coupled with human weakness. The presence of that love challenge and neutralised the power of the deception. The end of the story tells us how. The devil has no answer to the righteousness that was modelled and pioneered for us by Jesus. When we choose to set aside our hurts, our pain, the injustices and all the rest – and when we choose to love people because they need it rather than whether they have earned it, the devil loses, and everyone else wins. I like that outcome to battles. It takes courage and love, but it wins.

THE GOSPEL OF PEACE

What was the gospel Jesus proclaimed that day? The message of this story was to the crowded house full of religious leaders (and others no doubt). The message was that the Jesus who had been teaching them, who had honoured the faith of the four friends, who had offered forgiveness to the man who wanted to be healed and who challenged the religious leaders to repent and believe the good news and then demonstrated the power of God to heal the sick person – WAS THE MESSIAH. What they saw and heard that day was enough to give them a basis for choosing to embrace this message. My working definition of the gospel goes like this:

When the nature and purpose of Jesus Christ are made known in a way that enables a person to decide to follow him, the gospel has been proclaimed.

In the case of the friends, they began with some faith and their faith was affirmed, so they would have had the opportunity to believe and follow.

In the case of the man who was healed, he received forgiveness and then was healed. He knew what Jesus was like and was able to follow him.

In the case of the religious leaders, they saw Jesus demonstrate his authority to forgive sins (i.e. by the demonstration of divine power to heal the paralysed man), the sign that he was God/Messiah. They had enough evidence to make a verdict.

FAITH

Jesus was able to trust that God’s power would not only heal the man but give the religious leaders an opportunity to step out of their religious unbelief. He knew God’s power was present to heal. He knew the healing would happen. He was able to use that assurance (faith) to reach out to stubborn hearts. He offered that plan before there was any evidence of it happening. If faith is the substance of things hoped for, Jesus had the substance. If faith is the evidence of things that you can’t see with a physical eye, then Jesus had that evidence to the point where he let some friends mess up the roof and interrupt his teaching session so that they would get the chance to see and hear the power of God.

SALVATION

As with other weapons in this list, a pattern has formed through my research concerning the idea of salvation as a weapon. Salvation is the work of God that comes about as a result of responding to the message of the gospel. That gospel message is about being rescued from estrangement to God – reconciled to him. We are restored as adult sons and daughters to the household of God.[9] The experience of salvation fully restores us to God and the family/household. When we embrace this gift, we discover that it is what we were always created for. Our search for identity and significance in all of the substitutes provided by the “lost-from-God” world order will never be a fit. As such they will always break and disfigure something about us that is sacred and worthy. We are created to be sons and daughters of God; end of story. Sadly so many of us who decide to follow Jesus don’t allow him to do this work. We stick to the counterfeits of human success, money, ability, popularity, fear, emotional prison and the rest. When we come to a place where our foundational significance and identity is in our relationship to the Father and the Son, we will be free – free to relate to others without trying to gain our significance and identity from them. Free to engage in a career and use our skills without having to get our sense of significance from it. Free from the pressure to conform to the opinions and fantasies of the moment. When we embrace the gift and import of salvation in Jesus, we find our home base: security, identity, significance, self-worth. The lot.

Of course, Jesus didn’t receive this as a gift. He always had it. He is eternally the Son of God. But his thirty-plus years on this earth were lived totally from the home base of his relationship to his Father.[10] As such he is the model for us to copy. As He IS, so our experience of salvation should be.

When you think about the environment in that house – full of people who were committed adversaries on a campaign to demonise Jesus you will get some idea of how his relationship with his Father enabled him to offer redemptive love freely. He gave them their best chance of realising the truth – that he was their Messiah. It takes a massive measure of relationship security to live in the midst of your enemies as a full and free son of God. That’s what was made possible through Jesus’ relationship with his Father. To him, they were not just enemies to be treated with disdain, contempt, aloofness, guardedness etc. They were enemies that needed to be loved. And Jesus deliberately switched the agenda that day so that they would see and hear the very best of heaven’s redemptive heart. When Jesus said the words, “…that you may know the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” and then healed the paralysed man it flowed out of freedom based on sonship. It was made possible only through the security and assurance of that Father-Son relationship. It will be the same for us. The enemy as no defence capable of standing against this freedom.

WORD OF GOD

I think there are two ways we can see Jesus acting out of the knowledge of what God has said. I have said in previous segments that Jesus only did what he saw his Father doing. In John’s gospel that fact is referred to four or five times. In John 5 Jesus says, “The Father loves the Son and shows him all he is doing.”[11] We also know that Jesus lived by revelation from the Father. He explained that to the devil in the desert. [12] His lifestyle, attitudes, motives, words and actions were all an expression of what God had said. That’s why he could give the two disciples on the road to Emmaus a Bible study on how the whole of the Old Testament pointed to him – especially what happened on the cross. So Jesus knew about loving the people who didn’t like him and were opposed to him. He didn’t do it as a legalistic obligation. He did it because the Father’s love for them was inside him.

I am going to suggest that there was a point in the story where Jesus heard his Father’s instruction directly FOR this situation. When the paralysed man needing healing was in front of him, and when the power of God was there to make him well, Jesus turned a healing agenda into a “revelation of the Messiah” agenda. He switched the focus from the paralysed man to the religious leaders. I think that was an unexpected change that came about because he was following the leading of the Spirit, not just responding to the faith of four friends and their paralysed mate on the floor. It is common in the Biblical stories for a natural expectation to be set aside in favour of the supernatural agenda. I could quote examples here, but I’m sure you can think of any number from your own knowledge of the stories. Jesus lived by both the written word – we would say, the Bible, as well as what God was saying in a given situation. We need to follow the exact same pattern.

written word – love your enemies and do good to them.

spoken word – I want you to use this man’s healing to show the religious leaders that you are the Messiah. Instead of merely healing him, I want you to forgive him. That will get their attention. When you have their attention, demonstrate to them how you have authority not just to heal but to forgive, showing that you are God/Messiah.

PRAYER

It is somewhat ironic that the one weapon that most people would associate with spiritual warfare is prayer and when Jesus was engaged with a room full of his chief opponents, he didn’t pray at any time in the process. If I said to a group of Christian people, “Let’s go and do spiritual warfare” the assumption would be that we would be going to a prayer meeting.

Prayer is undoubtedly a weapon in this arsenal. We need to use it as Jesus did. He spent a lot of time in prayer. He sneaked out in the early mornings. He went and found remote places. His way of praying was so different from anything the disciples had seen that they asked him to teach them to pray the way he prayed.

On one occasion Jesus spoke to Peter and said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” [13]. So Jesus was contending in prayer all the way along. But that prayer was happening as a foundational part of the regular lifestyle, not generally in situ. There was an occasion where Jesus has a prayer time in the midst of a situation. At the tomb of Lazarus, he talks to his Father just before he issues the command for Lazarus to come to life and walk out of the tomb.[14]

I think we should do things the way Jesus did. His lifestyle involved constant times of prayer. They happened outside of the ministry situations, but it was these times that gave him direction, shaped the motives of his heart, provided encouragement and most of all, beat up the enemy.

THE OUTCOME

We need to ask the question, was the battle Jesus fought in that house successful or not?

First of all, we know the man who had suffered from the work of the devil was both forgiven and healed. His exceptional mates didn’t have to carry him home. Instead, they all walked home together.

What about the religious leaders? Did they realise that day that the teacher standing in front of them WAS the Messiah? We don’t know. What we do know is that they were all amazed and realised that they had seen some wonderful happening. Regardless of whether they became followers or not, they went away from that meeting with something lodged in their experience that they could never deny nor forget. And when they remembered it, they didn’t just remember that a paralysed man got healed. They remember that Jesus had said, “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So much for the Holy Spirit to continue to work on. When we read in the early chapters of Acts that “a great number of priests became obedient to the faith” [15] I am prepared to believe that some of them might have been in the room that day. I am willing to believe that the enemy’s power to deceive through decayed and compromised religious tradition was held in check even if for a short time.  That time gave opportunity for some people to see something that real but otherwise invisible.

[1]         The number of men is not mentioned in this account, but the account in the gospel of Mark tells us that there were four friends.

[2]         Tipping Point is a term used to identify the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place. Websters Dictionary

[3]         See v. 20

[4]         See v. 24

[5]         See v. 24

[6]         Cp. Ephesians 6:10ff

[7]         ἀληθείᾳ

[8]         Dan is one of the northernmost towns of the province of Galilee and Beersheba is the southernmost town of Judea – actually just over the border in Idumaea.

[9]         This is what Paul speaks about in Galatians 3:23-4:7

“Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

26 So in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

1 What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

[10]       The Gospel of John is the record that reveals the relationship between the Jesus and his Father more than the others. If you get hold of a good concordance, you will find that there are more than a hundred references. If you want to discover the fullness of your salvation and learn how to use a potent weapon against the enemy, go look at them and embrace everything you see there as part of your inheritance.

[11]       See John 4:19-

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doin20g, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all, he does.

[12]       See Matthew 4

3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

[13]       See Luke 22:31,32

[14]       See John 11:41-43

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

[15]       See Acts 6:7

So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

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About Brian

Passionate follower of Jesus. Member of a family that keeps on growing because I keep on meeting up with more great people from every nation and background who I belong to because of Jesus. Husband of an amazing woman, father of four forgiving kids and eight almost perfect grandkids. And loving it.