Luke 5:12-14 (NIV) 12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”
On verses 12-14: This to me is one of the most beautiful scenes in the Bible. Here you have a man covered with a skin disease which not only affected him physically but socially as well. According to the Jewish laws, a person with leprosy was not allowed to live among the people but had to live alone outside the city. They had to cover their face, leave their hair undone, and walk around with torn clothes yelling “Unclean! Unclean!” to warn everyone that they had an infectious skin disease. Here we see a leper falling at Jesus’ feet, covering his face, and begging Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” (v12) Jesus reaches out and lovingly touches this leper. This was quite possibly the first time this leper had been physically touched by anyone in years (since anyone who touched a leper was deemed to be temporarily unclean as well). Then Jesus says, “I am willing. Be clean!” at which point this man is completely cured of his leprosy (v13).
Why does Jesus tell the leper not to tell anyone what happened but to show himself to the priest and offer the required sacrifice for his cleansing (v14)? That’s because Jesus wanted this former leper as soon as possible to go through the necessary legal procedure of being examined by a priest and being reinstated so that he could live as a normal person in society once again. Jesus saw that the pain of leprosy was only a part of this former leper’s problem. There was also the tremendous hurt, loneliness and isolation that this former leper had endured from years of being ostracized for his disease. Knowing this former leper had not just physical needs but social needs as well, Jesus initiates the process for this former leper to be restored to society and socially healed too.
What can we learn from this? Jesus loves broken people and wants to restore them in every way that they are hurting. Thus the healing that Jesus brings is not only physical in nature but relational too. Because of Jesus, broken relationships can be mended and we can begin to interact with others in a healthy, normal way again.
Later on, Jesus would do something similar for us. When we had a disease called sin that caused us to be excluded from God’s presence and community, Jesus came, reached out, touched us and became unclean for us by dying on the cross for our sins. Jesus’ death on the cross restored us relationally to God, cleansing us of sin, making us a part of His community and empowering us to have healthier relationships with one another. Jesus cares for your whole being, not just for your physical health but your relational health as well.
So whenever you feel rejected, excluded or hopeless, know that Jesus reaches out to you with love, compassion and healing power.
Luke 5:15-16 (NIV) 15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
On verses 15-16: No matter how popular or busy Jesus became, Jesus kept protecting and prioritizing his daily time with his Heavenly Father. I like Pastor Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of this verse: “As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer.” (Luke 5:16, The Message paraphrase) Let’s go out of our way to spend time with God, for that is where we’ll find the rest, wisdom and peace we need to do what God has called us to do.
Luke 5:17 (NIV) 17 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.
On verse 17: Pharisees and teachers of the law were the religious leaders of the day and were teaching people a very different message from the good news that Jesus brought. Hearing about Jesus and his teaching, they came from everywhere in Judea and Jerusalem to hear Jesus speak. Most of them had the intent of finding fault with Jesus’ teaching. But it wasn’t the presence of these critics that Jesus was concerned about as much as the presence of God and the power of the Lord being present for Jesus to heal the sick. What can we learn from this? What matters most is not how many enemies are around you but the God who is with you. If God is for you, it doesn’t matter who is against you.
Luke 5:18-20 (NIV) 18 Some men came carrying a paralytic 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.”
On verses 18-20: Persistence, innovation and the willingness to take risks — because of these three traits, these men were able to find a way to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus. As a result their friend found Jesus, forgiveness and a new start.
Likewise, may you be persistent, innovative and willing to take risks to bring people to Jesus. As in the case of these men in verses 18-19, it just might be the most memorable and important thing that you do with your life. Who is someone God wants you to be focusing on with the goal of leading them to Jesus?
Also, most people, including the paralyzed man and his friends, probably thought that the paralyzed man’s biggest problem was his physical paralysis. Jesus saw it differently. Before even mentioning his physical paralysis, first Jesus addressed a different, bigger, hidden problem, which was this man’s sin (v20). Jesus then gave this man what he needed more than anything else: forgiveness for his sins.
What can we learn from this? Sometimes the biggest problem is not the obvious one that everyone can see. Sometimes the biggest problem is hidden beneath the surface. It takes a wise person to spot that hidden problem, focus on it above and beyond the more obvious but lesser problems, and offer an effective solution. That’s what Jesus did.
Luke 5:21-26 (NIV) 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 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.” 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.”
On verses 21-26: To prove that Jesus had the authority to forgive sins, Jesus healed the man’s paralysis, thereby answering the criticisms and doubts of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. What can we learn from this?
Jesus believed he was God, since he claimed to be able to forgive sins. Jesus proved his claims to be God with his miracles.
We are not God, but like Jesus, let’s do our best to back up our words with our actions.
Jesus, I praise You for being the one whose love reaches the unreachable and touches the untouchable, who sees us with eyes of compassion and mercy instead of judgment, who cares for our whole being, not just our physical health, but our social and spiritual health as well. Like those men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus, I pray both for myself and for my church, that we would be persistent, courageous, creative and willing to take risks so that we can lead people to Jesus. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!