The spiritual condition of man before he comes to Christ is revealed in the miracle of our Lord’s healing of the paralytic in Luke 5:18-20. Without Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5) and before Christ we are without strength (Romans 5:6). This is seen in the fact that the paralytic didn’t come to Christ under his own strength or even his own faith. On his own he was without power of any kind to affect his condition. This was also true of the spiritual leadership at that time. What Jesus did that day completely unsettled the safety of their religious understanding.
Jesus had been presenting himself as their Messiah, as God in the flesh, and he said to the paralytic: “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee” (Luke 5:20)! The leaders of Judea immediately began to reason in their minds, not letting the word of God seep down into their hearts (Psalm 119:11). They thought Jesus’ words were blasphemous (Luke 5:21), because they were unable to reason in Scripture that Messiah had to be God (Psalm 45:6; 110:1). Knowing their thoughts, Jesus simply asked, “Which is easier to say, ‘…your sins are forgiven you’ or ‘…rise, take up your bed and go home?’” Jesus wanted them to consider what had already happened in their community in the past week. Can a man cure a leper by his word alone (cp. Acts 4:12-16)? While it is true that only God can forgive sins, it is equally true that only God can cure a leper. Is the case of the paralytic any different? Therefore, for the sake of the glory of God in whom the paralytic’s friends trusted, Jesus healed the man who then returned home, glorifying God!
The problem was the spiritual leaders did not trust God enough to repent in order for Jesus to heal them (cp. Matthew 13:14-15). The multitude glorified God (Matthew 9:8). However, the leaders merely said, “We’ve never seen it explained that way” (Mark 2:12; cp. Luke 5:26), or “This point is unexpected.” They would rather think it over instead of immediately receive Jesus as their Lord and Messiah.
I have found in my own life that if God reveals himself to me, and I do not glorify him by becoming obedient immediately, the matter soon becomes lost to me. I don’t mean to say that I can never repent and regain the lost ground. However, I do say this; God’s grace is present most powerfully at its initial offering. If I repent later, it is through much more difficulty that I fully receive the gift of God.
The Pharisees and doctors of the Law missed this golden opportunity at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Within two weeks, before the completion of the Fall Festivals that year, the leaders of the people would look for a way to accuse Jesus (Luke 6:7) and kill him (Matthew 12:14; Luke 6:11). When they failed to execute a plan to seize and kill him, they accused him of casting out demons by the power of the prince of demons. They sought to discredit his good works by attributing everything to Satan’s deception. The people were ready to receive Jesus as their Messiah (Matthew 12:23), but the leaders could not allow that to happen (cp. Matthew 23:13). They did not expect to have their doctrines challenged, and when they were, it made them afraid and very unsettled (Mark 2:12; Luke 5:26). Their lack of faith was evidenced in both their rejection of Jesus and asking for more signs (Matthew 12:38), as though to say the ones concerning the leper and paralytic were not enough. One might ask what sign would have been acceptable.
Earlier in Luke chapter five, when the power of God was manifest, Peter and his partners (Andrew, his brother, and James and John) immediately left their nets and followed Christ at his command (Luke 5:10-11). The leper was painfully aware of the unpleasantness of his condition. He questioned not the power but the willingness of Jesus to heal him. However, when the power of God was manifest in the words of Jesus, the cleansed leper broadcast the incident all over the city. The paralytic and his friends believed not only in Christ’s power but also in his willingness to heal. The people kept asking, seeking, and knocking and the doors of the Kingdom of God kept opening (Luke 11:9-10). This is the key to building faith. Never give up, keep asking, seeking and knocking. Doing this may evoke the ire of those who have no faith, whose only relationship with God is theoretical, but the end is our own healing. The power of God, evidenced in the lives of some, may evoke criticism from those paralyzed in their religious lives, because they fear the unknown. However, the evidence of the power of God got Peter and his fellows to immediately leave their security behind. The leper asked anyway and found Jesus willing. The friends of the paralytic could not reach Jesus (Luke 5:19), but they kept seeking and found a way. May the God of all power show each of us the ‘Way’ and may we all find satisfaction in him.