Jesus Adds a Shocking Twist to Healing

It happens throughout history. A hero or leader arises and captures the attention and the enthusiasm of the people. His stature and popularity grow as his following grows, but then…he just goes too far. I hope this has never happened to one of your heroes, but chances are that it has.

We have seen that Jesus’ work in Galilee grew because of the public response to his teaching and to his healing of people’s illnesses. Today we notice for the first time that even the religious élite came to hear him. As they did so another person in great need of healing came to Jesus, and that is when Jesus crossed the line.

The Palsied Man Let Down through the Roof

The Palsied Man Let Down through the Roof 1886-1896 by James Tissot

Jesus Makes an Audacious Move and is Caught by the Religious Authorities

Luke 5 tells us what happened:

One 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. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man 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.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

Mark 2 tells us that Jesus had just returned home to Capernaum and there were so many people that they filled the house and crowded outside the door. Mark also says that, instead of removing tile, the men ‘made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.’ This is probably correct because roofs in Jesus’ area were often made of earth over a framework of twigs, while Luke’s gentile audience would be more familiar with tile roofs.

But notice that, though the men brought their friend for healing, and I am sure the man was eager to be healed, Jesus did not heal him! Instead, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’

And this was Jesus’ big problem.

The Religious Leaders React to Jesus’ Blasphemy

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.

As the Pharisees came to see what all the hubbub surrounding Jesus was about, we have no idea that had any negative feelings toward Jesus. As very religious people, they would naturally be interested in a phenomenon such as Jesus’ work.

But when Jesus crossed the line, the religious leaders were instantly offended. They believed only God could forgive sins, and they knew the process he used–temple ritual. If the paralyzed man wanted forgiveness, he should have followed the appropriate temple ritual. Of course they were upset by Jesus’ forgiveness.

And Jesus knew what they were thinking. This does not suggest some sort of omniscience or mind-reading on Jesus’ part; he knew full well how they would respond, and it was probably quite clear in their facial expressions and body language as well.

In fact, to serve his purpose Jesus probably provoked them intentionally.

Their basis for objection was that only God can forgive sins. This reflects a legalistic understanding of sins as being violations of God’s laws rather than our offenses in hurting each other. Though God does forgive our ‘sins’ in a general way, the practical forgiveness of those who commit harmful acts against us is our responsibility. ‘Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.’

Jesus Makes His Point about the Emerging Kingdom of God

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

Jesus’ question is at the center of this entire pronouncement story. ‘Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?’ Jesus has already demonstrated the breaking of the kingdom of God into history in his teaching and in his remarkable healings. But as important as teaching and healing might be, there is a much more significant element to the kingdom event—forgiveness, acceptance, and reconciliation. And Jesus had the authority to grant it.

For Jesus to say one’s sins are forgiven is really another aspect of healing itself. Forgiveness heals the alienation from God we often feel because of our flaws and shortcomings. As Jesus brought healing to the body, he also brings healing to our relationships—our relationship to God and our relationships to each other.

While forgiveness of ‘sin’ can be experienced but not observed, healing can be both experienced and also witnessed by others, so Jesus’ evident authority and power to heal confirm his authority and power to forgive sins.

The good news is that we all have the authority to forgive sins, not in the ritualistic way often practiced by priests as ‘agents of God’, but in that we forgive each other their offenses against us. This restores relationships, creates peace and happiness, and is part of our call to expand God’s kingdom of peace, justice, and reconciliation on earth. ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’

Jesus Continues to Draw Followers

Jesus asks, ‘Which is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven?” or “You are healed?”’ But it doesn’t matter; Jesus does both. He challenges the authority of the Pharisees; they do neither.

Jesus’ escalating work in Galilee of teaching, healing, and preaching about the kingdom is exciting to watch. His followers grow in numbers, but he sometimes calls specific individuals to follow him. We will see him do this again next time, and you won’t believe what kind of person he calls!

Articles in this series

Jesus Begins His Work:

The Beginning of the Good News about Jesus the Anointed One
Do Jesus’ Words and Actions Demonstrate Empathy — or Judgment?
Does Jesus Disagree with John the Baptist’s Message of the Coming Judgment of God?
Why Didn’t Jesus Recruit Better Help for His Galilean Work?
Did Jesus Really Heal People?
Do Demons Exist?
Jesus Adds a Shocking Twist to Healing
Jesus Calls a Fifth Follower—and What a Loser!
Jesus Refuses to Ask His Disciple to Fast
Entering the Kingdom Requires Abandoning Old Religious Systems
Jesus Gets into Trouble for Disrespecting the Law
What Do We Learn from ‘Jesus Begins His Work’?


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47 Responses to Jesus Adds a Shocking Twist to Healing

  1. Pingback: Did Jesus Really Heal People? | Jesus Without Baggage

  2. Pingback: Why Didn’t Jesus Recruit Better Help for His Galilean Work? | Jesus Without Baggage

  3. Pingback: Does Jesus Disagree with John the Baptist’s Message of the Coming Judgment of God? | Jesus Without Baggage

  4. Pingback: Do Jesus’ Words and Actions Demonstrate Empathy — or Judgment? | Jesus Without Baggage

  5. Pingback: The Beginning of the Good News about Jesus the Anointed One | Jesus Without Baggage

  6. freeoneindeed says:

    Tim, we were all born to be heroes. Unfortunately, evil has robed us of that. Perhaps when some is perceived as one, we tend to project ourselves in that person.

    The truth is that there plenty of opportunities out there to be heroes, whether the media captures our attention or not. In fact, there are many out there we may never hear of.

    Christ is making you a hero as you use His life to break the chains of those who’ve been mulled by sin and fear.


    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thank you, Free, for such an encouraging comment! There are, indeed, many heroes; and though some eventually disappoint us we can still follow energetically those who continue to inspire us.

      Jesus, of course, though he crossed the line in the minds of the religious leaders of that time, was not a disappointment to his followers. He continued to define himself and to bring the good news to those who needed it very much.


  7. sheila0405 says:

    Forgiving others is ridiculously hard. Jesus really drives that point home! This is such a great passage.


    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Sheila, it is hard. But as we begin to internalize how God sees other people and is ready to forgive and bring peace and reconciliation we can grow in our attitudes toward other people so that we can also forgive others. It does get easier.

      I really like this passage too.


  8. As I understand it, the same Greek word (sozo) is used interchangeably for both ‘healing’ and ‘salvation’ in the gospels. So when Jesus heals people, it’s never just about a physical healing – it’s also about restoring them fully, making them whole in every sense, welcoming them into the Kingdom. Which includes forgiveness of course.

    And conversely, when Jesus talks about salvation, it’s not merely about going to heaven when we die – it’s a much more holistic thing, involving healing and restoration of all that’s broken in our lives and relationships.


    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Well said, Harvey! Jesus brings healing in all our dimensions and strengthens us as members of the kingdom so that we can spread that same healing, This is the most important part of the good news of the kingdom–NOT just going to heaven when we die.


  9. Pingback: Do Demons Exist? | Jesus Without Baggage

  10. Chas says:

    Can’t help thinking that a large part of this story about Jesus reflects the writer’s belief that sinning leads to punishment in the form of infirmities.


    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      That is possible.


      • sheila0405 says:

        It’s seen in one of the healing stories. I can’t remember in which Gospel, but just before Jesus heals a blind man, Jesus is asked who sinned, his parents or him, that he was born blind. Jesus said neither, but that the glory of God will be revealed [by the healing]. I attended an Assembly of God church which believed that lack of faith could result in sickness or bad events happening in life. That type of thinking has always been around, and still is. I can find it in the Psalms.


  11. tonycutty says:

    And we also see the Pharisees more keen to obey every little bit of the Law but at the same time being blind to the miracle Jesus did. Legalism at its worst!


  12. Chas says:

    Tim, maybe we have all wanted to believe in heroes, but what I am tending to see now that some of these real-life heroes can be strong in certain things for which they are well known, but can be seen to be quite flawed individuals when their weakness are exposed.


    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      I believe you are right, Chas; we all have flaws–even ministers, but they can be restored.

      But what I think of in terms of Christian leaders today are not those who trip up or make big mistakes, but something more insidious in my opinion. As I have observed the fall of so many prominent pastors and leaders, there seems to be a common element.

      Aside from various foibles, a huge problem with some leaders is personal pride and the conviction that they are THE authority for those they lead and dominate (as well as others, with whom they disagree). Connected to this is addiction to power. This has been evident in leadership ‘falls’ in years past and was very prominent in several very public high-level ‘falls’ recently. Resistance to accusers and concerned fellow ministers is tremendous. Any apologies are shallow, and the intent is to hold onto the power, the fame, and the domination of the beliefs and behaviors of others.

      I feel very badly for these people, but they should not be in positions of leadership.


      • Chas says:

        Tim, this aspect of leaders is something that has become increasingly obvious to me too. I agree with you that much personal pride is involved and even when they have received a warning from God about their need for humility, and have told their congregation about this, they still behave in an over-flamboyant way and use an over-wordy style. They often try to impose their views on their congregation too. However, this could be because they are damaged individuals who need to bolster their ego by dominating others. This is also quite common among politicians and celebrities, and I very much agree that they should not be in positions of leadership. However, the drive and energy of such people might be needed to take some things forward; indeed many of the improvements to the condition of ordinary people have been achieved through such people. We need to acknowledge that God has allowed them to come into their positions of dominance for His purposes, but He will remove them from those positions at a time of His choosing.


        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Chas, I agree that these traits can also be seen among politicians, celebrities, and in other areas. But, to me, it is a more serious problem in those who speak authoritatively in the name of God.


          • Chas says:

            Tim, An area in which their claim to authority is most damaging is when they deliberately mislead for their own purposes. In the political arena, an extremely serious example was when Tony Blair and his spin doctor fabricated evidence to support a claim that Saddam Hussain possessed weapons of Mass Destruction and mislead Parliament so they would agree to go to war in Iraq and fulfill the promise that Blair had already made to Bush that UK would back him in that war. Actually, it doesn’t get much more serious than that!


          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Yes, actually misleading people on purpose is very serious and an unacceptable abuse of leadership.


          • Chas says:

            Tim, after some further thought on this matter of authority, a person can be an authority on a subject, without claiming any special kudos for this. On the other hand, it is possible for someone to claim authority, although they have no real expertise to substantiate that authority. Just because someone has been to theological college or to Bible college does not mean that they are an expert on the interpretation of the Bible. However, if someone is given the position of pastor in a church, they, and most of their congregation, assume that they are experts in Bible interpretation. If their understanding is based on what they have been taught, then they are no better than their teachers. ‘No man is better than his teacher.’ Our best interpreter of scripture is God. Only He can show us what He wants us to understand from it. Therefore we might disagree with an interpretation that our pastor has given. Should we remain silent, or should we tell others what we believe to be right. If we do the latter, then others might be missing something important for them, yet if we do, we might be accused of undermining the pastor. In several of Paul’s letters, we are told not to undermine the authorities in the church, yet we see in Acts various disciples, under intimidation by the Sanhedrin, declaring that they must obey God, not men. Whom do we regard as having the greater authority, the pastor, or God. It seems to me that we have to tell other people the interpretation that we receive. It is up to those whom we tell our interpretation to accept it, or the pastor’s, or their own. If they tell the pastor what we have said, and he feels that this is undermining him so that he speaks to us about it, we would reply using the argument outlined above. It is up to the pastor to decide whether he thinks that we did something wrong, and, if so, what he proposes to do about it.


          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, I think the Holy Spirit does have an important part in guiding us in our understanding. However, there is a problem: we cannot be absolutely certain that we are being guided by the Holy Spirit on an issue. In addition, one believer claims the Holy Spirit led them to one conclusion, and another believer claims to have been led to a conflicting conclusion. Pastors should be particularly careful in saying, “God told me!” It is an abuse of trust.

            The earliest believers could be somewhat authoritative in that they had been with Jesus and were merely sharing what he said and did. Even Paul deferred to their authority after his conversion; but he also went beyond it as he thought through the implications of Jesus’ teaching in terms of the gentiles. He THOUGHT through it.

            Now, none of us ever met or heard Jesus, so how do we know what is what? I like John Wesley’s approach of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience.

            We have the record of the New Testament from the memories of his earliest followers. We can study the thoughts and ideas of believers throughout history to see if they ring true. We can think through issues ourselves based on everything we know and can discover, And we can check with our own experience, which includes the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

            This is an excellent format for coming to spiritual and theological issues. One thing it demonstrates, though, is that no one can be an authority over how another person believes.

            For more on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral see:


          • Chas says:

            Tim, of Westley’s four modes of guidance, I can easily relate to reason and experience, and scripture contains truth, which the Holy Spirit can reveal to us, but tradition would be an area that concerns me, because there is so much of man in it. Religions are founded largely on traditions, with a large slice of superstition overlaid on them. Traditions come from: ‘well, we’ve always done it that way’, which stifles flexibility and understanding, and forms rigid rules and discourages free thought and reasoning. It is that free thought and reasoning that is the strength and vitality of your blog.


          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, I understand your concern regarding tradition. I approach tradition in a different way than some do, such as the Catholic Church; I never see tradition as an authority. Rather, to me, tradition is the accumulated thought of all believers through the ages who pondered Christian issues and wrote about them. To not avail ourselves of their thoughts and experience would rob us of a great resource in our own developing understanding of life as a believers.

            I benefit greatly from such writers as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Augustine, Wesley, Lewis, Bruce, and others, even though I don’t agree with everything they say; and I certainly don’t consider them authoritative. It is true that tradition is subject to the limitations and misunderstandings of men–but so is reason, experience, and even the interpretation of the Bible. None of these is fail proof or authoritative.

            We must approach all four of these tools to truth in humility and awareness of our limitations.


          • sheila0405 says:

            Great points. It helps me to remember not to be aggressive with those with whom I disagree. After all, my own views have evolved.


          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            I feel the same way, Sheila.


  13. Pingback: Jesus Calls a Fifth Follower—and What a Loser! | Jesus Without Baggage

  14. michaeleeast says:

    A nice summary of this important event.
    The aspects of restoration and reconciliation are typical of God’s intervention.
    There is no judgement, no punishment, only Love.


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