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“And He withdrew Himself into the wilderness, and prayed. And it came to pass on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before Him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. And when He saw their faith, He said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (He said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things today”—Luke 5:16-26.
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Those were very busy days for our Lord as He went from place to place manifesting His mighty power and ministering so graciously. In verse 16 we read, “He withdrew Himself into the wilderness and prayed.” I do not know of anything that so emphasizes for us the reality of the humanity of our Lord as the fact that He felt the need of praying and withdrew Himself to pray. He who was God, He who heard the prayers of others, came down here as man and took the place of the dependent One and lifted His heart to the Father in earnest prayer. It is a good thing for us all to retire into the wilderness and pray. As we enter more into the life of prayer, we will find renewed strength and courage for our daily tasks.
“And it came to pass on a certain day, as He was teaching, there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.” He went into one home and many gathered about, and others stood in the doorway and openings as He ministered the Word to all those who were near enough to hear. While the meeting was going on, there came four men bearing on a bed a poor neighbor of theirs, a paralyzed man, “a man which was taken with a palsy”: But they could not get in through the door because of the crowd. They might have said, “Well, we will have to try some other time. We can’t get through that crowd now.” This is probably what you and I might have said. We would have gone away to wait for some more convenient season. I like the earnestness of these men. They wanted to bring this man into contact with the Lord, and so they took him up to the housetop and let him down through the tiling.
The roofs in the Orient were flat, as you can see them today in many places in Palestine and Syria, and in other lands of the East. These men lifted their poor paralyzed friend up onto the roof, and then they removed the mud hardened by the sun and lifted up the tiles and when they had a space large enough for the couch to go through, they put ropes underneath it and let him down through the roof into the midst before Jesus.
I can imagine the people there wondering what was happening when the pieces of mud and tiling fell through; and then when this couch was let down, they no doubt said something about spoiling the roof and were provoked at the interruption of the meeting.
Palsy pictures the helplessness of the sinner. This man was hopelessly ill. Perhaps he had lain on that couch for years and the outlook as far as he was concerned was absolutely dark. There seemed to be no possibility of a cure. How like that is to the case of the poor helpless sinner I Many know they are sinners but do not realize that they are absolutely helpless to relieve their condition.
We are not only utterly weak because of sin and cannot do a thing to save ourselves, but we are beyond all human help. No one else can deliver us, no matter how good or how well-meaning he may be. If we are ever saved at all it must be through the interposition of One who is more than man. Apart from Christ, there is no possibility of deliverance.
But this man had some friends who were interested in him. It is a great thing to have a friend concerned about you. It is a great thing when some unsaved one has some believer interested in him. Oh, unconverted man or woman, it means a lot to have someone praying for you! Husband, you may not realize it, but it is a wonderful thing to have a praying wife; wife, it is a wonderful thing to have a praying husband. Friend, it means a great deal if there are friends interested enough to pray for you. You should thank God when people are interested enough to pray for you. Some resent it, but why should anyone be angry because others are enough concerned to pray for them?
This man had friends and they determined if it was at all possible they were going to get him to Jesus. Christian, have you someone on your list of whom you are saying in your heart, “I must get him to Jesus”? These four men were not discouraged because of difficulties, but they brought their friend to Jesus even though they had to tear up part of the roof to do it. Can’t you picture them bringing him down the road and saying, “When we get him to Jesus, we know something will happen.” They might have said—but they did not—”Look at that crowd of people, there is not much hope today;” or, “Look at the crowds, but perhaps when they see the condition of this man, our friend, they will make way for him.” But no one wanted to make way, and they could not get their friend in through the doorway where Jesus was.
They might have reasoned, “It isn’t the Lord’s time; we will have to wait until the Lord is more willing to do something for him,” and so have gone back home and missed a blessing for him and for themselves. But these tremendously earnest men were determined to bring their friend to Jesus, and so they said, “There is another way; we will try the roof.” I think as the Lord was teaching, the folks must have been astonished as they saw the four eager faces of these men peering through the opening and then the couch being let down. They might even have said that the preaching of Jesus was more important than bothering with a paralytic like that! These men were so definitely interested; and we may well imitate their example. Some may have suggested, when they first went to get their sick friend to take him to Jesus, that it was of no use. But they were not discouraged. They knew that Jesus had healed others and they were insistent that he must come to Jesus also and prove what He could do. The sick man may have said, “All right; if you can get me there, I will go.” We often hear seeking souls exhorted to “pray through” in order to be saved, but it is the sinner’s friends who need to pray through in order that he may be led to trust the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.
No matter what the others may have thought, the heart of Jesus was delighted. It is always a joy to Him when He finds folks who are really in earnest. “When He saw their faith”—I think it means the faith of the four men and the faith of the sick man also; for it was faith that made him willing to come. The evidence of their faith was seen in what they did and by their earnest desire to get their friend to the feet of Jesus. “When He saw their faith, He said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.” He saw that this man’s spiritual need was greater than his physical need. The spiritual need is always greater. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Many will say, “I wish you would pray that I might be healed of my sickness.” But few realize the need of pardon for sin.
Get right with God first—know His saving help first of all. So often people think of just one particular evil habit. They say, “I wish you would pray that I might have victory or be delivered from this evil habit.” But they do not seem to realize that our Lord Jesus does not specialize in merely fixing people up, but in giving them pardon for their sins and imparting a new life.
Jesus looked at the man and said, “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.” Surely that was good news. Did you ever hear Him say that to you? You would not hear an audible voice, but we find it in His “Word. He says to you who believe in Him, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” The only way you can be sure of this is by taking Him at His Word.
How did this man know his sins were forgiven him? Because Jesus said so. If people asked this man how he knew this, he could have replied, “I rest in His Word, and I trust Him.” Have you trusted His Word? But my! How this angered the legalists! They thought that one had to buy and pay for everything. They thought that God does not do anything for you unless you pay for it, and that salvation has to be earned by something that you do for God. They did not understand grace, and asked, “Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” What they didn’t know was that it was God in flesh standing in the midst of them who had said, “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.” If Jesus had been only man, then it would have been blasphemy, but because He was God manifest in the flesh, He could say that and not blaspheme. No one needed to tell Jesus what these men were thinking, and so He answered them saying, “What reason ye in your hearts? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?” One was as difficult as the other. There was no use for them to say to anyone, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” for they had no such authority. Neither could they give strength to palsied limbs.
Jesus said, “But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power upon earth to forgive sins,” He saith unto the sick of the palsy, “I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.” He did this that they might know that He was not speaking lies; that they might know that He had the authority to forgive sins.
The Lord Jesus met the spiritual need first, and then demonstrated His divine power by healing the man’s bodily disease. He forgave him first and then healed him. We read, “And immediately he rose up before them and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.” I don’t believe he walked like an ordinary man. I can imagine him leaping for joy as he hastened to demonstrate what Jesus had done for him. I think I see this man going to his home and saying, “Oh, friends, what do you think? I have been to Jesus and He has forgiven all my sins and healed my disease.” What a testimony! What a living proof of the Deity and compassion of the Saviour!