29 May 2020

Luke 5:12-26 Jesus Brings Cleansing and Healing

In this passage, Jesus performs two miracles. The first, in Luke 5:12-16, Jesus heals a man with leprosy. The second, in Luke 5:17-26, he heals a man who is paralyzed. In both of these stories, the physical healing is not the real miracle, but the proof of the miracle.

Luke records that the man with leprosy "begged" Jesus, "Lord, if you want to, you can make me clean." In Mark's Gospel, Jesus is said to become angry at this request (Mark 1:40-45). This is likely because it is not a request, it is a challenge. It is not a question, but a statement. He is not begging Jesus, he is questioning his authority, his power, and his willingness to heal him. Jesus does not show him indignation first, but compassion. Jesus heals the man and then reprimands him. Had he done what Moses commanded of him, he would already be healed. Jesus orders him to go make the offering that had been commanded.

This passage presents us a wonderful map for dealing with conflict. Jesus does not immediately go to assigning blame. He solves the problem of the relationship first. This mas had leprosy. Because of that, he could not enter the Temple, could not be a part of his community, blamed God, and questioned Jesus. Before Jesus solves the problem, he restores the relationship by healing the man. Then Jesus shows him what the real problem was all along, that he did not trust God, did not engage with the authorities God had placed over him (the priests), and was rude even to his peers. The miracle is not the cleansing of his body, but the healing of his heart.

The second story is more overt in this way. In verse 17, Jesus is teaching and his teaching is being interrupted by the sick who all require healing. Because of the crowd, there is a paralyzed man who cannot be carried close enough to see Jesus, so those who are carrying him go to the roof of the house, take it apart, and lower him through it. Jesus says to the man, "your sins are forgiven."

Does Jesus mean the sins that caused the man to be paralyzed (as many thought in his day), or the sin of dismantling someone's roof? If Jesus forgives the man's sins, how can the owner of the house expect repayment? Jesus does not answer this. He proves he has the authority to forgive. Instead of answering the Pharisees, or the homeowner, he addresses the paralyzed man, "but that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, I tell you, arise, take up your cot, and go to your house." And so the man does.

Jesus is telling him that whatever sins have brought him to this point, even to the point of damaging someone's home, it is forgiven. By the smallest act of faith, the man can start a new life, forgiven of his past debts and transgressions. Not the Pharisees, nor the crowd can hold him to account, because God has forgiven his sins. The Pharisees themselves had said that none " can forgive sins, but God alone." If this is the power of God, what can any of them do?

The cleansing of a body is a sign, but the healing of a heart is a miracle. Jesus restored these two to their community, canceled their debts, and renewed their faith. That is the real miracle of healing. What happened to their bodies, that is mere cleansing.

Jesus still performs this miracle today. In baptism, he invites us to experience healing through a ritual of cleansing. That cleansing is an outward sign of the healing of our hearts that comes when we choose to walk by faith in the way of Jesus. It is a small act of faith that brings about a new life in which all is forgiven, relationships are restored, and none can hold us to account because God has forgiven us. If you have not yet been baptized, what is stopping you? Fill up the bath tub and call any Christian. A new life awaits.

Peace be with you.

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