Luke 5:17-26

Who can forgive sins but God alone?


Luke has carried us from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the calling of his first disciples with examples of his preaching, his healing and his casting out impure spirits. Crowds have come to him to hear the word of God and individuals have left everything to follow him. He has welcomed the attention but also resisted unnecessary and misdirected praise by regularly taking solitude to meditate and pray.



  • 17-19 A man brought to Jesus
  • 20-21 A man who can forgive sins?
  • 22-26 A man walks out forgiven

17-19 A man brought to Jesus

“One day…” An obvious thing to mention, I know, but these types of words mark the beginning of a new story. ‘One day’ means a brand new event that doesn’t directly relate to the one before it, while ‘after this’ draws attention to an event that followed. Yes, obvious, I said that but it helps to notice how the bible is put together and the bulk of it is in story form.

“Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there.” This is the first introduction by Luke to the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Forgetting what we think we know about these men, Luke tells us that they had come from all over Judea to listen to Jesus. This speaks again of Jesus’ growing reputation and he had pricked the ears of those who knew their bibles like scholars. Teachers of the law were like lawyers of religion who knew the Old Testament and made decisions on how to apply the Old Testament in specific areas of life. Pharisees were a certain breed of Jew who took their bibles seriously and applied every letter to their lives. Although we must not assume that they are bad guys and let the story lead us, they will show themselves to be hard against Jesus’ teaching in the long run.

“…the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.” It is strange to think that there might be times when the power of the Lord not be with Jesus. Isn’t he the Son of God through whom the universe was made? How can he have limited powers? Luke is preparing us as the reader for Jesus to do something powerful in this story and to say that perhaps he was already healing people that day. This would explain why the men in the story will be so desperate to get their friend to Jesus. Today was a healing day for Jesus. (See Luke 6:19 also).

“Some men came carrying a paralyzed man…” The context of this story is set and now we are ready for the adventure. A man is paralyzed and being brought to Jesus who is ready to heal.

“When they could not…they went up on the roof…lowered him…right in front of Jesus.” Notice the determination of the men and the desperation they displayed to have their friend get to Jesus. When they met an obstacle, they pushed harder to find a way. This is the type of attitude we ought to have about meeting with Jesus and mending our souls. The men could easily have abandoned their mission if they either didn’t see a great problem to be solved nor knew that the solution was just inside that house.

20-21 A man who can forgive sins?

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said…” The man on the mat has not been the centre of attention until now. It is the four friends who carried him who showed their faith. Jesus saw it. James 2:14-26 instructs us to have faith that is seen – because there is no other type of faith! The word means TRUST and you cannot simply trust in theory. If the man and his friends had stayed at home, believing that Jesus could heal, but not leaving home to act – where is their faith?

“…friend, your sins are forgiven.” The paralyzed man must have shared the faith of his four friends. The startling part of this story though is that after all this effort in coming to Jesus, the Lord grants him forgiveness! No healing. Just forgiveness. This is a clear illustration of what Jesus deems to be more important to a person.

“Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy?” The folk who knew their bibles back to front tapped into a clear issue in this event. Jesus of Nazareth has just declared a fellow man’s sins to be forgiven. They heard clearly that Jesus is putting himself on equal footing with God – able to pardon men of crimes of the soul. This is the foundation of our Christian faith – that Jesus is God.

22-26 A man walks out forgiven

“Jesus knew what they were thinking…” It seems to be more than a case of “I know what you’re thinking” but a case of Jesus understanding the hearts and responses of these men. Jesus knew what is in a man and had understanding beyond any other mere mortal.

“Which is easier…” Jesus lays down a simple test of logic for the men. Anyone can say a crazy thing like “your sins are forgiven” and pretend to know what others are thinking. But here is the test. If he can make this person walk with just his words, that would be pretty good evidence that his words mean something. In other words, he can’t prove that the man’s sins are forgiven – they need to believe that. But he can order the man to walk and that will either be proved right or wrong straight away. As a claim to be made, it is harder to say ‘get up and walk’ than it is to say ‘your sins are forgiven.’

“But I want you to know…” Here Jesus announced bluntly what he wants the crowd to learn that day. Not that he can heal – they all knew that. He has already done that over and over. He wants the crowd to increase their understanding of his character, authority and identity. He is able to forgive sins. He knows what is going on in their hearts and he wants them to know that he is able to forgive sins.

“Son of Man” This title encampasses a few things simaultaneously. It speaks of Jesus’ humanity. That’s what the title at face value tells us. He is a child of the human race. But this title took on another layer of meaning in the books of Ezekiel and Daniel. In Ezekiel, it is used repeatedly to refer to the man of God who was sent to speak to the people of God. In Daniel, a vision is given to this prophet of someone like a ‘son of man’ who is equal with God, standing in his presence. Jesus identifies himself as a type of man who is equality with God.

“Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God.” As easy as speaking, Jesus could undo the permanent damage of this man’s legs and restored to full strength. Not only is the fault removed but muscle tone is given! The man came to Jesus with faith and left with strengthened faith in God!


Jesus is greater than a teacher of the law and his concern for humanity is more than skin deep. He knows what our hearts are thinking and has the power to forgive sins in response to faith. From our perspective, we need to see coming to Jesus as the highest calling in our life. From Jesus perspective, Forgiveness of sins is of greater importance than any other need we have. We need to praise God that our sins can be forgiven and that Jesus can make us right with God.


  • Topic A: Making every effort to save our souls. Just as the men worked hard and earnestly to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus, we ought to make no excuses for putting our life with Jesus first. Prayer, bible reading, church and Christians fellowship are means of grace through which God blesses us and grows our faith. How often do we allow other things in life to get in our way and without much of a battle from us, we neglect them. How important is your soul to you?
  • Topic B: Jesus is able to forgive sins because he is God. He is not our mate or equal. He is our saviour and Lord and we need him or else our sins cannot be forgiven. The cross is the means by which we can be forgiven but it is God’s favour on us that grants us the forgiveness. Remembering our sins before God is a valuable discipline. Read 1 John 1:8-9 and enjoy the knowledge that Jesus forgives sin.
  • Topic C: Jesus knew what they were thinking. Let’s never forget that our God operates on the level of the heart and not on external appearance. There are no secrets that we can keep from him. We may easily fool our fellow man on how we are going in life but God knows better. This truth gives us further motivation to walk closely with our God. He already knows what is going on in our hearts so share more honestly with him about our hopes and worries, our angers and our desires.

Prayer of the Week

Our Father in heaven, we praise you that you know us and you know our greatest needs. Please help us to persevere in our relationship with you. To create time to read your word and to pray earnestly with you. Give us hearts that desire to know you and rejoice because we are forgiven. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.