By Dr. Donald Whitchard
And it came about that while He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man full of leprosy, and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” And He stretched out His hand, and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately the leprosy left him. And He ordered him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing just as Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.” But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and great multitudes were gathering to Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.
And it came about one day that He was teaching, and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the Law sitting there who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem, and the power of the LORD was present for Him to perform healing. And behold, some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were trying to bring him in, and to set him down in front of Him. And not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, right in the center in front of Jesus. And seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”
And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But Jesus, aware of their reasonings answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you?’, or to say, ’Rise and walk?’ But in order that you many know that the Son of Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins,” He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise and take up your stretcher and go home.”
And at once he rose before them and took up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God. And they were all seized with astonishment and began glorifying God and they were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
- Luke 5:12-26 (NASB)
The people of Judea, captive under a series of conquerors for four hundred years, without any word from God or a prophetic declaration, were longing for Him to act once again in their lives and show them that they were still His chosen people. Many anxiously awaited the promise of the Messiah (anointed one) to deliver them from the yoke of Roman rule and establish Israel as a free nation under the guidance of a king modeled after their beloved David, who had ruled the nation a thousand years beforehand, and had been known as “a man after God’s own heart.”
They had been taught by the rabbis in the synagogues about the great miracles, signs, and wonders performed by the LORD and His chosen servants, such as Moses and the prophets. They had been brought up hearing about their ancestors crossing the Red Sea, which had been miraculously parted for them by God to escape the Egyptians and other mighty works written of in the Scriptures. However, in reading what we refer to as the Old Testament, the events that are defined as miracles, signs, and wonders, that is, those acts of God that transcend natural laws and are visible, irrefutable demonstrations of His grace, protection, and mercy on Israel were not a regular occurrence or a constant part of the nation’s history. This is seen in most of the Old Testament text. If miraculous signs were a regular feature of Israel’s history, they would not be seen as a special intervention of God, but something routine and expected and the very act would have lost its wonder and purpose in drawing the people’s attention to Him for direction and advice.
While a notable number of Jews had turned to the ways of the Greeks and Romans, with adaptation of more secular lifestyles, there were also others who stayed faithful to their ways of life and worship, and were eager to see if the LORD would move again in their land and lives, and desired to hear a new Word from Him. When John the Baptist arrived on the scene, flocks of people who were spiritually hungry listened to every declaration and message that He preached near the Jordan River, and obeyed his call to repent of sin and be baptized as a visible symbol of turning away from it and be willing to have their hearts prepared for the arrival of God’s Man. Then came the day when John pointed out Jesus coming to him to be baptized, declaring to his own disciples, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29-34). Shortly afterward, Jesus began to preach to the people, emphasizing, as did John, the need for all people to repent and believe in the message of the Gospel (Mark 1:14-15).
The Lord Jesus affirmed His message as well as His role as God Incarnate by performing miracles such as healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, and casting out demons (Luke 4:38-44). Word of these acts of God spread throughout the region of Galilee and beyond. The verses that will be examined in this section of Scripture deal with demonstrations of not just the ability to heal, but the Divine authority as well. The first incident occurs when a leper comes before Him to be healed of his horrendous situation.
The Scriptures say much about the disease of leprosy and its consequences. It affected many people (Luke 4:27). It made one ceremonially unclean (Leviticus 13:44-45) and an outcast from society (2 Kings 15:5). At that time, it was uncurable (2 Kings 5:7) and was hereditary (2 Samuel 3:29). No one who had leprosy could be considered for the priesthood (Leviticus 22:2-4). The symptoms were described in the Torah (Leviticus 13:1-46), but if God’s mercy brought about a healing of leprosy, or somehow through natural means, there was a specific ritual for cleansing and re-entry into society (Exodus 4:6-7; Leviticus 14:1-33).
Often God would use leprosy as a means of judgment, a sign, or to rebuke rebellion or other sinful behavior (Exodus 4:6-7; Numbers 12:1-10; 2 Kings 5: 25, 27; 2 Chronicles 5:26-27). When coming near a town, a leper had to cry out that he was unclean, unapproachable, and would often be run out of the region by the populace and stones thrown at him or her as a warning to not come back. Touching a leper and their rotting flesh was to be avoided. Any physical contact was to put one at high risk of being infected.
While leprosy today is rare, it still occurs in less developed countries. The physical toll on the victim is bad enough, but they also suffer from the lack of a compassionate touch or the comfort of knowing that someone cares for them in their world of isolation. It is a disease of loneliness as well. The leper written of in verses 12-14 was at a point of desperation and determined to be restored not just to health, but also to society and his loved ones. He took a risk of being driven out of the area when he approached Jesus. He came to the LORD with a declaration of hope and faith that he would receive healing. Jesus was all too willing to grant this poor soul the answer to his request. He touched the man out of compassion and at the risk of being ostracized Himself for doing so. The man was healed instantly and completely.
Jesus, being obedient to the Law, told the newly healed man to perform the necessary procedure outlined in Scripture to have himself declared ceremonially as well as physically cleansed through the priest and then be welcomed back into society and receiving the privilege to enter the temple and worship the LORD. To not be labeled as merely a healer, Jesus asked the man to keep this act of compassion to himself. The word spread, however, and numerous people came to Jesus to hear Him teach and be healed from their sicknesses and diseases. Not only were the people curious and desirous to hear the Lord Jesus, but His work also attracted the attention of the religious leaders of Galilee and Judea, namely the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.
Their observations were not so much to witness what might be the work of the Promised Messiah, but to see if Jesus was within the legal and traditional expectations imposed by them as a result of years of teachings and interpretations of teachings by rabbis in the past who scrutinized over every detail of life and procedure to determine if it was followed to the letter by them and the people. If any one group would have been anxiously awaiting God’s Messiah, it would have been them, but they were so entrenched in their religiosity and ritual that they were deliberately blind to the obvious display of miracles and compassion demonstrated by the Lord Jesus.
Jesus was teaching, probably in the home of Peter, when a group of men tore open a hole in the roof and let down a friend of theirs who was paralyzed and lying on a makeshift stretcher, as they had been unable to get in through the front door due to the size of the crowd. Jesus not only healed the man, but also told him that his sins had been forgiven without him even asking.
In that day, many people believed that any type of sickness, disease, or deformity was a sign of judgment upon that individual for sins that had been committed either by him or his family (John 9:1-5). The man was healed not just physically, but by also stating that his sins had been forgiven, the man’s emotional state was freed as well. In His reply to the Pharisee’s complaints about His declaration of forgiveness, Jesus showed that while physical wellness was visible and a testimony to the mercy of God, the more important factor in terms of eternity was that a soul was freed from the disease of sin that had separated the man from God throughout his life.
The lesson here is that the Lord Jesus is Sovereign over life, health, and the destiny of those in whom He saves and redeems. He has the final word in terms of our well-being and our purpose in this life. He can heal someone or not, and He can save anyone who repents and comes to Him for redemption and mercy. All things are under His control, and all things will fall into place in terms of His plans for this world and the world to come. He will bring justice to the oppressed and judgment to the wicked with no exceptions or excuses at the end of days. He will punish all evil, including the devil and his demons, and all who reject Christ as the ONLY way to peace with God the Father (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). He is coming back to rule and reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, establishing a new heaven and a new earth for all eternity, free from all sin, sickness, war, and sorrow (Revelation 21:1-7). Bow the knee and surrender your life to Him this day.
All of Dr. Donald Whitchard’s Gospel of Luke studies can be found here.
Don was born and raised in the true Cajun Country of Louisiana. He holds a Bachelors Degree in History from Louisiana College, a Masters Degree in Christian Education from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Theology from Andersonville Baptist Seminary in Georgia. Don has served as a pastor, interim pastor, high school teacher, and hospital chaplain over the past thirty years. He currently serves as a volunteer chaplain (2008-present) with St. Francis Hospital and also served as the pastor/teacher from 2013-2016 at the Gospel Rescue Mission, both of which are here in Muskogee. He was called to Meadowbrook in February 0f 2017 and began his ministry in March of that year. He has also served as President of the Muskogee Baptist Association’s Pastors Conference, which is a weekly meeting that presents speakers and ministry ideas and concepts to church leaders in the greater Muskogee area.
Don’s top priority is to see that the good news of Jesus Christ is shared with our lost and hurting world and that the people of God are taught sound doctrine and preparation for our Lord’s soon return.