Luke 5:1-39, Isaiah 58:6-12, Joel 2:12-17
There was a time when Jesus was famous. Rock-star famous. Everyone wanted a piece of Him, but few truly knew Him.
In the early stretch of Jesus’s earthly ministry, He couldn’t walk into the towns around Galilee without crowds gathering and pressing in around Him (Luke 5:15). They wanted to hear Him teach. They wanted to touch Him. They wanted to see Him perform miracles, maybe even one for them. It was everyone too—men and women, young and old, religious leaders, government officials, tax collectors, and sinners.
Luke chapters 5 through 9 focus on this period of time when Jesus was famous. After this He became persona non grata among the religious establishment. But chapters 5 through 9 cover the days of the Sermon on the Mount, the feeding of the 5,000, and fascinating little vignettes like the one we find in today’s reading about a paralytic who was lowered down through a roof by his friends in the hope that Jesus might heal him.
These men really did believe Jesus could heal their paralyzed friend, though it is likely they had limited insight into who Jesus truly was. His fame had reached them. They’d heard stories of His supernatural abilities. But they couldn’t have known they were seeking the Son of God.
In our culture today, we often treat Jesus in this way. We focus on what He might be able to do for us without considering who He is to us. For the paralytic’s friends, Jesus saw their act of determination as a genuine expression of faith. He healed the man and commended their faith, even forgiving the man’s sins (Luke 5:20). They had so little to go on, and yet they acted.
I always wonder what came of people like this—people who went to Jesus with a measure of faith and then saw Him command the laws of nature: blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46); the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8); the paralytic by the pool of Bethesda (John 5). I wonder how many of these people who came to Jesus with embryonic faith in God but were delivered as true, eternal believers.
When we come to Jesus in faith, we always come with a short-sighted grasp of who He truly is. We can’t help that entirely, since we remain earthbound creatures contemplating the divine. But we have much more insight into who Jesus is than this paralytic and his friends because we have the remaining sixteen chapters of Luke’s Gospel to inform us.
It would be a shame if the best thought we ever had about Jesus was that He could help us out from time to time. It would be a tragedy of misplaced affection if the only time we ever went to Him was when we wanted a miracle. It is good for us to come to Jesus in faith like the paralytic and his friends, but as we read on, I pray the Holy Spirit would give us eyes to see who Jesus truly is—the Savior who is Christ the Lord. May this be what truly amazes us.
Written by Russ Ramsey