Heal What?

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Luke 5:17-26  On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. 18 And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. 20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 25 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. 26 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”

As I study the book of Luke there are continuing moments of surprise. Some of the surprises come from words that I have read many times before, but failed to catch their meaning or nuance. In this healing story in Luke 5 I find one of those moments. We are told by Luke that, “…the power of the Lord was with [Jesus] to heal.” These words have always struck me as odd. Didn’t Jesus always have the power to heal? With that wondering in mind I looked to see where else we are told about, “the power of the LORD”.  It turns out that those words are used only one other place in the Bible, in the book of Numbers.

The people have rebelled against God, they have not believed his signs and wonders, and God threatens to destroy them. Moses, in turn, begs for God’s forgiveness.  Numbers. 14. “And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying, ‘The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.” Then the LORD said, “I have pardoned, according to your word.”

So rather than going in depth here, some bullet points:

The Moses Story:

  • The people don't believe in spite of the signs done by God
  • God wants to destroy the people
  • Moses begs God not to, not because of the people, but because of the fame of God and the damage to God's fame if he destroys the people
  • God shows his great power by forgiving the people

The  Jesus story:

  • Jesus is teaching
  • The power of The Lord is on him to heal- the word for heal is  iaomai meaing to cause something to change to an earlier, correct, or appropriate state — ‘to renew, to heal.’; the word is especially associated with forgiveness. The power to heal here is first the power to forgive (this is something I had not seen before).
  • Jesus forgives the man, the scribes question his right to do so
  • Jesus physically heals the man to show he has the right to offer forgiveness.
  • Unlike the people in the desert, the people in Luke see the sign and they are amazed, filled with awe (God's fame fills the earth, his glory)

Where this leads us is seeing that Jesus has faithfully done his 40 days in the desert (Luke 4), he now represents the faithful Israel, he has declared in Luke 4 how his new kingdom/jubilee will be formed. Now the questions are, "Who will follow him?" "Who will see God at work in this new movement?"  This passage, with its reference back to the people of Israel, points out that those who enter the movement first need to be forgiven and second need to be in awe of God (a concern for his glory).

So here is the question that I’d like to have you respond to: “So what?” If someone read the above, realized the interplay between Numbers and Luke, heard the need to be forgiven and be in awe of God, and then looked at you and said, “So what, how does this apply to my life?” What would you say?

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