Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in issue no. 3 (weeks 9-12; March 1-22, 2020) of The Lookout magazine, and is also available online at www.lookoutmag.com.
Lesson Aim: Trust God’s Word that your sins are forgiven through Christ.
By Mark Scott
“Friend, your sins are forgiven.” What do we need to hear more than that? Peoples’ greatest need is to be forgiven of their sins and therefore be right with God. The two gospel narratives in our text today declare that truth. Jesus called Simon Peter to be a disciple and showed his power with a miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5:1-11). Jesus cleansed a leper and made it possible for the man to return to his community (vv. 12-16). Jesus will raise a paralyzed man up from his mat, and he will call Matthew (Levi) to be a disciple.
Proof of Forgiveness | Luke 5:17-26
Maybe forgiveness is such an important thing that it needs proof to be realized. Jesus remained in Galilee and was once again at Capernaum. He was teaching the Word and the house was packed with people (Mark 2:2). The antagonists (Pharisees and teachers of the law) were also there. Some of them had come all the way from Judea and Jerusalem. God’s power was especially present with Jesus for healing. Was it not always there with him (6:6)?
The paralyzed man had four very good friends (2:3). They carried their friend to Jesus, but the crowd made it impossible for them to get their friend to him. But these friends would not be stopped. They carried their paralyzed friend to the roof of the house—something very doable in those days because of how the houses were constructed. This could well be Peter’s house. They dug through the thatch and tiles to make an opening and lowered their friend down in front of Jesus.
Jesus was impressed with their faith and honored it by forgiving the sins of the paralyzed man. Maybe the friends were expecting something else, but the man’s sins were “sent away.” The religious leaders were not happy for the forgiven paralytic and they objected to Jesus’ claim. They actually asked the right question, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But isn’t that the point? Who, after all, is Jesus?
The religious leaders and the clamoring crowd would need some proof of Jesus’ ability to forgive sins. So Jesus performed a miracle—the third in a row (Luke 5:1-16). For God, forgiving sins and healing paralytics (a sign of the Messianic age, Isaiah 35:6) require the same effort. Neither activity is harder or easier. Jesus said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” The man did it and headed home as he praised (glorified) God. The people were amazed (ecstatic) and filled with awe (fear). The miracle performed on the man’s legs had proven the reality of forgiveness.
Proof of Inclusion | Luke 5:27-32
Jesus left the house and strolled along the Sea of Galilee near Capernaum (Mark 2:13). There he saw a local customs official named Matthew (Mark and Luke call him Levi). He probably sat near the Sea so as to tax the fishermen as well as others who passed through Capernaum. The crowds were amazed that Jesus forgave a paralytic, but the four fishermen (Mark 1:16-20) were no doubt undone by Jesus calling a tax collector to be a disciple. Jesus said, “Follow me.” The word for follow means to obey and enlist as a disciple. Jesus was creating a new community from all different backgrounds of forgiven people. Matthew left the tax booth and followed Jesus. One person remarked that Matthew remembered to take his pen.
Matthew celebrated his new business opportunity with the Messiah. He threw a great (mega) banquet for Jesus. The only problem was the guest list. Since tax collectors were outcasts—their testimony was not even accepted in a court—they were the primary ones that Matthew invited. Once again the religious leaders complained. In the previous narrative they struggled with Jesus’ claim to forgive sins. In this narrative they struggled with Jesus’ table fellowship. To eat with someone meant several things in Jesus’ day, not the least of which was acceptance. Jesus did not fit the mold that the religious elite had created for the Messiah.
Jesus justified his social behavior with a secular proverb. Healthy people do not need doctors, but sick people do. This is a physical no brainer. But applied to the Messiah’s mission it sounded reckless to the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Jesus did not come to call (i.e., save or forgive?) the supposed righteous but sinners to repentance. Jesus built his church on the ragamuffins of society. He forgave them and included them.
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
Image: Four friends lower their paralyzed friend through the roof of a house in Capernaum, part of the Phillip Medhurst Collection of Bible illustrations; courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.