When Jesus healed someone or cast out demons, He always had a purpose in doing so. Because the people of Israel were lost and had been without a shepherd for so many years, Jesus had to get them thinking once more who they were as a people and why they even existed. He had to transform their thinking about the gods of the surrounding cultures to God Most High. As important, He wanted to change the religiosity of the people from those who stressed Law and Law only, to seeing Yahweh as a loving God who desired to have a personal relationship with Him.
God had been silent in Israel for 400 years since the prophet Malachi. Israel had gone through much of what is known as the Second Temple period, i.e. the Intertestamental period, that began roughly about 500 BC and would end about 100 AD. During this time of God’s silence, the Jews thought and wrote much about their understanding of God and His ways. From this they produced quite a lot of literature exploring these concepts. For instance, one of the works attributed to this period is the book of 1 Enoch that describes how the sons of God (bene Elohim), also known as the Watchers in Enoch and by Daniel (Daniel 4:13-17), came to earth, procreated with human women, and caused the massive amount of depravity that led to God destroying all creatures through the flood.
Jesus had a lot of work to do to get the heads of God’s children turned back to Him in the right way. This had always been a problem. From the very first when Yahweh interacted with man in the Garden, he wanted to go his own way. The idea that Satan planted that man could be like God never left. It caused all humanity inevitably to turn from God. This led to the Tower of Babel incident where mankind disobeyed God’s direct command to scatter. Since the people didn’t do it on their own, God had to take it upon Himself to do the scattering. In the course of this, God effectively separated Himself from man – a sort of timeout – while He raised up Israel as His special heritage (Deuteronomy 32:9). God placed His divine sons (again, more bene Elohim) over the nations and mankind in this process (Deuteronomy 32:8 – ESV). In that position, God’s sons were to point men back to God; instead, they rebelled and became the so-called gods over those nations contrary to what Yahweh intended.
This led to all sorts of problems, not the least of which was that the people of Israel found these foreign gods more attractive than Yahweh. One thing followed another, and through their wholesale turning from God in disobedience, He sent them into captivity in Babylon. Despite His mercy of permitting them to return to the land, they didn’t learn the lesson, and God allowed them ultimately to go under Roman occupation, which set up the time and circumstances for Jesus to come. In that prior period the sect of the Pharisees determined that following the Law was the key to Yahweh’s blessings. Naturally, they went too far and legalism set in. They had no heart for God, only for obeying His Law as they interpreted it.
So, along comes Jesus with the necessity of transforming the hearts of the people. It required Him to preach and teach; it necessitated Him confronting the Pharisees for their misunderstanding of what God wanted; and it called for Jesus to show the awesome love of God through the miracles, signs, and wonders that He did.
The reading today illustrates how this worked. It’s the paralytic man’s friends who have the confidence that Jesus will heal him. We’re not told this man’s level of faith. Perhaps he had given up on life in his poverty and presumed uselessness. But his friends believed. Isn’t it amazing that he even had friends? This man could have been so depressed at his condition that he simply isolated from everyone other than in his times of begging.
Jesus knew all the circumstances surrounding this situation. He also knew what the response would be among those who saw what He intended to do. He forgave the man’s sins. Had the man assumed that he was beyond forgiveness and that God hated him? Then, Jesus healed him. This miracle had two results as we see in Luke 5:25-26:
And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
The poor man who had been paralyzed and without hope ended up glorifying God. The people who witnessed this amazing healing also came away glorifying Him.
This seems to be one of the few instances that Jesus performed a miracle not on a Sabbath day, so the Pharisees didn’t have that to complain about. But, they were present, and we know they took issue with Jesus. Who but God could forgive this man’s sin (Luke 5:21)? One way or another, Jesus found a sore point with His critics, but always in the hope and with the desire of turning their hard hearts back to God as He wished for them to acknowledge Him.
Israel today remains separated from God because she didn’t accept the fact that Jesus was the Messiah for whom they’d been waiting. To this day, they have not glorified God through His Son. That will change not too long from now. God will soon pour out His wrath upon this unbelieving world, including the nation of Israel. Through that horrible time, many will finally turn to the God of the Bible. A remnant of those remaining in Israel will be saved (Zechariah 13:8; Romans 11:26).
Soon, and very soon all the world will bow down and confess that God is mighty and glorious and deserves all praise and worship.