- The Explore the Bible lesson for Feb. 7 focuses on Luke 5:17-26.
My late father-in-law—who also was my “father-in-the-ministry”— gave me a very simple but very profound piece of advice when I began what would become a 25-year preaching ministry. He exhorted me that in my preaching I needed to “just give ’em Jesus.”
My father-in-law’s practical take on our focal passage this week was this: If you want to draw a crowd, if you want to “fill a house,” if you want your church building to overflow with people, just be sure Jesus is in the house. Be sure you are “giving ’em Jesus.” Pretty good church growth advice for any church and any pastor today.
As interesting of a take as my father-in-law’s might have been on this passage, my take is a little more theological in nature. I see the focus of the passage being found in verse 20: “When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
Claim to deity
For me, this claim of Jesus’s the authority and power to forgive sins is one of the most significant proofs of his deity. By claiming to forgive sins, Jesus was claiming to do something only God can do. In Isaiah 43:25 God clearly states: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
The response of the religious leaders indicates exactly what they thought Jesus was claiming. “The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, ‘Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” (v.21) Jesus was committing blasphemy in their eyes. Jesus was claiming to be God.
Regarding the deity of Christ, theologian Millard Erickson writes: “What did Jesus think and believe about himself? Some have argued that Jesus did not himself make any claim to be God… It is true that Jesus did not make an explicit and overt claim to deity. He did not say in so many words, ‘I am God.’ What we do find, however, are claims that would be inappropriate if made by someone who is less than God.” And at the top of Erickson’s list of these claims of deity is Jesus’ claim to forgive sins.
In a sermon, John MacArthur once commented:
“This is the most outrageous blasphemy conceivable. This man is talking as if he is God. He might as well have said he’s the Creator of the universe, that he’s the Holy One of Israel, that he’s the Redeemer of Zion, that he’s the holy and Almighty One, the eternal judge, the God of glory. He might as well have said that because they think, ‘Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ And they were right. You can’t come to Jesus with any patronizing nonsense about being the good teacher. He’s either God, or he is a blasphemer. Some people have said, ‘Well, you know, the Jewish people, they rejected Jesus because they didn’t quite get what he was saying.’ Yeah, they got what he was saying. They rejected him because they did get what he was saying. They were exactly right. Who can forgive sin but God alone? Answer? Nobody. So either Jesus is God, or he’s the rankest blasphemer that ever lived. There aren’t any other options.”
The religious leaders knew full well that Jesus was claiming to be nothing less than God himself.
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Amazement and praise
In contrast to the response of the religious leaders, notice the response of the recipient of the miracle, the paralyzed man who had been healed: “Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had be lying on and went home praising God.” (v. 25).
And notice the response of the people who were present that day: “Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today.’” (v. 26).
How will you respond to the deity of Christ? With skepticism and rejection? Or with amazement and praise? The fully divine Jesus has done “remarkable things” in your life. He has done nothing less than a miracle in your life. He has forever “healed” you from the “paralysis” of your sin. Why not do a “remarkable thing” yourself in response and believe in and trust in this fully divine Jesus?
Jim Lemons is professor of theological studies and leadership at Dallas Baptist University. He is a senior adult Sunday school teacher at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas.