There are many products that promise life-changing outcomes. But it doesn’t take us long to learn that they are empty promises. This is seen in many TV advertisements. Other things like legalism, worldliness, power, pleasure, and prominence promise big time, but in the end don’t deliver.
There is a promise of life-changing power that is not fake. It is real. It is the life-changing power that Jesus Christ provides. In this passage we see two demonstrations of the life changing power of Jesus. These two powerful acts point to what Jesus will do in the lives of those He has come to save.
This passage can be divided into two parts; we will see the life-changing power of Jesus in the life of a leprous man (5:12-16) and a lame man (5:17-26).
1. LIFE-CHANGING POWER TRANSFORMS A LEPROUS MAN (5:12-16)
This passage begins, “While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy” (5:12a). The disease of leprosy in the Bible describes a variety of skin diseases. These diseases made a person ceremonial unclean, which would mean that they were to be isolated from the community and lived in the outskirts of the town (Lev. 13:46). So as to not cause others to become unclean, a leper was required to shout “unclean, unclean” if he or she came in close proximity to someone (cf. Lev. 13:45). This provided a graphic picture of sin and how it separates us from God. When God sees us, He sees our moral depravity. It has spread all over our being from our hidden thoughts to our visible actions. We are morally unclean and separate from God. We are unable to change our rotten and rebellious condition. We are in need of life-changing power outside of us. This man did not have a minor case of leprosy. Luke is careful to point out that he was “full of leprosy”. This would indicate that it was at a very serious stage, beyond medical help, and was likely fatal.
So this man’s situation is not a good one. He would have been lonely and helpless. But everything changed for him the day he met Jesus.
The Leper’s Request
The leprous man does something very bold and brave. He approaches Jesus. The words “unclean, unclean” may have been shouted out. People would have begun to move away from him so that they would not become unclean or even infected. As he approached Jesus he falls to the ground and begs Him saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean” (5:12b). This is the request of a man that knows his helpless condition and seeks help outside of his abilities. He looks to Jesus to bring about a miracle of healing to his decaying body. The request shows his recognition that Jesus has the sovereign power to do this, and a submissiveness in knowing that it will happen only if Jesus chooses.
The Lord’s Response
The response of Jesus is amazing. He “stretched out his hand and touched him” (5:13a). This act of touching shows the great compassion Jesus had toward this man. I don’t know the last time this man felt a human touch. I am not aware of his situation, but he has been isolated of the many experiences of the human touch. Then Jesus said to him, “I will; be clean”. After Jesus spoke His powerful word, “immediately the leprosy left him”. The man was healed!
This is incredible. In that moment, by touching the leper, Jesus cured him, yet the disease did not corrupt Him. Jesus did not become unclean because He is the sinless Son of God. This here is a picture of Jesus becoming a substitute for sinners. At the cross, Jesus took responsibility for our sins, though He did not sin, and He received the punishment we deserve. In exchange, for those who believe in Him, they receive the righteousness of Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21).
After this Jesus told the man to not tell anyone but to “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them” (5:14). He didn’t want him to tell anyone because this will distract from His chief purpose in coming. By going to the priest and following the procedure of the Law (cf. Lev. 14:2-32), this would provide testimony of Jesus coming to fulfill the Law. Now that Jesus has fulfilled the Law, this procedure is no longer necessary. When we are forgiven of our sins, He is the priest that approves of us!
The reputation of Jesus being a miracle worker and healer spread across the region. So much so, that “great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities” (5:15). Though Jesus did heal people, these selected healings were always in line with the Divine plan and mission. So as to stay on course, He then withdraws “to desolate places and pray” (5:16). This reminds us that even if our lives get extremely busy, we must plan and prioritize times for private prayer. Our time of prayer must not be done out of a sense of dreaded duty, but out of a sense of dependent delight. We must pray often because we cannot do anything apart from His sustaining power.
This first example of the life-changing power of Jesus reveals what Jesus does for the lost. He alone can bring sinners into a reconciled and cleansed relationship with God. Though our sins pollute us, our Saviour purifies us.
2. LIFE-CHANGING POWER TRANSFORMS A LAME MAN (5:17-26)
We now come to the second example of the life-changing power of Jesus. This time it is in the life of a lame man. We don’t know how long this man has been a paralytic, but this clearly would have brought about big challenges into his life making his opportunities very limited.
The Lord’s Action
This scene begins with Jesus teaching and “Pharisees and teachers of the law” from a number of distant locations sitting and listening to Him (5:17). This is the first mention of the “Pharisees and teachers of the law” in the Gospel of Luke. They come up more, and they will soon grow in their hostility toward Jesus. Clearly the reputation of Jesus is spreading and it has captured the attention of the religious leaders. Luke adds, “the power of the Lord was with him to heal”. With this the scene is set and we are introduced to “the man who was paralyzed”.
While Jesus was teaching, some men carried this lame man on his bed with the plan of laying him before Jesus (5:18). But because there was a sizable crowd this was not an option. Undeterred by this, Luke writes, “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” (5:19). This is certainly one way of bringing the man to Jesus and getting His attention. Could you image sitting their listening to Jesus teach, then suddenly this bed is being lowered in! As surprising and strange as this may have looked, it revealed their faith and confidence in the life-changing power of Jesus. When Jesus saw their demonstration of faith He said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you” (5:20). Jesus transforms this man’s life in the greatest way possible. He forgave His sins. This is why Jesus came into the world. We are dead in our sins. The effects of our sin are revealed in many different ways in our lives. Only Jesus Christ can provide this total forgiveness of our sins.
The Leader’s Reaction
This act of Jesus forgiving this man’s sins triggers an explosive reaction from the religious leaders. They questioned this and said, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (5:21). This response is the seed that will grow into an outright rejection and hatred of Jesus.
The action of Jesus in issuing forgiveness to this man created the opportunity to demonstrate and prove why He has the authority to do this. He knew what the religious leaders were thinking, so He said,
“Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (5:22b-24a)
Due to the lame man’s condition, the muscles in his legs have wasted away. If it were possible for medical treatment he would need to build up strength in his legs before he could walk. But Jesus simply commands, “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home” (5:24a) and immediately he stands up, picks up his bed, and goes glorifying God (5:25). This healing miracle was proof of who Jesus was. Jesus did this so they “may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (5:24a). This is the first time Jesus uses the title “Son of Man” in Luke. This goes back to Daniel 7 and points to the reality that Jesus is the Promised One who will usher in a kingdom that will have no end. He can forgive sins because He is God. After seeing and hearing this the crowd was gripped with amazement. They praised God and were filled with fear (5:26).
Life completely changed for the leprous man and the lame man when they came in contact with Jesus. We need to know that even though things like legalism, worldliness, and personal pleasure promise change and satisfaction, they are actually empty. Jesus Christ alone can provide true life-changing power with eternal blessing.
This passage presents to the reader a powerful picture of who Jesus Christ is and what He does. Here are some concluding lessons to take away:
Sin is so bad, that is causes us to be unclean and separated from God. Sin is not just the really bad things open for people to see, it is also the private things that only God sees. Doesn’t matter how good we make ourselves on the outside, sin corrupts and separates us from God. We are all sinners, and outside of Christ we are unclean and separated from God.
Salvation in Christ is so great, that it causes us to be cleansed and secure in God. There is hope for us in Christ! If we come to Jesus Christ as guilty and dirty sinners, we will find cleansing and security in Him. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).
The only way to take hold of the Life-Changing Power of Jesus is through Faith in Him. We cannot receive the life-changing power of Jesus by coming to Him full of ourselves. In the words of Matthew Henry, “None are sent empty away from Christ but those who come to him full of themselves.” We must come empty and broken and cling to Him by means of faith alone in Jesus.