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The Mechanics of Walking Sermon

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The Mechanics of Walking Sermon

Luke 5:17-32

Big Idea:  Jesus’ message of repentance is for sinners and involves the forgiveness of their sins.

I.        Introduction

A.     Secular – Targeted commercials during Desperate Housewives.  Commercials are targeted to increase effectiveness.

B.     Personal

1.      If commercial advertisers could look through the TV screen and see you, what kind of products would they offer you?  What needs would they see in you that they would try to target?  Would they offer you new clothes?  A better car?  Healthier dinner recipes?  A new pill that promises a happy marriage?  A book on how to get that raise at work?  An award telling you how special you are?

2.      Whatever our needs are, we all have needs, even needs that we’re not aware of.  The good news is that God is aware of all of our needs and has the ability to meet them all.

C.     Biblical

1.      Literary context:  As we’ve traveled through the book of Luke, we’ve seen some amazing things that happen when Jesus shows up.  We’ve discussed the great pains that Luke went to in chronicling His account of Jesus’ life.  We’ve seen His birth as well as the birth of John the Baptist and how these two babies were met with much expectation because of the prophecies of what God was going to do at this time.  John’s job was to get people ready for Jesus and for His message, which he did with much zeal and enthusiasm.

2.      Jesus however took a different route.  The first thing He did after being baptized was to go out into the desert to fast and pray, and to be tempted by the devil.  With the power of the Holy Spirit, He resisted the devil and went to His hometown of Nazareth to publicly announce His intention to preach good news to the poor, both among the people of Israel and among the Gentiles. 

3.      The Jews then thought that salvation was only for the people of Israel, God’s chosen people, so they chased Him out of town.  Jesus set up His headquarters in Capernaum where He demonstrated the authority of His message by casting out demons and healing the sick.  Last week, in the first half of chapter 5, you heard about how Jesus showed His sovereignty over nature with the incredible catch of fish and His power to heal the leper.

D.     Textual - And it’s here where we pick up in Luke’s gospel.

II.     Exposition

A.     Men bring paralytic to Jesus

1.      One of the factors that made Capernaum such a strategic location was that it was a border town.  It sat right at the crossing point between the tetrarchys of Herod Antipas and his brother Philip, both Roman rulers, so there were Roman military garrisons stationed in Capernaum and tax booths placed on this border so that anyone who was traveling along the Via Maris would have to declare what they were carrying and pay taxes on it.

2.      Collecting taxes back then was a loose process to say the least.  The tax collector would inspect the goods of each traveler, which included all the people who came to Capernaum to fish and trade, and decide for himself how much tax to charge.  Since there were no formal regulations set up, tax collectors routinely grossly overcharged people and pocketed the difference.  And if the traveler didn’t have the required tax?  Then Roman military guard would come over and take him away for a private chat.  Needless to say, the Jews despised tax collectors because of how they would rip them off, but also because they worked so closely with the oppressive Roman government.  The average Jews regarded tax collectors as greedy, dishonest, “licensed robbers” and the more pious and religious Jews considered them as liars and thieves, and therefore ritually and consistently “unclean” and sinners.

3.      And there were a lot of travelers that went through Capernaum and a lot of opportunities for tax collectors because it was in a very strategic location on the NW shore of the Sea of Galilee because one of the main imperial highways, the Via Maris, ran right through it.  The Via Maris lead from Damascus in the northwest through Caesarea on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in the southeast all the way to Egypt in the south.  A branch of this trade route also branched off at Megiddo and traveled north into Lebanon.  Another smaller branch would lead a traveler to Jerusalem, so any traveler carrying goods or gossip could go from Asia to Europe to Africa rather easily.

4.      So, this whole time as Jesus was traveling in the area of Galilee and preaching in the synagogues, news about what He was doing and saying was traveling across the country and the crowds coming to hear Him speak were swelling.  He was becoming quite an attraction.

5.      Not only did the news about Jesus attract crowds to hear Him speak, but it also attracted the Jewish religious leaders.  One day as Jesus was teaching in a home in Capernaum, He looked out into the crowded room and saw several Pharisees and Torah experts from all over the country among the listeners.  They were easy to spot because they didn’t stand like most everyone else was doing, trying to get the greatest number of people in the smallest amount of space, but they sitting, which is what prominent teachers of the Law did.

a.       You see, the Pharisees and those associated with them were very strict adherents of the OT Law and to the numerous other traditions that they added on top of the Law.  They would not associate with anyone who didn’t keep the Law as they did, and even looked down on those people.

b.      Because of their expertise in God’s Word and because of their position among the leaders of Israel, they took it upon themselves to come and check Jesus out, to see what kind of message He was preaching to their people.

6.      While all this was going on, four men approached the house where Jesus was teaching carrying their friend on a stretcher.  They were carrying their friend because he was a paralytic and could not move on his own.  As they approached the house they knew immediately that they were going to have difficulty.  The crowd was so great that they spilled out of the doorway and onto the street.  They knew that there was no way that they were going to be able to get in, let alone carry their friend in.  But they desperately needed to, because they new that Jesus was in there and they had heard how He could heal people, and they truly believed that if they could just get their friend close enough…

7.      But how were they going to do that?  They could go through the roof!  Most houses back then were single story structures that had a very hard and flat roof so that family members could spend the day working in the sun up on the roof and it could easily support the four grown men as they walked around up there carrying the paralytic with them.  Getting their friend up there was tricky.  The stretcher was nothing more than a piece of linen stretched between two long poles, and the only way to the roof was on a very creaky ladder.  It wasn’t going to be easy.  But after much struggle and effort, all of them finally got up there.

8.      They walked over to where they thought Jesus would be in the house and started to dig through the roof.  They removed the hard tiles of sun-dried clay that were on the very top and then began to dig through the mud, straw and branches of the roof in order to create a hole through which they could lower their friend.  As the whole widened, and debris was falling on people, the people began to move out of the way and clear a space for the paralytic.  Once the hole was wide enough, they began to lower their friend and his stretcher through it.  Getting their friend down from the roof was much easier than getting him up on the roof, and they finally got him down flat on the floor, right at the feet of Jesus.

B.     Jesus forgives paralytic’s sins/confronts Pharisees

1.      Jesus looked up at the four friends peering down through the hole in the roof, and knew what they had gone through to get this paralyzed man in front of Him.  He saw their tenacity, perseverance and that nothing was going to discourage them from bringing their friend to Jesus.  Then He looked down and their paralyzed friend and said to him, “My friend, your sins are forgiven you.”

2.      Immediately the Pharisees and teachers of the Law started to glance at each other nervously, instinctively knowing what the other was thinking, “Who does this guy think He is?  Only God can forgive sins.  Is He actually alleging to be on the same level as God by claiming to do something only God can do?”  Technically, they were right, because God Himself through the prophet Isaiah said that “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

3.      However, Jesus could read their thoughts and He addressed them directly: “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say ‘Get up and walk’?”  With this question He looked at the Pharisees.  They were stuck.  Logically, claiming to forgive sins was easier because who could tell if they were forgiven or not?  What was the visible proof?  On the other hand, to say “Your sins are forgiven” would be easy for someone who had the authority from God to do so.  But Scripture says that the only person who would have this authority would be the Messiah, the person whom the prophet Daniel called the “Son of Man.”  And this guy couldn’t be him, could he?

4.      At this point Jesus spoke again and said to them, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…”.  Then he looked back down at the paralytic and with a strong voice that everyone could hear He said, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home!” 

5.      What happened next was incredible!  The paralytic – the man who had to be carried in because he couldn’t move on his own – actually stood up!  Without any help from anyone!  And everyone saw it!  The crowd was ecstatic as they watched this man gather up his belongings and bound out of the house singing praises to God.  In fact, this began to spread among the others and pretty soon everyone was praising God out of reverence for the amazing things that He had done among them that day.

C.     Jesus calls Levi

1.      One of the tax collectors in Capernaum that day was a man named Levi.  He had worked out there for some time, so he heard all of these stories about this man called Jesus who could heal the sick and cast out demons, but today was special.  Today he saw several people running by his booth acting, well, very different.  Finally he stopped one of them and asked them what was going on.  The man replied that he had seen some strange and incredible this today and it was all to the praise and glory of God.  Levi asked, “What things?” and the man proceeded to tell him all that happened with Jesus healing the paralytic, forgiving his sins, and standing up to the Pharisees.  Levi was astounded!  Could this Jesus really forgive sins?

2.      Just as he was thinking this, Jesus Himself walked by Levi’s booth.  He didn’t announce or introduce Himself, because He didn’t have to.  There was something different about Him.  All He did was look at Levi and say, “Follow me.”  This stunned Levi, but just for a second.  Before he could realize what he was doing, he left his booth and everything about that life behind and began to chase after Jesus, to follow Him.

D.     Levi throws a party

1.      Levi was thrilled that this rabbi Jesus would actually want him, a hated tax-collector, to be one of His disciples.  He was so overjoyed that he decided to throw as large a feast at his home as he possibly could.  He invited all of his friends and co-workers over to see this remarkable Man and to speak with Him.  Levi had extra money to spend so he was able to make sure that everyone had plenty to eat and drink, including all of the disciples of Jesus that had been following Him around.  After all, he was now a disciple too, wasn’t he?

2.      Word about the party spread and the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who witnessed the miracle with the paralytic began hovering around Levi’s house.  The house was too crowded to get in, but even if they could they would not have because they couldn’t associate with these “sinners”, even if it meant being in the same room with them.  So instead they started going up to Jesus’ disciples who were easy to get to, who were on the edges of the crowd.  They began to grumble and complain to them, “What are you doing?  These are tax collectors and ‘sinners’, you can’t eat and drink with them.  They will make you unclean.  You have to separate yourself from them.”

E.      Jesus announces why He has come

1.      Jesus could see what was going on, and knew what the Pharisees and teachers were trying to do.  And even though Jesus was at the table, in the thick of the crowd, He shouted out to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”  That got their attention.  Immediately the whole room quieted down and everyone began to stare at their unwelcome guests.  Jesus continued to the delight of everyone there, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

III.   Implications

A.     Implication #1 – Forgiveness of sins is received by faith.  Jesus freely offers the forgiveness of sins without us needing to earn it, and all that He asks is that we receive this gift by faith.

1.      The paralytic and his friends came to Jesus with a certain amount of faith that He would be able to heal the paralytic of his physical affliction.  Jesus showed that He could do more than just heal physically, but also to heal spiritually.  But remember that the man did not ask for it, in v. 20 Jesus offered it to him first as a gift of grace, and then the man received it on faith.  We cannot earn salvation; it is a free gift of God based on His character and compassion.  Eph. 2:8-9 tell us that “For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

2.      App:  Have you received this free gift yet?

B.     Implication #2 – We need to be tenacious in bringing people to Jesus.  We cannot let obstacles, excuses or circumstances hinder us in sharing the good news about Christ.

1.      We cannot save people, but we can bring them to the feet of the Son of Man who is willing and has the authority to save people.

2.      The paralytic could not come to Jesus under his own power and initiate salvation.  Vv. 18-19 show how he needed help from his friends.  However, once Jesus saved him, he was immediately able to get up and walk and praise God.  Spiritually speaking, our friends and loved ones are in the same situation.  Eph. 2:1 says that we are “dead in our trespasses and sins.”  Because we are spiritually “dead”, we can’t get up and go to Him.  However, once He saves us, Rom. 6:4 says that we can now “walk in newness of life.”

3.      Illustration:  My car accident

4.      App:  What are you doing to make sure that your friends and loved ones are getting to Jesus?  Whose stretcher do you need to carry?

C.     Implication #3 – The gospel is for “sinners”.  The targeted message of forgiveness of sins and turning from that lifestyle is meant for and effective for those who have sin in their life.  We see that in v. 32.

1.      The Apostle Paul said this in his first letter to Timothy, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of which I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15).

2.      The question is, Who is a sinner?  Ps. 53 says, “God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.  They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” 

3.      Without being judgmental, we understand that everyone needs to hear the gospel.  For Jesus, this meant going outside of His “comfort zone” of only associating with people who looked like Him, thought like Him, and talked like Him and going to the fringes of society.  He went outside of His “holy huddle” and touched those that nobody would touch, and ate with those with whom nobody would eat.

4.      Illustration – Crazy Moody

a.       In his biography of D. L. Moody called A Passion for Souls, author Lyle Dorsett wrote, “Moody found himself increasingly attracted to children forced to live in the most degrading conditions imaginable.  Most city missionaries avoided going to the neighborhoods and dwelling places of those on the lowest rung of society’s ladder.  Moody was one of the few who had the audacity and courage to go into the worst district of Chicago, “the Sands.”  Sometimes labeled “Little Hell,” this is where Moody went to rescue souls.  Children in Little Hell were usually illiterate.  These children were emotionally and physically wounded.  Often beaten, sexually abused, malnourished, and exposed to drinking, gambling, fighting, and prostitution, these youngsters were discarded and treated like the rats and other vermin that roamed their wooden shanties and tenement hovels.”

b.      Even though his critics called him “Crazy Moody” and he ministered to boys named “Red Eye,” “Greenhorn,” “Jackey Candles,” and “Madden the Butcher,” his ministry grew and in four years there was over 1500 children coming to Sunday School classes and in 1860 even President-elect Abraham Lincoln made a visit.

c.       Why?  Because Moody had the heart of Christ and understood that these people needed to hear the gospel just like anyone else.

5.      What kind of people do you have in your life?  For the majority of us, we will only share Jesus with those who are close to us.  So, who is close to you?  Are they carbon copies of yourself?  Who do you invite over to your house?  Do they live on the other side of the tracks?  Who are you intentionally forming relationships with?

D.     Implication #4 – Live a life of thanksgiving to God.  Once we realize that we couldn’t save ourselves, but Jesus need to save us, and with that we have a new life in Him, our lives should overflow with constant thanksgiving. 

1.      Col. 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  After the paralytic was healed, he stood up and began praising God, as did much of the crowd around him (vv. 25-26).  After Jesus called Levi, he threw a huge banquet to celebrate what happened to him (v. 29).  Thanksgiving and praise were natural responses to their encounters with Jesus.

2.      In 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving to be observed by all:  “The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”  He goes on to mention many of these blessings, keeping in mind that the country was in the middle of civil war.  Then he goes on to say, “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God…. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

3.      It is no coincidence that we are celebrating Thanksgiving later this week.  It is right that our nation takes a day to thank God for all of our blessings, but it is even better that we thank God continually each day; that we live lives of thanksgiving and praise.

4.      Collect offering

IV.  Conclusion

A.     Jesus’ message of salvation is for sinners like you and me.  It is a message that frees people from their sin, gives them the power to walk, and provides them the freedom to live a brand new life.  It is a message that deserves to be heard by everyone and He asks us to be the ones to carry that message and bring people to Him.

B.     Prayer

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