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May 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 11, 2014 – Luke 5:17-26

How Faith Comes to Us

One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. Luke 5:17

Intro: Luke describes the setting with specific details

Not when and where details, but who and what details
– the characters he highlights
• Jesus, who was teaching
• a group of Pharisees and teachers of the law, who were “sitting”
○ why would Luke make special mention of the Pharisees and teachers?
○ that they came from all over–and especially from Jerusalem–is a clue
○ they were there to investigate Jesus
– some thing else was present, namely, “the power of the Lord  . . . to perform healing”

What part do the Pharisees and teachers of law play in the story of Jesus?
– their role was that of antagonists who create conflict for the protagonist–the villains who oppose the hero
• through the tension their opposition to Jesus creates, core issues are highlighted and addressed
– the are also representatives of an old and bankrupt system
• the “institution” that had assumed ownership and control of the sacred
• a friend refers to this as “Religion, Incorporated”

William McNamara observed, “Where the institutional factor plays an important part in a community, materialism is liable to prosper.” And he explains, “A materialist is one who regards matter as primary and ultimate reality and spirit as secondary and incidental.”

– Religion, Inc. is obsessed with material concerns
• for example, every thing important to the institution is measured in numbers
○ number of dollars (the “budget” is its heart), square feet, of attendees, programs, etc.
– Religion, Inc. institutionalizes faith and thereby attempts to reduce its own need for it
• its reliance leans toward its own efforts and systems rather than God’s Spirit
-Religion, Inc. presents itself as God’s representative; a stand-in for him
• it speaks and acts for him and in place of him — “Trust the system”
• it also suppresses independent encounters with God that occur outside its purview

I don’t know if this is unconscious or intentional
– my guess is that it is simply a matter of people doing what they think best
• it begins with them trying to keep others “safe” and in the group
– but Religion, Inc. suppresses spontaneity and creativity
• these human capacities are too difficult to control (and everything Religion, Inc. does is about control)
○ by commandeering legitimate rituals, it assumes sole responsibility for dispensing God’s grace
○ by redefining belief, it turns faith into doctrinal statements
– a few of my friends wonder why I resist the potential incursion of institutionalization into Reflexion
• I have compiled a long list of the differences between an institution an a community
• it’s one reason I don’t want to call us a “church” — for most people it smacks of “institution”
○ some kind of structure is necessary, we must be organized and handle our business wisely
(“render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”)
○ but we do not have to tolerate the parasitic growth of Religion, Inc. into our spiritual community

l need to be clear about this
– God does works in and through Religion, Inc. — he wins people to himself and nurtures his life in them
• he uses Religion, Inc.’s programs as he sees fit (and not necessarily how they were intended to be used)
○ but the spiritual life formed in Religion, Inc. is like a flower growing through a crack in a concrete sidewalk rather than the flowers that flourish in a garden, where the environment is designed to promote (rather than control) the growth of living things

Vv. 18-20, Something completely out of ordinary happened

In the Greek text, verse 18 begins, “And behold”
– readers are encouraged to visualize the scene, so use your imagination

Several friends showed up at the home of a man who had been paralyzed for some time. They brought a stretcher and placed him on it. “What are you doing?” he wanted to know. They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth is in town and we’re taking you to him!” His face, flushed with anxiety, reveals the fear that grips him not only by the tipsy turns when rounding corners as they hurry to the home where Jesus is teaching, but also from the possible reception he anticipated receiving from Jesus. Wasn’t it likely that this holy man would rebuke him for the sin (whatever it had been) that left him paralyzed? Perhaps he was not as disappointed as his friends when they arrived at the house and it was too crowded for them to continue to hope they could find a way to get him inside and place him in front of the Lord.

At that time, homes in Israel were constructed in such a way that the roof was treated as part of the family’s living quarters–a place to go and feel the evening breeze when the heat made sitting inside unbearable. Homes in villages were also built close together, so it was not difficult to go from one roof to another. So it was that one of the men suggested they take their friend up onto the roof, cut a hole in it, and lower him down by ropes (or, more likely, their outer coats wrapped tightly and tied to the corners of the stretcher) into the home where Jesus sat.

Shift to Jesus, as dust starts to fall from the ceiling above him, followed by daylight shining through a small hole. Personally, I think Jesus was amused as he watched them work at removing the tiles and then lowering their friend until he lay right in front of the Lord.

Currently, a remake of an old series is being aired on television — Cosmos
– the advertising tag line for the series is borrowed from Michael Chriton’s, Jurassic Park, – “Life finds a way”
• the determination of the men featured in Luke’s story shows us that, “faith finds a way”
• their access to Jesus was blocked, but they acted with a creativity inspired by faith inspired
○ to lose faith is to lose hope – and to lose hope is to lose energy
○ to keep faith is to look for and expect breakthroughs
– there is a flip-side to “faith finds a way” and it is “mercy finds a way”

Yet God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one will not be cast out from him (2 Sam. 14:14)

• Jesus was looking for way to extend God’s mercy
○ but like the men carrying their paralyzed friend, he also was blocked – by Religion, Inc.

“Seeing their faith” – is faith visible?
– why not, “Seeing their gumption”? or “Seeing their vandalism”?
• Jesus saw their faith, because he was looking for faith (cf. Lk. 7:9)
• in his letter that appears toward the end of our Bible, James points out that faith materializes in actions
○ that is what occurred here and it is (at least one reason) why Jesus was able to see their faith
○ so the question that I ask myself is, “Where does my faith become visible?”

To this point in the story, there’s been a surprise entrance, but no conflict or tension
– suspense doesn’t enter the story until Jesus says, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you”
• now we see that the way Luke developed this scene was a setup
○ when he mentioned earlier the power that was present to heal, he prepared us to expect Jesus to heal the paralytic
○ but then Jesus surprises us–surprises everyone!–with his statement, “your sins are forgiven you”
• imagine that you had carried this man all the way to Jesus, cut open the roof and slowly let him down
○ would you have been happy to hear Jesus tell him his sins were forgiven?
○ was that why you brought him here?
– but I can see a look of relief come over the paralyzed man’s face for first time
• as he looks up at his friends, I hear him say, “You can take me home now; I have my healing”
• who knows what had wrapped itself around heart?
○ who knows what broke free inside him when he heard that his sins were forgiven?
– protracted pain and illness typically squeeze the question out of us, “Why?”
• people who are morally minded go further and as: “What wrong have I done? What sin did I commit?”
• Jesus resolves those condemning questions
○ questions that made the man’s condition worse rather than improve it
○ questions that added emotional darkness, turmoil, and agony to his physical disability

Vv. 21-26, Meanwhile, Religion, Inc. sat grumbling in the corner

They immediately lost sight of the paralyzed man and his unfortunate life
– for them, theological concerns eclipsed human need
– they asked two questions that began with “Who”
• not because interested in Jesus’ true identity, but in derision
• as if to say, “Get name of blasphemer!”

I think they stepped into Jesus’ trap
– he knew what they were doing in their hearts–the same as he knew what was in paralytic’s heart
• he knew what deep issues needed to be addressed, so he spoke to them as he had to the other man
– he offered to resolve their concerns with a demonstration
• if he is good for the more difficult task (healing a paralyzed man), he was good for the easier act of pronouncing forgiveness
(or else Jesus was making the point that both actions were equally impossible, but his power to perform the visible miracle was equal to his authority to perform the invisible miracle)
– “Who?” they had asked, and he answers, “the Son of Man” – which is a somewhat ambiguous title
• one, however, that Jesus preferred — perhaps because of the way it connects him to us
• he is among us and like us as one of us, yet he is infinitely more

Then Jesus turned again to the man on the stretcher
– “Get up, pick up, and go”
– and then the man carried away the thing that had carried him there
– until this moment, he had been motionless and silent
• now he both walks and speaks — he glorified God every step of the way home
• and his speech was contagious! Everyone “began glorifying God”

Conc: Most Christians I know wrestle with faith

We must – wrestling through doubts is how our faith becomes real, it is how we come to own it
– otherwise, it’s just beliefs that were handed to us or words we were taught to say

It is typical for faith to falter in the bright light of our normal day
– I can easily fall into the mindset that says, “I believe God can, but I don’t trust that he will
• so I always skip “Plan A” (trust God) and jump to “Plan B” (take action as if I were on my own)
• at the very least, I hedge my bets
– perhaps we’d make better progress if we shifted the battlefield
• the battle we have fought for faith has been psychological: in our intellect, our will, our courage (or cowardice)
○ and in our psychological mode we have not been able to produce faith
• maybe we should try approaching faith as gift of Jesus and as a work of the Spirit within us

The men who carried their friend to Jesus did not come up with faith on their own
• they didn’t learn it in seminar or discover it by overcoming their intellectual objections
• their faith began with Jesus; with what he’d already done for others and what they had heard about him
○ Jesus gave birth to the faith in them–the faith that inspired them to risk and adventure
– we cannot create faith out of nothing, nor does God expect us to

As we get to know Jesus better, we come to a point where we realize he is the One who knows us
– he knows what it is deep within us that needs healing
• then, hearing what he has done for others adds courage to our faith
• knowing him as the Son of Man who has joined us in our journey, we discover we can trust him
○ with little things, perhaps at first, but eventually with everything

Knowing Jesus, we know he’s good for it

One Comment

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  1. Chris Lim / May 13 2014

    Thank you Jesus for filling gaps.. God’s way completes me and as a consequence I have grown in fatih.

    I understand more now about how the Spirit operates his glory through my life. With reference to verse 18-20 and the conclusion, I understand that what I what I have experience at my work place is similar to this reflexion lesson and Genesis 50:20:

    As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[a] should be kept alive, as they are today; however, I perceived it as negative. I know better now.

    My colleagues, I observe, have been relentless with creating situations where I am to be humiliated by powers of authority.,, perhaps. However, according to my reading of chuck’s teaching, the hunger for freedom and intimacy (faith) is so needed that I have been chosen as an instrument for grace and forgiveness.

    I prefer otherwise because my psychology is bent; but I know now better. Therefore, it is good.

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