Luke chapter 5. I’m reading David Bentley Hart’s New Testament translation, and I get to Luke 5, and there Jesus is doing all this Jesus stuff. He’s calling disciples, directing them to a huge haul of fish where there had been no fish all night, he’s healing lepers, making the perpetually unclean clean. Because unlike you and I, who would be made “unclean” just by contact with this man, not only does Jesus stay clean, but contact with Jesus makes the unclean clean again, amen!
So word is getting out about Jesus. Despite telling the man to tell no one about what Jesus had done, “…but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”” Luke 5:14 ESV, word gets out. Of course word gets out, when you have something so transformational and miraculous happen to you at the simple touch of a man, you gotta go and tell somebody, don’t you? So, this cured leper and many others are talking (if you read chapter 4, by this point Jesus has been healing and teaching all over the place). “But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” Luke 5:15-16 ESV. Or as Hart translates this “But, instead, talk concerning him went about all the more, and many crowds came together to listen and to be healed of their infirmities; But he was withdrawn into the desert places and was praying. So word is out, and people are talking.
People are talking so much, that the religious leaders are beginning to hear and wonder. They wonder who this guy is they’ve been hearing about. They want to know if he really has this great healing power. They wonder where he learned all these things he is teaching. They really want to know if he’s got his doctrine just right (meaning, of course, that he agrees with them on just about everything…). And so these religious leaders come from far and wide to check out this new Rabbi and his teaching. “On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal.”
So we have a picture here of a great crowd of Pharisees and teachers of the law coming to hear Jesus, this rabbi everybody’s talking about. A crowd of people who’s position in life and personal power is invested in a certain way of reading and understanding scripture. They want to check Jesus out, make sure his teaching is pure and right, see for themselves this power he has. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, 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.
And this is what struck me as I was reading Hart’s translation, is that you have this large group of people wanting to check Jesus out, healing powers and all, yet when a group of men is bringing their friend to be healed, these Pharisees and teachers would not even make a way for the man to come to Jesus. Because of the crowd, this great crowd of Pharisees, this great crowd of religious leaders wanting to see for themselves this great healer and teacher everybody’s been talking about, Jesus of Nazareth, a man seeking healing, paralyzed, can’t even get in to see Jesus. These Pharisees are so interested in seeing this Jesus character, that they don’t even allow a man through to receive the very thing they supposedly came to see. They’ve heard all about Jesus, have come all this way to see for themselves if the power of God truly is upon him. They had come from every village of Galilee and Judea, and even from Jerusalem. And yet, when a man comes seeking to be healed by the healer they all came to see, they won’t even make a way through for the man.
Isn’t this just the way it is? We come to Jesus ourselves, we come to church, we get cleaned up, we profess our faith in the risen Christ. We shout about about the power of healing that come from his name. Then when someone shows up looking for that power, all of a sudden we won’t get out of the way. All of a sudden, there’s all kinds of rules, roadblocks, and reasons why someone can’t make their way to the healer. All of a sudden, all those who’ve gathered to hear the word of God and see miracles done in his name won’t get out of the way of way of someone looking to come to Jesus.
We who proclaim his name all of a sudden get a little bit uneasy about “getting right” before one comes to the table. Some of us won’t even let those dirty rotten sinners come to Jesus before we’ve talked all the right classes and made all the right declarations and confessions. We say we believe in the power of his name, but when someone shows up being carried in by his friends looking for the healer, we won’t get out of the way. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, 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. Thank God for the friends who will carry you in through the roof if need be.