Forgiven But Still Crippled: A Commentary on Luke 5:20-24

Forgiven Yet Still Crippled: Luke Chapter 5 Commentary

I just noticed something fascinating about the story in Luke chapter 5 (see text at bottom of article) where Jesus heals the paralyzed man who is lowered down into the busy room through the roof.

In many of the miracles that Jesus’ performs, he enacts physical and spiritual healing at the same time. Or occasionally he grants physical healing first, hoping to prompt a subsequent spiritual awakening by the recipient, such as in the story of the blind man healed at the Pool of Bethesda in John chapter 5.

But this story is different.

Here, Jesus forgives the man first. And it’s only after that that Jesus then heals the man’s legs.

What this text subtly indicates is actually quite fascinating: our spiritual healing is not connected with our physical health.

As we all well know, the question of whether sin causes physical illness/disability is a confusing and age-old question. This, of course, was the question Jesus’ disciples posed to him in John chapter 9 when Jesus heals the blind man sent to the pool of Siloam. It’s a question that people still wonder about today.

To be certain, in a general sense, the global effect of humankind’s sin on the world is decay and disease. But more clearly than ever, this story in Luke illustrates that personal sin is not the direct cause of individual disease and disability. After all, Jesus clearly forgives the man’s sins. But even after doing so, nothing is changed, the man still can’t walk. The reason why Jesus then physically heals the man is so that the onlookers know he actually has the power to forgive sins and he wasn’t just saying empty words. See his words in Luke 5:23-24:

23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (Luke 5:23-24)

But the fascinating point I keep coming back to is that spiritually, the crippled man was fully restored even prior to his physical healing.

It’s remarkable that even in paradise our Savior Jesus will still bear his scars (recall that when Jesus appears triumphantly risen from the dead he still carries the gashes in his hands and side). In heaven it seems that disfiguration and deformity, rather than being the opposite of perfection, are actually manifestations of it.

As a final comment, it is quite interesting that Jesus forgives the man first. As I mentioned above, in many other stories in the Bible, Jesus often healed people physically first and only then discussed spiritual matters. In this story, the words and thoughts of the crippled man are not recorded.

It makes me wonder if the crippled man was truly seeking a spiritual healing moreso than a physical one. In scripture, Jesus almost always gives people what they ask of him. It might seem hard to believe that the crippled man desired most a spiritual restoration, we all expect that the physical condition is of primary interest, but as our eyes are opened we realize that no physical healing compares to a spiritual one.

 

Reference: Luke 5:18-25

18 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, 19 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. 20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 25 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God.