Luke 5:17
And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.
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(17-26) It came to pass . . .—See Notes on Matthew 9:1-8.

Pharisees and doctors of the law.—The description of the crowd of listeners is peculiar to St. Luke. The fact that many of the doctors of the law had come from Jerusalem is obviously important in its connection with St. John’s account (John 2, 5) of our Lord’s previous work in that city, and as explaining the part now taken by them.

Was present to heal them.—If we retain the plural pronoun, it must be taken generally as meaning those who sought healing. The better MSS., however, give the singular, and then it must be taken, “the power of the Lord (i.e., of God) was present for His (work of) healing.”



Luke 5:17 - Luke 5:26

Luke describes the composition of the unfriendly observers in this crowd with more emphasis and minuteness than the other Evangelists do. They were Pharisees and doctors, and they were assembled from every part of Galilee, and even from Judea, and, what was most remarkable, from Jerusalem itself. Probably the conflict with the authorities in the capital recorded in John 5:1 - John 5:47 had taken place by this time, and if so, a deputation from the Sanhedrim would very naturally be despatched to Capernaum, and its members would as naturally summon the local lights to sit with them, and watch this revolutionary young teacher, who had no licence from them, and apparently not much reverence for them.

One can easily imagine that these heresy-hunters would be much too superior persons to mix with the crowd about the door of Peter’s house, and would, as Luke says, be ‘sitting by,’ near enough to see and hear, but far enough to show that they had no share in the vulgar enthusiasm of these provincial peasants. They were too holy to mingle with the mob, so they kept together by themselves, and waited hopefully for some heresy or breach of their multitudinous precepts. They got more than they expected.

We may note the contrast between their cynical watchfulness and the glorious manifestations for which they had no eyes. ‘The power of the Lord’-that is, of Christ-’was’ {operative} ‘in His healing,’ or, according to another reading, ‘to heal them.’ But the critics took no heed of that. There is a temper of mind which is sharp-eyed as a lynx for faults, and blind as a bat to evidences of divine power in the Gospel or its adherents. Some noses are keen to smell stenches, and dull to perceive fragrance. The race of such inquisitors is not extinct.

They contrast, too, with the earnestness of the four friends who brought the paralysed man. The former sat cool and critical, because they had no sense of need either for themselves or for others. The latter made all the effort they could to fight through the crowd, and then took to the roof by some outside stair, and hastily stripping off enough of the tiling, lowered their friend, bed and all, right down in front of the young Rabbi. The house would be low, and the roof slight, and Jesus was probably seated in an open inner court or verandah, At any rate, the description gives a piece of local colour, and presents no improbability.

Earnestness in striving to come oneself or to bring a dear one to Christ’s feet seems a supremely absurd waste of energy to a cynical critic, who feels no need of anything that Christ can give. It looks rather different to the paralytic on his couch, and to the friends who long for his healing.

The first lesson from this incident is that our deepest need is forgiveness. No doubt, something in the paralytic’s case determined Christ’s method with him. Perhaps his sickness had been brought on by dissipation, and possibly conscience was lashing him with a whip of scorpions, so that, while his friends sought for his healing, he himself was more anxious for pardon. It is very unlikely that Jesus would have offered forgiveness unless He had known that it was yearned for. But whether that is so or not, we may fairly generalise the order of givings in this miracle, and draw from it the lesson that what Jesus then gave first is His chief gift. In most of His other miracles He gave bodily healing first. First or second, it is always Christ’s chief gift in the beginning of discipleship. His miracles of bodily healing are parables of that higher miracle. This incident brings out what is always the order of relative importance, whether it is that of chronological sequence or not.

And we all need to lay that truth to heart for ourselves. No tinkering with superficial discomforts, or culture of intellect and taste, or success in worldly pursuits, will avail to stanch the deep wound through which our life-blood is ebbing out. We need something that goes deeper than all these styptics. Only a power which can deal with our sense of sin, and soothe that into blessed assurance of pardon, is strong enough to grapple with our true root of misery. It is useless to give a man dying of cancer medicine for pimples. That is what all attempts to make man happy and restful while sin remains unforgiven, are doing.

Social reformers need this lesson. Many voices proclaim many gospels to-day. Culture, economical or social reconstruction, is trumpeted as the panacea. But it matters comparatively little how society is organised. If its individual members retain their former natures, the former evils will come back, whatever its organisation. The only thorough cure for social evils is individual regeneration. Christ deals with men singly, and remoulds society by renewing the individual. The most elaborate machinery may be used for filtering the black waters. What will be the good of that if the fountain of blackness is not sealed up, or rather purified, at its hidden source? Make the tree good, and its fruit will be good. To make the tree good, you must begin with dealing with sin.

The second lesson from this incident is that Christ’s claim to forgive sins is either blasphemy or the manifest token of divinity. These Pharisees scented heresy at once. They were blind to the pathos of the story, and hard as millstones towards the poor sufferer’s wistful looks. But they pounced at once gleefully on Christ’s words. They were perfectly right in their premises that forgiveness was a divine prerogative which no man could share. For sin is the name of evil, when considered in its relation to God. He only can forgive it, for ‘against Thee, Thee only,’ as David confessed, is it committed. True, the same act may be full of harmful results to men, and may be a breach of human law, but in its character as sin it refers to God only. Forgiveness is the outpouring of God’s love on a sinner, uninterrupted by his sin. Only God can pour out that love.

But the cavillers were quite wrong in their conclusion. He did not ‘blaspheme.’ The fact that Jesus knew and answered their whispered or unspoken ‘reasonings in their hearts’ might have taught them that here was more than a rabbi, or even a prophet. But He goes on to reiterate His assertion that He has power to forgive sins.

Observe that He does not deny their premises. Nor does He, as He was bound in common honesty to do, set them right if they were wrong in supposing that He had claimed divine power. A wise religious teacher, who saw himself misunderstood as asserting that he could give what he only meant to assure a penitent that God would give, would have instantly said, ‘Do not mistake me. I am only doing what every servant of God’s should and can do, telling this poor brother that God is ready to forgive. God forbid that I should be supposed to do more than to declare his forgiveness!’ Christ’s answer is the strongest possible contrast to that. He knew what these Pharisees supposed Him to have meant by His authoritative words, and knowing it, He repeats them, and points to the miracle about to be done as their vindication.

Is there any possible way of escaping from the conclusion that Jesus solemnly and deliberately laid claim to exercise the divine prerogative of dispensing pardon? If He did, what shall we say of Him? Surely there is no third judgment of Him and His words possible; but either the Pharisees were right, and ‘this man,’ this pattern of all meekness and perfect example of humility, blasphemed, or else Peter was right when he said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

The third lesson is that the visible effects of Christ’s power attest the reality of His claim to produce the invisible effects of peaceful assurance of forgiveness. It was equally easy to say, ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee,’ and to say, ‘Take up thy bed and walk.’ It was equally impossible for a mere man to forgive, and to give the paralytic muscular force to move. But the one saying could be tested, and its fulfilment verified by sight. The other could not; but if the visible impossibility was done, it was a witness that the invisible one could be.

The striking way in which our Lord weaves in His command to the palsied man to take up his bed with His words to the Pharisees is preserved in all the Gospels, and gives vividness to the narrative, while it brings out the main purpose of the miracle. It was a demonstration in the visible sphere of Christ’s power in the invisible. Both were divine acts, and that which could be verified by sight established the reality of that which could not.

The same principle may be widely extended. It includes all the outward effects of Christ’s gospel in the world. There are abundance of these which are patent to fair-minded observers. If one wishes to know what these are, he has only to contrast heathen lands with those in which, however imperfectly, Jesus is recognised as King and Example. The lives of His disciples are full of faults, but they should, and in a measure, do, witness to the reality of His gifts of forgiveness and conquest of sin. He has done more to restore strength to humanity paralysed for good than all other would-be physicians put together have done; and since He has visibly effected such manifest changes on outward lives, it is no rash conclusion to draw that He can change the inward nature. If He has healed the palsy, that is a work surpassing human power, and it proves that He can forgive the sin which brought the paralysis, and tied the helpless sufferer to his couch of pain.

Luke 5:17-25. And on a certain day, as he was teaching — Not on a sabbath day, as it appears, but on a week-day; and not in the synagogue, but in a private house. Preaching and hearing the word of God is good work, if it be performed properly, on any day in the week, as well as on the sabbath days; and in any convenient place, as well as in a place peculiarly set apart for divine worship: even there where we ordinarily converse with our friends, it is not improper to give and receive good instruction. There were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by — As being more honourable than the bulk of the congregation, who stood. These men of learning and influence had come from all quarters, on hearing the report of his miracles, to see his works, and scrutinize his pretensions of being a divinely-commissioned teacher. And the power of the Lord was present to heal — Namely, as many as then applied to him for the cure of their diseases. The sense is, that Christ not only preached such awakening sermons as might have converted them to righteousness, but his mighty and miraculous power was there to perform such cures as ought to have removed all their scruples with respect to his divine mission. Accordingly he embraced an opportunity, which now offered, of showing his power on a man afflicted with the palsy to such a degree that he could neither walk, nor stand, nor sit, nor move any member of his body, nor utter so much as a word importing the least desire of relief; but seemed a carcass rather than a man. This miserable object was carried in his bed, or couch, by four persons, who, when they could not bring him in at the door because of the crowd that was gathered to see how Jesus would behave before such learned judges, they bare him up, by some stairs on the outside, to the roof of the house, which, like other roofs in that country, was flat, with a battlement round it, and had a kind of trap-door, it seems, by which the members of the family could come out upon it to walk, and take the air, or perform their devotions. Through this they let him down with his couch, into the midst of the company assembled, before Jesus — Who, knowing the man to be a true penitent, and observing the faith of those who brought him, immediately gave him the consolation of knowing that his sins were all forgiven; and as a proof that he had authority to announce to him such glad tidings, he immediately so perfectly healed him of his disorder, as to enable him instantly to rise up before all that were present, take up his couch, and walk. For a more particular elucidation of the circumstances of this remarkable miracle, see notes on Mark 2:3-12. To what is there observed, it may not be improper to add here, that by our Lord’s manner of proceeding on this occasion we are taught two important lessons; 1st, That sin is the cause of all sickness, and the forgiveness of sin the only foundation on which the expectation of a recovery from sickness can be comfortably built. 2d, That when we are sick, we should be more concerned to get our sins pardoned than our sickness removed; Christ, in what he said to this man, directing us when we seek to God for health, to begin with seeking to him for pardon. And from the influence which the healing of this man’s soul and body had upon his mind, inducing him as he departed to his house, bearing his couch, to praise and glorify God, we may learn to give God the praise of those mercies of which we have the comfort, and to acknowledge his hand in all our recoveries from affliction and escapes from death, and to glorify him for them, by whose mercy and power alone they are wrought.

5:17-26 How many are there in our assemblies, where the gospel is preached, who do not sit under the word, but sit by! It is to them as a tale that is told them, not as a message that is sent to them. Observe the duties taught and recommended to us by the history of the paralytic. In applying to Christ, we must be very pressing and urgent; that is an evidence of faith, and is very pleasing to Christ, and prevailing with him. Give us, Lord, the same kind of faith with respect to thy ability and willingness to heal our souls. Give us to desire the pardon of sin more than any earthly blessing, or life itself. Enable us to believe thy power to forgive sins; then will our souls cheerfully arise and go where thou pleasest.See this passage explained in the notes at Matthew 9:1-7.

Luke 5:17

On a certain day - The time and place are not particularly mentioned here, but from Matthew 9:1 it seems it was at Capernaum.

Lu 5:17-26. Paralytic Healed.

(See on [1574]Mt 9:1-8).

17. Pharisees and doctors … sitting by—the highest testimony yet borne to our Lord's growing influence, and the necessity increasingly felt by the ecclesiastics throughout the country of coming to some definite judgment regarding Him.

power of the Lord … present—with Jesus.

to heal them—the sick people.

We shall observe that the scribes and Pharisees much haunted our Saviour wherever he came, either to cavil at him, or out of curiosity to see the miracles he wrought. It seems they were many of them present at this time. But here ariseth a question or two.

1. How is it said, the power of the Lord was present with Christ to heal? had not Christ this power of healing then at all times?

Answer: Doubtless he had, for he was always the Lord that healeth us. The Divine nature once united to the human was never separated from Christ, but it did not always put forth itself, being as to that directed by his will. But as the end of Christ’s miracles was for the confirmation of his doctrine; so we shall observe, that mostly after preaching he wrought his miraculous operations.

2. Who are here meant by them? by reading the words one would think them related to the Pharisees and doctors of the law, of none of which we read that they were sick, nor do we read of any cures that Christ made upon them.

Answer: We must know that sometimes in holy writ these relative terms are put out of due order, as in Matthew 11:1, where we have these words, And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities: not in the disciples’ cities; poor men, they had no cities; but in the Jewish cities, the cities of that country: yet the verse mentions no other persons than Jesus and the twelve disciples.

So here, though the verse mentions no other persons present than the Pharisees and doctors of the law, yet there doubtless were many others, and some amongst them labouring under chronical distempers; of these the text is to be understood.

And it came to pass on a certain day,.... When he was at Capernaum, as appears from Mark 2:1

As he was teaching: in the house where such numbers were gathered together, to hear the word of God preached by him, that there was not room for them, neither within the house, nor about the door, Mark 2:2

That there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by; who were sometimes called Scribes, and sometimes lawyers, and were generally of the sect of the Pharisees:

which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judea, and Jerusalem: having heard much of his doctrine and miracles, they came from all parts to watch and observe him, and to take all opportunities and advantages against him, that they might expose him to the people:

and the power of the Lord was present to heal them; not the Pharisees and doctors of the law, who did not come to be healed by him, either in body or mind; but the multitude, some of whom came to hear his doctrine, and others to be healed of their infirmities, Luke 5:15. The Persic version reads the words thus, "and from all the villages of Galilee, and from Judea, and from Jerusalem, multitudes came, and the power of God was present to heal them."

{4} And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord {c} was present to heal them.

(4) Christ, in healing him that was sick from paralysis, shows the cause of all diseases, and the remedy.

(c) The mighty power of Christ's Godhead showed itself in him at that time.

Luke 5:17-26. See on Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12. Between this and the foregoing history Matthew has a series of other transactions, the sequence of which he accurately indicates. Luke vaguely says: ἐν μιᾷ τῶν ἡμέρων, which, however, specifies approximately the time by means of the connection (“on one of those days,” namely, on the journey entered upon at Luke 4:43 f.). Comp. Luke 8:22.

καὶ αὐτός] and He, as Luke 5:1, but here in opposition to the Pharisees, etc., who were surrounding Him.

ἐκ πάσης κώμης κ.τ.λ.] popularly hyperbolical. As to νομοδιδάσκ., see on Matthew 22:35.

δύναμις κυρίου κ.τ.λ.] and the power of the Lord (of God) was there (praesto erat, as at Mark 8:1) in aid of His healing. So according to the reading αὐτόν (see the critical remarks). According to the reading αὐτούς, this would have to be taken as a vague designation of the sufferers who were present, referring back to Luke 5:15; αὐτόν the subject, αὐτούς would be the object. Others, as Olshausen and Ewald, have incorrectly referred κυρίου to Jesus, whose healing power was stirred up (Luke 6:19). Wherever Luke in his Gospel calls Christ the Lord, and that, as would here be the case, in narrative, he always writes ὁ κύριος with the article. See Luke 7:13 (31), Luke 10:1, Luke 11:39, Luke 12:42, Luke 13:15, Luke 17:5-6, Luke 18:6, Luke 19:8, Luke 22:31; Luke 22:61.

In the following narrative the precedence of Mark is indeed to be recognised, but the tracing out of the features of dependence must not be carried too far (in opposition to Weiss in the Stud. u. Krit. 1861, p. 703 f.).

Luke 5:19. εἰσενέγκ.] into the house, where Jesus and His hearers (Luke 5:17) were. Comp. afterwards τὸ δῶμα.

ποίας] qualitative: in what kind of a way. On the ὁδοῦ, which must be supplied in analysing the passage, see Bos, Ellips., ed. Schaefer, p. 333; on the genitive of place (comp. Luke 19:4), see Bernhardy, p. 138; Krüger on Thucyd. iv. 47, 2. Accordingly, although no instance of ποίας and ἐκείνης used absolutely occurs elsewhere, yet the conjecture ποίᾳ and ἐκείνῃ (Bornemann) is not authorized.

διὰ τῶν κεράμων] through the tiles, with which the flat roof was covered, and which they removed from the place in question. Mark 2:4 describes the proceeding more vividly. See the details, sub loco, and Hug, Gutacht. II. p. 21 f.

Luke 5:21. ἤρξαντο] a bringing into prominence of the point of commencement of these presumptuous thoughts. A vivid description.

διαλογίζεσθαιλέγοντες] See on Matthew 16:7. They expressed their thoughts to one another; hence Luke 5:22 is not inappropriate (in opposition to Weiss).

Luke 5:24. εἶπε τῷ παραλελ.] is not to be put in parenthesis, but see on Matthew 9:6.

σοί] placed first for the sake of emphasis.

Luke 5:25. ἄρας ἐφʼ ὃ κατέκειτο] he took up that on which (till now) he lay, an expression purposely chosen to bring out the changed relation. With reference to ἐφʼ ὅ, on which he was stretched out, comp. the frequent εἶναι ἐπὶ χθόνα, and the like. See in general, Kühner, § 622 b.

Luke 5:26. The narrative is summary, but without precision, since the impression said to be produced by the miraculous incident (τὰ παρὰ δόξαν γυγνόμενα, Polyb. ix. 16. 2. Comp. Wis 16:17; Wis 19:5; 2Ma 9:24; Xen. Cyr. vii. 2, 16) applies indeed to the people present (Matthew 9:8), but not to the Pharisees and scribes.

Luke 5:17-26. The paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12).

17–26. The Healing of the Paralytic

17. on a certain day] The vagueness of the phrase shews that no stress is here laid on chronological order. In Matthew 9:2-8; Mark 2:3-12 the scene is in a house in Capernaum, and the time (apparently) after the healing of the Gadarene demoniac on the Eastern side of the Lake, and on the day of Matthew’s feast.

as he was teaching] not in a synagogue, but probably in Peter’s house. Notice the “He” which is so frequent in St Luke, and marks the later epoch when the title “the Christ” had passed into a name, and when “He” could have but one meaning. See on Luke 4:15.

Pharisees and doctors of the law] See Excursus on the Jewish Sects.

and Judea and Jerusalem] These had probably come out of simple curiosity to hear and see the great Prophet of Nazareth. They were not the spies malignantly sent at the later and sadder epoch of His ministry (Matthew 15:1; Mark 3:2; Mark 7:1) to dog his footsteps, and lie in wait to catch any word on which they could build an accusation.

to heal them] Some MSS. (א, B, L,) read “him.” If the reading be correct the verse means “the Power of the Lord (i. e. of the Almighty Jehovah) was with Him to heal.”

Luke 5:17. Καθημένοι, sitting) as hearers that were treated with more especial honour than the rest.—νομοδιδάσκαλοι, doctors of the law) Scribes, Luke 5:21.—κώμης, village) The extremes, Jerusalem on the one hand, and the villages on the opposite, are specified: the towns which constitute the immediate mean between the capital city and the petty villages, are meant to be included.—ἦν) was present so as to heal. A similar expression occurs in the LXX., ἐσόμεθα τοῦ σῶσαί σε, we shall be present, or ready, for the purpose of saving thee, 2 Samuel 10:11; ἔσονται ὥστε ἐργάζεσθαι, they shall be present to perform, Numbers 8:11; γενέσθω ἡ χείρ σου τοῦ σῶσαί με, let Thy hand be present for the purpose of saving me, Psalm 119:173.—αὐτοὺς, them) namely, those of whom Luke 5:15 speaks.

Verses 17-26. - The healing of the paralyzed man. Verse 17. - And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the Law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem. Again an interval of time. The fame of the new Teacher had spread rapidly. One day, some time after the events told in the last section, the Master was sitting in the house apparently of some one of consideration in Capernaum, and, as usual, was teaching. Grouped round him were a different audience to the traders and fishermen of the lake-city; prominent men of the leading religious party in the state, not only from Galilee, but from Jerusalem and other Judaean cities, such as Hebron, as well as learned doctors of the Law. These had been drawn from curiosity, some doubtless by higher motives, to hear for themselves the teaching of this now famous Nazarene Carpenter. These do not appear to have been actuated with the jealous malignity of some of those later deputations from the Jerusalem Sanhedrin and schools. The house was thronged within, and the crowd pressed round the doors. In the course of the quiet teaching, took place the incident which gave rise to one of the Lord's great sayings - an utterance so important that it evidently had been chosen by the apostles as a frequent theme or text in the preaching of the first days. Luke 5:17He was teaching

The pronoun has a slightly emphatic force: he as distinguished from the Pharisees and teachers of the law.

Doctors of the law (νομοδιδάσκαλοι)

Only in Luke and 1 Timothy 1:7. Luke often uses νομικὸς, conversant with the law, but in the other word the element of teaching is emphasized, probably in intentional contrast with Christ's teaching.

Judaea and Jerusalem

The Rabbinical writers divided Judaea proper into three parts - mountain, sea-shore, and valley - Jerusalem being regarded as a separate district. "Only one intimately acquainted with the state of matters at the time, would, with the Rabbis, have distinguished Jerusalem as a district separate from all the rest of Judaea, as Luke markedly does on several occasions (Acts 1:8; Acts 10:39)" (Edersheim, "Jewish Social Life").

Was present to heal them

The A. V. follows the reading, αὐτούς, them; i.e., the sufferers who were present, referring back to Luke 5:15. The best texts, however, read αὐτόν, him, referring to Christ, and meaning was present that he should heal; i.e., in aid of his healing. So Rev.

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