Theologians Who Miss The Reality
The first time new characters are introduced into a story it’s important to pay attention. So when Luke puts the camera for the first time in his narrative on some Pharisees and teachers of the Law sitting in the audience as Jesus is teaching, we need to pay attention.
Now contrary to our immediate reaction to “Pharisee” a first century audience would have immediately thought that these were the “good guys.” The Pharisees were committed Jews—Jews who lived out the priestly mosaic rules of ceremonial cleanness and morality in every area of their lives. The second group were the “lawyers”—those who specialized in working out the application of the Jewish Law to every area of Jewish culture. Both of these groups were highly respected in the first century.
Luke describes how folks gathered from all over Judea and Galilee to listen to Jesus teach. All of them would have thought that the Pharisees and teachers of the Law sitting in their midst were the good guys. But this is why it’s so important for us to actually read the text. This is one of Luke’s most vivid presentations of a meeting with Jesus. Sit in the crowd and keep your eye on Jesus and the roof above your head.
“Now it happened on one of the days as Jesus was teaching a crowd that had gathered out of villages from Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem that there were Pharisees and Teachers of the Law sitting among them. Now the power of the LORD was present to heal. Now look! There were some men carrying a friend upon his bed who was disabled. They were trying to bring him in and place him before Jesus. When they couldn’t figure out a way to bring him in through the crowd, they went up on the roof, tore some of the roof tiles away, and lowered the man on his stretcher into the middle of the meeting, right in front of Jesus.
When He saw their faith, He said, ‘Friend, Your sins are forgiven.’ The scribes and the Pharisees immediately started debating in their minds, ‘Who is this one who speaks blasphemy? Who is able to forgive sins? Only God!’
Jesus knowing their internal mental argument asked, ‘Why are you arguing against what I said? What is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven or rise up and walk?’ But in order for you to know that the Son of Man has authority on the earth to forgive sins I said---Then He said to the one who was disabled, ‘Rise up, pick up your bedding, and proceed to your house.’ Immediately he stood up before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went to his house glorifying God.
Amazement seized everyone. They glorified God and were filled with awe saying, ‘Today we have seen a wonderful thing!’” Luke 5:17-26
The Pharisees and Scribes, experts in the Mosaic Law, got their theology right. Only God can forgive sins. What they got wrong is that they were listening to God teach that day, saw Him prove His power to forgive sin by powerfully healing a disabled man, but instead of joining the glorious celebration, they argued inside.
LORD, protect me from becoming like the scribes and Pharisees—theologians who debate about authority, but don’t even get it when God forgives someone right in front of them. Help me to see Your Son’s power to heal and forgive this week, and help me to enter into the glorious celebration.
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