Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 3 Study # 2
Thesis: Acting "responsibly" means "acting by faith".
Introduction: In our introductory study of the paragraph before us, we considered Jesus' focus upon "teaching" and Luke's focus upon Jesus' "audience". We saw that Jesus, and everyone who wishes to be His disciple, understands how absolutely crucial it is for people to have enough of the details of the facts before them when they come to "decision time". We also saw that Jesus' audience was composed of "the people of influence" within the culture. Whatever the religious leaders decided about Jesus in light of the facts He was laying before them, they would take back to their "places of influence". Israel was facing the most critical "decision" of its entire national history -- the answer to the question: Is Jesus of Nazareth the Promised Redeemer? -- and those who were in the positions of influence were going to exercise that influence one way or another.
Given these two realities -- that decision time was upon the nation, and that the time for pressing one's influence upon others was at hand -- Jesus not only laid out His "facts" in words of explanation, He decided to stage a "sign" event that would argue for His case and the responsibility of His audience.
This morning we are going to look into the details of the "sign" to see what we may learn from it for our own living.
April 22, 2007
- I. The Nature of "Signs".
- A. John's Gospel deliberately selects seven highly visible acts of Jesus in unusual power to make the case that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
- 1. The selection of Jesus' works of power was highly deliberate -- seven out of so many that the recording of them would fill the world with books -- and intensely illuminating.
- 2. The works had this about them: they contained a "parallel universe" reality.
- a. Jesus took actions in one "universe" (that of the five senses) that closely paralleled the reality of a different "universe" (that of the Spirit).
- b. Jesus held those who witnessed His actions accountable for the transferral of understanding from one "universe" to the other [Note carefully Jesus' words to one who acknowledged the power of His "works" in John 3:11-13].
- B. Luke's record before us this morning is such a "sign": it contains within it the details that are most helpful in making comprehension possible.
- II. The Details of the "Sign".
- A. First, Luke says we should "behold" as Jesus "beheld" -- see the underlying truth.
- 1. The "intention" of the men of faith was to put their friend in the line of Jesus' vision.
- 2. The "accomplishment" of these men was to put their friend in the line of Jesus' focus of attention.
- B. Second, Luke deliberately uses terminology to describe the "players" in the drama that is a reflection of the status of His audience.
- 1. The only terms Luke uses to describe those present are terms of "status".
- a. The Pharisees are the leading "conservative" lights of Jewish theology.
- 1) There were three competing "philosophies" among those of status.
- a) There were Herodians, whose philosophy was "accomplishment through political power".
- b) There were Sadducees, whose philosophy was "religious influence through cynical scoffing at 'biblical' truth".
- c) There were Pharisees, whose philosophy was "religious influence through detailed application of the Law of God".
- 2) Since Jesus was completely uninterested in political methods and totally opposed to cynicism and scoffing at God, Luke does not even bother to mention the parties who represented those positions.
- b. The Teachers of Law are those who make the "final" decisions about what is and is not the will of God.
- 2. The Pharisees and Teachers of Law are the "men" whom God is going to hold most highly responsible because of the influence they have over other "men".
- 3. What you cannot see in your translations is this: Luke used one word to describe those who were carrying the stretcher, and a different word to describe the one on the stretcher.
- a. The word used to characterize the "men" who were carrying the stretcher is a word that is used in male/female relationships to differentiate the genders, and it is a word that sets forth the fact that it is the "man" who impregnates and produces the "fruit of the womb".
- b. The word used to characterize the "man" who was being carried on the stretcher is a word that is so generic that it just means "human being" and often makes no gender distinctions at all.
- c. The significance of this is this: in this "sign", the Pharisees and Teachers of Law are the "stretcher-bearers" whose task it is to bring those who are "diseased" to God for His healing.
- 1) In both Exodus 15:26 and Deuteronomy 7:9-15 the covenant commitment of God was health for those who were willing to live under the terms of His covenant.
- 2) Under that covenant, those who were "diseased" needed the "ministry" of those who were charged with their care so that they can come to "health" through the forgiveness of their sins.
- 3) In order for the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law to actually accomplish their "male" task as those accountable before God, they needed to function as those who were bearing the man on the stretcher: they needed to bring their charges to the God Who is their Healer.
- a) Jesus was setting His case before these "responsible men" that He was, in fact, the Healer of Israel -- the power of the Lord was His to bring about healing.
- b) The audience was going to go from this place on this day and take their influence back to their home towns and they would either add the weight of their influence to the claims of Jesus or they would begin to undercut Him in the minds of those whom they "carried".
- C. Third, Luke deliberately uses a word to describe the one on the stretcher that indicates the problem that all people have who have no good relationship with God.
- 1. The word is only used five times in the New Testament and its use in the Septuagint is complicated by the fact that it is used to translate 13 different Hebrew words.
- 2. The overall impression of the word, however, is pretty much consistent: it signals a total breakdown of "ability" (in 2 Samuel 8:4, David "hamstrings" the chariot horses, not to kill them, but to make it impossible for them to ever pull a chariot of war again).
- 3. In terms of "manliness", the "man" on the stretcher has been ruined -- he cannot fulfill his responsibilities before God as one who acts and creates for the Kingdom.
- 4. The audience is supposed to "recognize" that those under their charge are in this condition if they are "sick" and they are to take the necessary steps to enable them to come to health.
- D. Fourth, Luke deliberately sets the "ministry" into the context of totally self-absorbed people who will not even have enough care for one another that they will permit a helpless one to reach Jesus.
- 1. Why was it so easy for the "healed" man to get out of the house when it was impossible for him to get in?
- 2. This is the nature of humanity and everyone is either going to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution.
- 3. The Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law are in an inescapable situation which leaves no "third" option: it is "decision time".
- E. Fifth, Luke records the "men" as "acting by faith".
- 1. His comment is that "when Jesus saw their faith", he responded to their desire.
- 2. This "faith" motivated some interesting actions.
- a. Originally, the "men" simply wanted to put their charge in the line of Jesus' sight, but the condition of the crowd compelled them to put him in the line of Jesus' attention.
- b. These "men" apparently saw no problem with "digging up the tiles of the roof" in order to get their "faith task" accomplished.
- 3. This "faith sign" signaled to the Pharisees and Teachers of Law that they would probably have to "dig up" some "stuff" that had accrued to God's message that was keeping the "multitudes" self-absorbed and was keeping people from their Healer.
- a. This was where the dangerous ground was...having to rethink their theological grasp of Truth.
- b. "Faith" is not obtuse, non-thinking, commitment to dogma -- it is, rather, faithfully dealing with the facts of divine revelation.
- F. Sixth, Luke records that Jesus forced the issue of "healing" to surface: both the need for forgiveness and the need to identify the Forgiver.
- III. The Point for Us.
- A. All of us are either "people of responsibility" or "diseased and incapacitated people".
- B. Acting responsibly means acting by faith.