14 And he ordered him to tell no one. “But go, show yourself to the priest, and, as Moses commanded, make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 15 But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds were gathering to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. 16 Meanwhile, he would slip away to deserted places and pray.
Last Friday, we read about Jesus touching and healing a man who was culturally untouchable because of his skin disease. Today, we read that Jesus wanted him to go straight to the ones who could not heal but only make provisions before and after one was healed. But when Jesus showed up, able and willing to touch and heal, neither the man nor the crowd could keep quiet. This increased Jesus’ popularity and with that, his commitment to slip away to be alone with God.
- When have you been the recipient or witness of Jesus’ healing?
- How did his healing work change your life?
- When you experience increased attention or demand, what roles do solitude and prayer play in your well-being?
Gracious God, how often we keep the work that you have done for us under wraps, accustomed to your faithful and miraculous work in our lives. Renew our vision to see your healing work in us and courage to speak out about you, bearing witness to your healing power and gentle presence. Help us to slip away from our daily demands and distractions and spend time with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
17 One day while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem were sitting nearby, and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. 18 Just then some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a stretcher. They were trying 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 on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus.
Can you imagine this scene? Jesus is in a house, teaching. The religious leaders are sitting in the prominent seats, waiting for Jesus to say something offensive. Crowds are blocking the door, but that doesn’t keep the friends of a paralyzed man from bringing him before Jesus.
- As you read this passage, who do you most identify with and why?
- When have you needed the faith of friends to bring you to Jesus?
- Is there someone in your life right now who needs your faith? What would it look like for you to carry them to Jesus?
Gracious God, thank you for the gift of friends who care enough to carry us to you when we don’t have faith or strength to do it ourselves. Help us to receive the care of others in our times of vulnerability and to be strength and faith for those in our lives who need us to carry them to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
20 When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? 24 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the one who was paralyzed—“I say to you, stand up and take your stretcher and go to your home.” 25 Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. 26 Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen incredible things today.”
Do you see whose faith caught Jesus’ attention? It was the faith of the friends that touched Jesus, leading him to first forgive the man’s sin. The man didn’t ask for that, but Jesus knew he needed spiritual, emotional and physical healing, and met him at his point of need. Jesus’ attention was not on the religious leaders’ expectations but on the needs of this man and the faith of the friends. And the crowds saw the healing work of God and were amazed.
- Are there times when you feel restricted by religious propriety?
- How does worrying about doing the right thing hinder you from seeing what is important around you?
- What do you hear Jesus saying to you as an observer or participant in this story?
Gracious God, in a culture where there are spoken and unspoken expectations around propriety, help us to be your people who can discern what is important and who in our lives you desire to bless and heal through us. Renew our minds that we might see the world you love as you see it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the tax-collection station, and he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And he got up, left everything, and followed him.
29 Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others reclining at the table with them. 30 The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick; 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
The gospel writer, Luke, does not cast the religious leaders in a very positive light, as over and over again, they criticize and complain about who Jesus chooses to spend time with. This time they don’t like that he spends time with the people that society disdain because of their work and reputation for stealing from people. We could probably find offense with Jesus’ choice of dinner-mates too, if we aren’t mindful of our own illness and need for the healer of our hearts and minds.
- Who do you wish Jesus would not share life with and why?
- Would you say you are sick or well?
- How would the act of repentance, or change of mind, open you up to Jesus’ invitation to be healed?
Gracious God, we lift our hearts and minds up to you, confessing that we are all sick and in need of your healing. Help us to repent of our propensity to exclude others so that we might feel included. Thank you that in your kingdom there is room enough at your table for all of us who know that we never outgrow our need for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
33 Then they said to him, “John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink.” 34 Jesus said to them, “You cannot make wedding attendants fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? 35 The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” 36 He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise, not only will one tear the new garment, but the piece from the new will not match the old garment. 37 Similarly, no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins and will spill out, and the skins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine but says, ‘The old is good.’ ”
These parables of old and new can be confusing. Is new or old better? The leaders are asking why Jesus’ disciples don’t hold to the standard of the Law, which requires fasting. They are trying to fit Jesus’ teaching, life, and ministry into the structure of what they know and are comfortable with. Perhaps as Jesus talks about the superiority of the “old wine,” he is inviting them to go back before the law to the place where God led his people in the wilderness, and free of the relatively new structures of Jewish law, the people learned how to follow God, not the law. In this case, “the old is good.”
- Where do you question the practices of other believers?
- What is the foundational truth that binds all believers together?
- What does it look like to follow Jesus rather than the law?
Gracious God, we thank you that you desire us to follow you, individually and in community, in a way that unites us in Christ, not particular practices and traditions. We confess our desire to have the certainty that comes with traditions. Help us to remember the wilderness and to find our desires met in you being our God and us, your people. For your glory and honor alone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.