Resources » Matthew Henry's Commentary » Luke » Chapter 5 » Verses 17–26

Verses 17–26

Here is, I. A general account of Christ’s preaching and miracles, Luke 5:17. 1. He was teaching on a certain day, not on the sabbath day, then he would have said so, but on a week-day; six days shalt thou labour, not only for the world, but for the soul, and the welfare of that. Preaching and hearing the word of God are good works, if they be done well, any day in the week, as well as on sabbath days. It was not in the synagogue, but in a private house; for even there where we ordinarily converse with our friends it is not improper to give and receive good instruction. 2. There he taught, he healed (as before, Luke 5:15): And the power of the Lord was to heal themen eis to iasthai autous. It was mighty to heal them; it was exerted and put forth to heal them, to heal those whom he taught (we may understand it so), to heal their souls, to cure them of their spiritual diseases, and to give them a new life, a new nature. Note, Those who receive the word of Christ in faith will find a divine power going along with that word, to heal them; for Christ came with his comforts to heal the broken-hearted, Luke 4:18. The power of the Lord is present with the word, present to those that pray for it and submit to it, present to heal them. Or it may be meant (and so it is generally taken) of the healing of those who were diseased in body, who came to him for cures. Whenever there was occasion, Christ had not to seek for his power, it was present to heal. 3. There were some grandees present in this assembly, and, as it should seem, more than usual: There were Pharisees, and doctors of the law, sitting by; not sitting at his feet, to learn of him; then I should have been willing to take the following clause as referring to those who are spoken of immediately before (the power of the Lord was present to heal them); and why might not the word of Christ reach their hearts? But, by what follows (Luke 5:21), it appears that they were not healed, but cavilled at Christ, which compels us to refer this to others, not to them; for they sat by as persons unconcerned, as if the word of Christ were nothing to them. They sat by as spectators, censors, and spies, to pick up something on which to ground a reproach or accusation. How many are there in the midst of our assemblies, where the gospel is preached, that 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 them; they are willing that we should preach before them, not that we should preach to them. These Pharisees and scribes (or doctors of the law) came out of every town of Galilee, and Judea, and Jerusalem; they came from all parts of the nation. Probably, they appointed to meet at this time and place, to see what remarks they could make upon Christ and what he said and did. They were in a confederacy, as those that said, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah, and agree to smite him with the tongue, Jer. 18:18. Report, and we will report it, Jer. 20:10. Observe, Christ went on with his work of preaching and healing, though he saw these Pharisees, and doctors of the Jewish church, sitting by, who, he knew, despised him, and watched to ensnare him.

II. A particular account of the cure of the man sick of the palsy, which was related much as it is here by both the foregoing evangelists: let us therefore only observe in short,

1. The doctrines that are taught us and confirmed to us by the story of this cure. (1.) That sin is the fountain of all sickness, and the forgiveness of sin is the only foundation upon which a recovery from sickness can comfortably be built. They presented the sick man to Christ, and he said, “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee (Luke 5:20), that is the blessing thou art most to prize and seek; for if thy sins be forgiven thee, though the sickness be continued, it is in mercy; if they be not, though the sickness be removed, it is in wrath.” The cords of our iniquity are the bands of our affliction. (2.) That Jesus Christ has power on earth to forgive sins, and his healing diseases was an incontestable proof of it. This was the thing intended to be proved (Luke 5:24): That ye may know and believe that the Son of man, though now upon earth in his state of humiliation, hath power to forgive sins, and to release sinners, upon gospel terms, from the eternal punishment of sin, he saith to the sick of the palsy, Arise, and walk; and he is cured immediately. Christ claims one of the prerogatives of the King of kings when he undertakes to forgive sin, and it is justly expected that he should produce a good proof of it. “Well,” saith he, “I will put it upon this issue: here is a man struck with a palsy, and for his sin; if I do not with a word’s speaking cure his disease in an instant, which cannot be done by nature or art, but purely by the immediate power and efficacy of the God of nature, then say that I am not entitled to the prerogative of forgiving sin, am not the Messiah, am not the Son of God and King of Israel: but, if I do, you must own that I have power to forgive sins.” Thus it was put upon a fair trial, and one word of Christ determined it. He did but say, Arise, take up thy couch, and that chronical disease had an instantaneous cure; immediately he arose before them. They must all own that there could be no cheat or fallacy in it. They that brought him could attest how perfectly lame he was before; they that saw him could attest how perfectly well he was now, insomuch that he had strength enough to take up and carry away the bed he lay upon. How well is it for us that this most comfortable doctrine of the gospel, that Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Saviour, has power to forgive sin, has such a full attestation! (3.) That Jesus Christ is God. He appears to be so, [1.] By knowing the thoughts of the scribes and Pharisees (Luke 5:22), which it is God’s prerogative to do, though these scribes and Pharisees knew as well how to conceal their thoughts, and keep their countenances, as most men, and probably were industrious to do it at this time, for they lay in wait secretly. [2.] By doing that which their thoughts owned none could do but God only (Luke 5:21): Who can forgive sins, say they, but only God? “I will prove,” saith Christ, “that I can forgive sins;” and what follows then but that he is God? What horrid wickedness then were they guilty of who charged him with speaking the worst of blasphemies, even when he spoke the best of blessings, Thy sins are forgiven thee!

2. The duties that are taught us, and recommended to us, by this story. (1.) In our applications 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. They that were the friends of this sick man sought means to bring him in before Christ (Luke 5:18); and, when they were baffled in their endeavour, they did not give up their cause; but when they could not get in by the door, it was so crowded, they untiled the house, and let the poor patient down through the roof, into the midst before Jesus, Luke 5:19. In this Jesus Christ saw their faith, Luke 5:20. Now here he has taught us (and it were well if we could learn the lesson) to put the best construction upon words and actions that they will bear. When the centurion and the woman of Canaan were in no care at all to bring the patients they interceded for into Christ’s presence, but believed that he could cure them at a distance, he commended their faith. But though in these there seemed to be a different notion of the thing, and an apprehension that it was requisite the patient should be brought into his presence, yet he did not censure and condemn their weakness, did not ask them, “Why do you give this disturbance to the assembly? Are you under such a degree of infidelity as to think I could not have cured him, though he had been out of doors?” But he made the best of it, and even in this he saw their faith. It is a comfort to us that we serve a Master that is willing to make the best of us. (2.) When we are sick, we should be more in care to get our sins pardoned than to get our sickness removed. Christ, in what he said to this man, taught us, when we seek to God for health, to begin with seeking to him for pardon. (3.) The mercies which we have the comfort of God must have the praise of. The man departed to his own house, glorifying God, Luke 5:25. To him belong the escapes from death, and in them therefore he must be glorified. (4.) The miracles which Christ wrought were amazing to those that saw them, and we ought to glorify God in them, Luke 5:26. They said, “We have seen strange things to-day, such as we never saw before, nor our fathers before us; they are altogether new.” But they glorified God, who had sent into their country such a benefactor to it; and were filled with fear, with a reverence of God, with a jealous persuasion that this was the Messiah and that he was not treated by their nation as he ought to be, which might prove in the end the ruin of their state; perhaps they were some such thoughts as these that filled them with fear, and a concern likewise for themselves.