Power to Heal (verses 18 – 26)
The fame of the Lord Jesus was now so widespread that even Pharisees and lawyers came from all parts of Galilee and Judea to hear His teaching. Luke tells us that the power of the Lord was present to heal them. Power was available, but not all benefited from that power. How true that is even today. Paul speaks in Ephesians 1 about “the exceeding greatness of His power” which is available through the exalted Lord Jesus, but so few avail themselves of that surpassing power.
However, the incident which follows both demonstrates the power of the Lord to heal physically, and illustrates His ability to forgive sins.
Four men try to bring a paralysed man to Jesus, but cannot get near because of the multitude of people present. How often the crowd prevents people from coming to the Saviour! However, these men are not going to be deterred and are more than prepared for the burden of carrying the helpless man and finding a way to bring him before the Lord. Do we ever think about bringing the burden of others before the Lord? And if we can’t do it physically, surely we could do it in prayer. They take him up to the flat roof of the house, break through the tiling, and lower the man down to lie just in front of the Lord Jesus.
Verse 20 significantly explains that the Lord saw their faith (that is, the faith of all the men), and, as a result, He told the man his sins were forgiven. The reaction of the scribes and Pharisees was to accuse Him of blasphemy, reasoning “who can forgive sins but God alone?” The Lord knew their thoughts and asked them whether it was easier to forgive sins or to tell the man to rise up and walk. He clearly tells them that He would heal the man, so that they would know that He, as the Son of man, possessed the power to forgive sins. He then tells the man to take up his couch and go home, and immediately the man rose up, carrying his couch, and went home giving glory to God. Everyone was amazed and filled with fear, glorifying God.
The call of Matthew and the Pharisees’ questions (verses 27 – 39)
Levi, or Matthew, as he is called elsewhere, was a tax collector. As he sat receiving taxes from the people, Jesus called him to follow him. Matthew immediately left everything and rose up to follow the Lord. He made a great feast for the Lord in his house, and many tax collectors and other people were present. The scribes and Pharisees complained and asked why the disciples ate with tax collectors and sinners. The Lord answered that it was the sick who needed a doctor, and that He had not come to call those who thought themselves righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Next, they questioned Him about why His disciples ate and drank, while John’s and the Pharisees’ disciples fasted and prayed? He told them that people don’t fast when the bridegroom is with them, likening Himself to the bridegroom. However, when He was no longer with them, then there would be a need for fasting in those days.
He then told them a parable pointing out that no-one puts a piece of new cloth onto an old piece. If this happened, it would easily tear the old cloth, and the two pieces of material would not match. Again, He underlined that no-one puts new wine into old wineskins, because it would cause them to burst, the wine would be lost and the bottles would perish. New wine must be put into new wineskins so as to preserve both.
The point of these illustrations was to say that the new and the old can’t be mixed. The Pharisees held onto the old way of life, while the disciples embraced the new. Likewise, Christians ought not to mix the old life they had before salvation with the new life they now have. Paul says if anyone be in Christ they are a new creation. Old things have passed away and all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5.17). The new garments speak of the new character which God has given us in Christ, while the new wine speaks of that new joy and satisfaction enjoyed by all who have been given new life in the risen Lord.