Word for Today Archive

Pastoral Commentary for Luke 5
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie

"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:31-32)

A few months ago I made a doctor's appointment. My knee had been bothering me for several days and I couldn't even straighten it out completely. Just two days before my scheduled appointment my knee suddenly stopped hurting. I decided to keep the appointment anyway. The doctor examined my knee carefully and pronounced his diagnosis. "You're getting old." I wanted to say, "I paid you $25 to tell me I'm old? I've got a mirror that tells me that for free." I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, my knee was well and Jesus did say, "Those who are well have no need of a physician."

What Jesus meant, however, was that people who have already repented of their sin and received God's grace and healing are not those desperately in need of Jesus as their Savior. Rather, it is those who are trapped in sin and spiritually dead who need to be rescued by the Savior.

Because Jesus knew this, He frequently spent time with tax collectors, prostitutes, and other notorious sinners. And He was roundly condemned by the "righteous" folks for doing so. Therefore, when questioned Jesus reminded these religious people of why He associated with such "low life."

What struck me as I read this passage was how much like the Pharisees and teachers of the Law many of us Christians are today. We don't want to associate with notorious sinners, and we will gladly condemn other Christians who are willing to do so.

We have forgotten Jesus' words about the sick needing a physician, and we have failed to live up to His characterization of the church He died and rose to create. Jesus told His disciples, "On this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prove stronger than it." (Matthew 16:18). Notorious sinners are literally trapped behind the gates of hell. If we are not willing to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them, they will never be set free. Only God's grace in Jesus can ever free them from the chains of sin and death that have completely overwhelmed their lives.

So let's remember what Jesus said. People who have already been healed of their sin by God's grace in Jesus are not the ones most desperately in need of a physician. Those who are sick unto death need to be healed by the forgiveness that Christ purchased for them by His death on the cross. Let's use His cross like a battering ram to break down the gates of hell and set them free! Let's be the caring Physician's assistants who bring healing grace to those who have been made sick by sin.

Pastoral Commentary for Luke 5
Author: Pastor Zach

The famed Aesop relays the story of a wagoner who was driving a heavy load of cargo along a road muddied by a recent rainstorm. The wagoner came to a spot where the road was especially treacherous and his wheels sunk deep into the mire. The harder the wagoner whipped his horses to pull, the deeper his wheels sank. Finally, the wagoner exited his chariot, knelt, and prayed to Hercules: "O Hercules, help me in this my hour of distress." Incredibly, Hercules appeared and responded: "Tut, man, don't sprawl there. Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel. The gods help those who help themselves." Such is the origin of this well-known cliché.

Not only is the above cliché well known, it is also widely believed, even among Christians. In fact, in a recent survey, some eighty percent of Christians who describe themselves as "born-again" believe that Aesop's moralism is a direct quote from the Bible!

As it is in our day, so it was in ancient antiquity. The sentiment that "God helps those who help themselves" was well regarded among the theological elite of Jesus' day. The rabbis taught, for instance, that God would not help sinners or liars. But then Jesus came to this earth. And Jesus, contrary to prevailing theological sentiments, believed and acted as if God, instead of only helping those who can help themselves, actually helps those who can't help themselves. Such is the case in our reading for today from Luke 5.

In this chapter, Luke introduces us to a paralytic - an archetypal image of a helpless man. By this point, Jesus' reputation as a healer has already spread so far and wide and that a huge crowd gathers, hoping to see another miraculous salving. But in the case of this paralytic, Jesus surprises everyone. Rather than soothing his sickness, Jesus says to this man: "Friend, your sins are forgiven" (verse 20). The crowd thought it was this man's paralysis that made him helpless. Jesus had another idea. It was his sin that left him truly helpless. For his sin paralyzed him not physically, but spiritually.

The rabbis taught, "A sick man does not recover from his sickness until all his sins are forgiven him" (Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 41a). Jesus, in this instance, extols the salutariness of this rabbinical statement and does what is more vital first: he forgives this man's sins. Ironically, the religious leaders, contrary to their own teaching and tradition, become indignant: "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone" (verse 21)? Jesus, in order demonstrate his authority to forgive sins, responds, "That you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins... I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home" (verse 24). And the man does! The man is no longer helpless - physically or spiritually. For he has been healed and forgiven by Christ.

The unequivocal affirmation of Scripture is that we are all helpless. Sin has left us this way. And yet, God's good news is that "while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6). God doesn't help those who can help themselves, he helps those who can't help themselves.

So where are you feeling helpless? Has your financial situation spiraled out of control? Is a relationship in shambles? Is there a sinful addiction you just can't break? Before you vainly try to help yourself, cry out to God for his help - for his strength, endurance, and forgiveness. Because it's then, and only then, that you can take appropriate and wise steps to help yourself - and others.

Read Today's Scripture and Commentary on the Concordia website.

2019-11-22 12:27:55