The mission of the Messiah, 1:5-9:50

3. The signs of the Messiah, 4:31-6:11

iv] Sign of the paralytic - Lord of the sinner


Luke now describes an impressive gathering of religious authorities, presumably assembled to the hear what Jesus has to say for himself, possibly even to investigate him. The gathering is made up primarily of Pharisees, representing synagogues from all over Galilee, Judea and even Jerusalem. The meeting is possibly in a palatial home with a central courtyard, rather than a mud hut. Some men, carrying a sick friend on a plank, try to get access to Jesus, but are unable to get through the crowd. So, they climb onto the roof, dia twn keramwn, "through the tiles", and lower their friend down to Jesus. Jesus, making a connection between sin and suffering, declares the man's sins forgiven. This statement prompts a strong reaction from the religious authorities. Jesus responds with a question to the audience, an announcement that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins, and a command for the man to take up his klinidion, "plank", and walk.


This pericope reveals the active and powerful character of faith, the spiritual power of Jesus, the Son of Man, particularly his authority to forgive sins, and the saving work of God, cf. Bock. So, The sign of the healing of the paralytic is a sign of forgiveness; forgiveness comes to Israel with the one who has authority to forgive sins. "He supersedes all authorities before him, and sets forth to Israel a new and startling meaning of Messiah's person and rule", Earle Ellis.


i] Context: See 4:31-44. The healing of the paralytic is the fourth episode of six in the section The signs of the Messiah which, by focusing on Jesus' acts, reveals the nature of his authority, 4:31-6:11.


ii] Structure: This narrative, The sign of the paralytic, presents as follows:

Setting, v17;

Faith in action, v18-19;

Jesus' response, v20;

"your sins are forgiven."

The officials react, v21;

Jesus' action, v22-24;

"the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins."

The paralytic departs, v25;

The reaction of the crowds, v26.


iii] Interpretation:

"All the synoptics explain that Jesus sees the faith of the friends and addresses the paralytic", Bock. The fact that the declaration of forgiveness is made to the paralytic rather than his friends, particularly as it is the friends who have exhibited faith, has prompted comment. Yet, this issue is outside the remit of the passage; we are in the realm of theology, not quid pro quo. The friends exhibit the faith that Israel should exhibit, a faith that prompts divine forgiveness and thus salvation. The point is that when it comes to the business of Israel's forgiveness, Jesus has the authority to forgive the sins.


A particular problem arises with Jesus' question "what is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?" question has always been a matter of debate. Is it easier to proclaim a genuine absolution or is it easier to heal the sick with a word of command? Possibly "both are very difficult (since) ... the achievement of the one implies the achievement of the other", Evans, so Nolland, Marshall (with a proviso), possibly declaring God's eschatological forgiveness is the more difficult, so Lohmeyer, Grundmann cf. Marcus Mark, but it is more likely that "it is easier to say something that cannot be visually verified than to say something that can be visually substantiated", Bock, so Plummer, Fitzmyer, Geldenhuys, Stein. Of course, when it comes to what might be easier to do, both aren't easy to do. The point is, for a Jew in the first century who holds that forgiveness and healing are integrally linked, then having the authority to do the one authenticates a person's authority to do the other. Sadly, the patently obvious is not obvious to the Pharisees and Scribes which is why Jesus tries to spell it out for them.


iv] Synoptics:

The healing of the paralytic is found in each of the synoptic gospels, each giving similar accounts, but each seems to evidence a different oral source.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 5.17

The healing of the paralytic, v17-26. i] Setting, v17: Jesus is in a private home discussing theology with a gathering of "Pharisees" and "Teachers of the law" (those who give authoritative interpretation of the scriptures).

kai egeneto "-" - and it happened. A common Lukan generalization.

twn hJmerwn (a) gen. "[one] day" - [one] of the days. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

en + dat. "as" - on [one of the days]. Temporal use of the preposition. Mark tells us that this miracle was performed in Capernaum, but Luke makes no mention of where the miracle is performed. Luke is not overly focused on geography.

h\n didaskwn (didaskw) pres. part. "he was teaching" - An imperfect paraphrastic construction probably emphasizing durative action. Interestingly, two other paraphrastic constructions are found in this verse: hsan elhluqoteV "had come", a paraphrastic pluperfect, and h\san kaqhmenoi "were sitting", an imperfect paraphrastic. Jesus is teaching, obviously in the inner courtyard of the house.

farisaioi kai nomodidaskaloi "Pharisees and teachers of the law" - The account notes that some Pharisees and scribes were present, although it is not stated if one of them owned the house. Although a lay movement, the Pharisees were a powerful lobby group dedicated to the business of maintaining the purity of Israel's Mosaic faith. This they achieved by developing a raft of rules on the application of Mosaic law. The Scribes (only here mentioned in the synoptic gospels) functioned as legal assistants documenting and adjudicating on the interpretation of Mosaic law. Most were Pharisees.

ek + gen. "from [every village]" - Expressing source / origin. Obviously an exaggeration, a "hyperbolic expression", Plummer. The sense that every village had a Pharisee or two and that all were represented on this occasion is modified by a variant which implies that it was the sick from every village who had come to see Jesus, cf. NEB. The more difficult reading, as NIV, is likely original, cf. Metzger, 138.

thV GalilaiaV kai IoudaiaV kai Ierousalhm gen. "of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem" - The genitive "Galilee and Judea" is adjectival, idiomatic / locative; "every town located in Galilee and Judea." "Jerusalem" is presumed genitive, probably with an assumed ek, "from"; "and from Jerusalem."

kuriou (oV) gen. "[the power] of the Lord" - The genitive is ablative, source / origin. "Lord", without an article, obviously references "God", while "power" is interchangeable with "Spirit", cf. 4:15, 24:49. "Luke is continuing to clarify what it means for Jesus to have become, through the descent of the Spirit, the repository of the power of God", Nolland.

h\n (eimi) imperf. "was present" - there was [power from God]. Luke's comment here does not imply that this power came and went, that it was just present on this occasion. Rather, Luke is referencing the evidential outworking of this power to those present on this occasion, including the Pharisees and Scribes, which evidence exposes the stupidity of their comment in v21, and the surprise of Jesus in v22.

eiV to iasqai (iaomai) pres. inf. "for [him] to heal [the sick]" - to heal. This construction, the preposition eiV with the articular infinitive, usually forms a purpose clause, "there was power from God in order that ("so that" = hypothetical result) he could heal / enabling him to heal." The variant autouV, a corruption of auton shifts "him" = "Jesus" to "them" = "the sick". The stronger reading is auton sing. acc. subj. of the inf.


ii] Faith in action, v18-19: Some friends of a paralytic, unable to get through the crowd to meet with Jesus in the home, climb onto the roof of the house and lower their friend into the internal courtyard through the pergola.

kai idou "-" - and behold. Luke's "now take note" references the popularity of Jesus and therefore the difficulty of a sick person to approach him.

feronteV (ferw) pres. part. "came carrying" - carrying. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "men"; "who were carrying on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed."

h\n paralelumenoV (paraluw) perf. pas. part. "a paralytic" - [a man who] had been paralyzed. A periphrastic pluperfect construction emphasizing aspect, here the durative nature of his illness.

epi + gen. "on [a mat]" - upon [a bed, stretcher, bier, ..]. Spacial.

eisenegkein (eiVferw) aor. inf. "to lay" - [were seeking] to bring in [him]. This infinitive, with the conjoined infinitive qeinai "to put / lay", form an object clause / dependent statement of perception, expressing what the men wanted to do, namely to get their sick friend into the house and lay him before Jesus.

enwpion + gen. "before [Jesus]" - before, in front of [him]. Spacial.


mh euJronteV (euJriskw) aor. part. "when they could not find" - not having found. The participle is adverbial, possibly temporal, as NIV, or possibly attendant circumstance expressing action accompanying the verb "were seeking", v18; "they tried ...... but (kai, "and") could not find ...."

poiaV gen. pro. "a way" - of what. The genitive of this interrogative pronoun is probably adjectival, attributive / qualitative, limiting a supplied oJdoV "way"; "of what kind of way", but possibly a genitive of place, "of / by what [way]", Zerwick.

eisenegkwsin (eisferw) aor. subj. "to do this" - they might carry [him]. The interogative pronoun poiaV with the deliberative subjunctive forms an indirect question expressing what a person might ask as they observe the situation faced by the men, eg. "in what [way] might they carry him [to Jesus]?" = "how are they going to get this man through such a large crowd and into the presence of Jesus?"

dia + acc. "because of [the crowd]" - because of, on account of. Expressing cause / reason. "On account of the crowd", Moffatt.

anabanteV ( anabainw) aor. part. "they went up" - having gone up. The participle is adverbial, possibly consecutive, expressing result; "They were unable to find any way to carry him in because of the crowd. So (as a result) they went up on the roof", Barclay.

epi + acc. "on [the roof]" - upon [the roof, house-top]. Spacial.

dia + gen. "through" - through. Here spacial; "They let him down through the tiling", Cassirer.

twn keramwn (oV) "the tiles" - A flat roofed home in Palestine would not have clay tiles on the roof proper, but it could have a tiled area over part of the verandah / porch, possibly in this case around an internal courtyard. Of course, the word "tiles" can mean "clay" and so Luke may be describing the digging out of lumps of clay from the roof, clay that is laid down over light thatching. On the other hand, if the owner of the house is wealthy the home may be a Roman villa, which of course would be tiled.

sun + dat. "on [his mat]" - with [the stretcher, bed, ...]. Expressing association; "along with."

eiV to meson emprosqen "into the middle of the crowd, right in front of [Jesus]" - into the middle before [Jesus]. Emphatic position, dramatic, and very descriptive; "they lowered him down on his stretcher into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus."


iii] Jesus' response, v20: The friends of the paralytic exhibit the type of faith required for Israel's restoration, for the forgiveness of a people lost in their relationship with God. So, Jesus announces God's forgiveness.

idwn (oJraw) aor. part. "when [Jesus] saw" - having seen. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV.

autwn gen. pro. "[the faith] of them" - The faith, if any, of the paralytic is not mentioned, although Danker argues that the plural includes the paralytic. This is Luke's first use of the word pistiV, "faith", a word he will use many more times. For Luke, "faith" is "the conviction that God's help is to be found with Jesus", a conviction that "gratefully receives God's action through him (Jesus)", Nolland. A little convoluted John!!! How about firmness, a resting on Jesus, a reliance on Jesus' word?

anqrwpe (oV) voc. "friend" - man. Mark's "son", being a term of endearment, is certainly softer.

sou gen. pro. "your [sins]" - [the sins] of you. The genitive may be classified as adjectival, possessive, or verbal, subjective.

afewntai (afihmi) perf. pas. "[your sins] are forgiven" - Mark uses the present tense, but Luke's perfect tense seems a better expression of what has occurred, probably in the terms of an absolution, "your sins have been forgiven". The man's sins are already forgiven and the consequence of this fact, namely being in a forgiven state, continues. Divine forgiveness, which is what Jesus offers, provides access to salvation and the full entitlement to all God's eternal blessings which this salvation entails.

soi dat. pro. "-" - to you. Dative of interest, advantage.


iv] The officials react, v21: The religious authorities immediately discuss (reason falsely) Jesus' proclamation of divine forgiveness. In their understanding, sickness and sin are linked. The paralytic is obviously a sinner and if his sins were forgiven he would be up and walking. So, Jesus obviously does not have the authority to announce God's forgiveness and is therefore blaspheming God.

(dialogizomai) pres. inf. "[began] thinking to themselves" - [began] to consider, reason. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "began". Mark's periphrastic imperfect constructions here imply that the "thinking / reasoning" is associated with the whole occasion, whereas Luke makes the point that the negative thoughts are prompted by what Jesus has just said, so "then questions began to arise in the minds of the experts of the law and the Pharisees", Barclay.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. The participle is attendant circumstance, redundant.

afeinai (afihmi) aor. inf. "[can] forgive" - [is able] to forgive. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is able". Only God can forgive an offence against him, although a messenger of God, eg. a prophet, may pronounce forgiveness on his behalf, ie. pronounce an absolution on God's behalf. Why do the Pharisees and Scribes assume that Jesus does not have this authority and is thus guilty of blasphemy? Marshall suggests it is because they believe prophecy has ceased. Yet, Danker is surely on the mark when he argues that given the link between sickness and sin ("according to the rabbis no sick man is healed until he is forgiven", Ellis) and the fact that the paralytic is still on his stretcher, proves that Jesus is acting beyond his authority. If the paralytic is truly forgiven he would not only be released from his sin, but also from his sickness.

ei mh "but [God] alone" - except. Introducing an exceptive clause expressing a contrast by designating an exception. "Who except God alone has the power to forgive sins?" Cassirer.


v] Jesus' action, v22-24: Jesus, as usual, reads the body language of his audience. To sort out his opponents he backs them into a corner. Jesus has declared forgiveness of sins for the paralytic, but he is still on his stretcher. So, is it game over? In the end, it's easy to proclaim forgiveness, but how is it verified? It's not very easy to heal a paralytic. But here's the rub, as the religious officials would know, if you can heal a paralytic you probably also have the divine authority to pronounce the forgiveness of sins. At this point the gospel tradition actually addresses the reader; "Things turned out the way they did in order that you (the reader) should be made to realize that the Son of Man, while he is on earth, has the authority granted to him to forgive sins", v24a, Heinz Cassirer.

epignouV (epiginwskw) aor. part. "[Jesus] knew" - having known. The participle is adverbial, possibly causal; "because Jesus was conscious of what they were thinking, he said to them ...." Jesus again demonstrates his capacity to read his audience, read their body language rather than their minds.

autwn gen. pro. "what they were [thinking]" - [the thoughts] of them. The NIV takes the genitive as verbal, subjective.

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "asked" - having answered [said]. Attendant circumstance participle, "answered and said", pleonastic / redundant = "he said to them / he asked them."

ti "why" - Introducing an interrogative clause. Possibly a simple "why all this gossipy whispering?" Peterson, but it is more likely that Jesus "is asking why they should question him", Bock, ie. question his authority to declare God's forgiveness. "Why do you think that I don't have authority to pronounce God's forgiveness for sins and that I am therefore guilty of blasphemy?" Given Luke's pointed comment in v17 that there was an evidential presence of the power/spirit of God with Jesus on this occasion which was enabling his healing ministry, the evidence of which was already before the Pharisees and Scribes, Jesus is obviously somewhat surprised that they would doubt his authority to pronounce divine forgiveness.

en + dat. "in [your hearts]" - in [the hearts of you]. Local, expressing space / sphere. "Why must you argue like this in your minds", Phillips.


eukopwteron adj. "easier" - [what is] easier labor. Predicate nominative; "Which is more easily said?" Cassirer.

epein (legw) aor. inf. "to say" - This infinitive, as with the second in the verse, is appositional, introducing a clause standing in apposition to ti, "what" = "which"; "Which of the two is easier, namely, to say 'Your sins are forgiven', or to say 'Get up and walk'?"

sou gen. pro. "your [sins]" - [the sins] of you. The genitive may be taken as adjectival, possessive, "your sins", or verbal, subjective, "the sins committed by you."

soi dat. pro. "-" - [have been forgiven] to you. Dative of interest, advantage.


de "but" - but, and. Here adversative, as NIV.

iJna + subj. "that [you may know] / [I want you to know]" - that. This construction introduces a fina clause expressing purpose. Who is the plural "you"? Is it the Jewish officials (so Marshall), the crowd, the healed man and his friends, or the reader/church ("an editorial comment to the reader", Nolland)? The last option seems best, although open to some debate. "Things turned out the way they did in order that you (the reader) should be made to realize that the Son of Man, while he is on earth, has the authority granted to him to forgive sins", Cassirer.

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they / we should know.

tou anqrwpou (oV) gen. "[the Son] of Man" - The genitive is adjectival, relational. To the ears of those who heard these words the phrase could just mean "man", expressing nothing more than a self designation, nothing more than "I have authority to forgive sins." Yet, it is likely that Jesus did intend something more when he used this title. Jesus did not publicly associate himself with the accepted messianic titles of the day. Rather, he took to himself an enigmatic messianic title referred to in Daniel 7:13. This glorious figure is the messiah who, as corporate Israel, comes to claim his eternal kingdom and reign at the right hand of the Ancient of Days. With the Son of Man role Jesus associates the role of the Suffering Servant, again another corporate figure representing the people of God. Both together display the true nature of the Christ, the messiah.

exousian (a) "authority" - authority, power. Possibly the "power" to forgive, but better the "authority" to pronounce forgiveness because Jesus' credentials are from God.

epi + gen. "on" - Spacial; "upon".

thV ghV "earth" - What does this phrase qualify? Is it "has authority" (NIV), "to forgive sins" (so Plummer), or "the Son of Man" (cf. Mark)? The favored view is that "the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins while on earth", reflecting his role as Suffering Servant. Nolland argues, given Luke's changed position of the phrase from that of Mark's account, that it qualifies the authority of the Son of Man. "Before the eschaton, while life on the earth goes on, (the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins)", Nolland. That is, Christ's authority to forgive extends to the day of judgment.

afienai (afihmi) pres. inf. "to forgive [sins]" - Is the infinitive adverbial, forming a final clause expressing purpose, "in order to forgive sins", or is it epexegetic explaining the nature of Jesus' authority, an authority that gives Jesus the right to pronounce forgiveness. The latter seems best.

tw/ paralelumenw/ (paraluw) dat. perf. pas. part. "[he said] to the paralyzed man" - to the one having been paralyzed. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object. The phrase itself, "he said to the paralyzed man" is best treated as a parenthesis. It is actually bracketed in the AV. "He then turned to the paralyzed man. I am telling you, he said, rise to your feet ....", Cassirer.

soi dat. pro. "[I tell] you" - [I say] to you. Dative of indirect object.

araV (airw) aor. part. "[get up], take [your mat]" - having picked up. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the imperative verb "get up"; "get up, pick up your bedding and go home." Mark has three imperative verbs, but Luke has one as an attendant circumstance participle to subordinate it to the two main verbs "get up" and "go".


vi] The paralytic is healed, v25: Jesus now tells the paralytic to get up and go home. This the paralytic does with great enthusiasm. Here then is the evidence for Jesus' authority, although only those with eyes to see will see it.

paracrhma adv. "immediately" - at once. Mark usually has euquV. Used for vivid movement.

anastaV (anisthmi) aor. part. "he stood up" - having got up. As with "having picked up", the participle is attendant circumstance expressing action accompanying the main verb "he went".

enwpion + gen. "in front of [them]" - before. God does not listen to sinners, but to the righteous he hears and acts. The Pharisees and their friends have witnessed the healing, the question is, can they accept Jesus' authority?

doxaqwn (doxaqw) pres. part. "praising [God]" - glorifying, praising, extolling [God]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as modal, expressing the manner of his going.


vii] The reaction of the crowd, v26: The response of the crowd is one of "awe" (amazement). They are shaken by this manifestation of divine presence and power, but unless their amazement moves to faith they are lost. The gospel tradition tells us that "everyone was amazed." Did this include the religious officials? Jesus has certainly played them perfectly!

ekastasiV (iV ewV) "[was] amazed" - terror [took hold of]. Referring to a state of intense amazement, to the point of being beside oneself with astonishment*. The reaction of amazement, awe, wonder, ..... serves as a preliminary reaction to Jesus which then moves to either faith or rejection / disbelief.

fobou (oV) gen. "[they were filled] with awe" - [they were filled] of fear. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / content; "filled full of fear" = "filled with fear." "Fear", as in "fear of the Lord", does not mean scared, possibly "absolutely astonished", Barclay, but better "awestruck", as NIV. "Everyone was filled with awe and reverence", Junkins.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "and said" - Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "they were filled."

oJti "-" - [saying] that. Here introducing a dependent statement, direct speech. "We've never seen anything like that!", Peterson.


Luke Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]