January 16, 2012 Devotion Sharing (Luke 5)

Submitted by Amy T. from Gracepoint Hsinchu Church

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

Luke 5:12-13 

“The regulations concerning leprosy are in Lev.13-14. The most terrible thing about it was the isolation it bought. The leper was to cry ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ wherever he went; he was to dwell alone; ‘in a habitation outside the camp’ (Lev.13:45-46). He was banished from the society of men and exiled from home. The result was, and still is, that the psychological consequences of leprosy were as serious as the physical.”

  • What was the posture and attitude of the leper before Jesus?
    The posture and attitude of the leper before Jesus is that of humility and brokenness. So he falls with his face to the ground and begs Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”   It’s this total recognition that he doesn’t deserve a thing, so that though he is a grown man, he is willing to beg, fall with his face to the ground, hoping that Jesus would hear his cry.
    He’s someone who sees himself clearly, that he doesn’t have anything else he can hope in, he’s desperately in need of help. He’s a leper, an outcast, banished, exiled, isolated, and in need of deep physical and psychological healing. And so it makes sense that he comes with this humility and sense of clear acknowledgement that he doesn’t deserve a thing.
    I think we often start off our Christian walk with this kind of humility and acknowledgment that we don’t deserve God’s mercy and grace. Personally, I’m reminded how important it is to keep that clear picture of who I am before God, through my willingness to acknowledge my own need before God, to honestly admit the reality of my sin each day, and the fact that my only hope is God’s willingness to have mercy on me. This is the sense I need to keep very clear so that I do not lose this proper posture before Him.
  • What is the significance of the words “if you are willing”?
    The leper is clear about the fact that receiving healing is not something he deserves or is entitled to, but entirely dependent on Jesus’ mercy and willingness. He knows it’s not a likely request, but he’s probably heard of Jesus and how He has healed, and so the leper has that confidence that Jesus is able to. The main issue is whether or not Jesus would be willing to heal him.
  • What is the significance of Jesus touching the leper in response to his request?
    In that society, lepers were complete outcasts. They were not allowed to come into any human contact. In fact, they were required by law to do the humiliating thing of crying out “Unclean! Unclean!” wherever they went… So for Jesus to reach out his hand, to touch the man, was such a loving, tender, unbelievable thing to do because it was completely unnecessary. Jesus could have easily just said the word, and to grant this man healing would be more than enough. It would be beyond the leper’s wildest dreams. And yet, not only does Jesus grant this, but He does it in the most loving, connecting way. The leper was probably used to receiving looks of fear and disgust at anyone who came near, and yet, Jesus, this man who he had heard about, was not only willing to come near him, to hear his cry, but to reach out and actually touch him, must’ve been such an unbelievable moment for the leper. It showed Jesus’ total love, care, compassion, His willingness to draw near no matter what the issue. Indeed this is such an amazing picture of Jesus’ heart, love, and compassion that he has for everyone of us, and the confidence that I can have as I bring myself before Him.

Luke 5:18-19 

  • Who brought the paralytic to Jesus?  What obstacles needed to be overcome for the paralytic to come before Jesus?
    “Some men,” probably good friends of the paralytic, brought him to Jesus. But they faced many obstacles – first it might have been the willingness of the paralytic to be brought before Jesus, maybe fighting against his cynicism, his pride/ego of being the one on the mat, his defeatist mentality that there’s no hope, etc.

There was the huge crowd that was there, so that they could not even enter into the house to lay him before Jesus. Instead, they think outside of the box, realize the only way is through the roof. This means they have the obstacle of having to figure out a way to get onto the roof, figuring out a way to make a hole into the tiles big enough to get their friend through, while still stable enough to safely get their friend through the tiles without dropping him. They need to position it just right so that their friend gets lowered right in front of Jesus and not straight into the crowd. There’s the obstacle of their own thoughts of how crazy this is, or the kind of trouble they will get into for ruining someone’s roof. But they are desperate for their friend and willing to go to whatever lengths and face whatever obstacles in order to bring their friend to Jesus. I think there were many opportunities and points at which they could have said this is too hard, this is too crazy, and they could have easily been defeated by the different obstacles presented to them and just chosen to give up, but these too were feelings that they had to overcome throughout the process.

  • To what extent do I go about helping someone to come before Jesus?
    Indeed I have experienced many obstacles in bringing people to come before Jesus. But I think all too often, I’m quick to give into my default worst-case-scenario thinking, and be filled with discouragement or cynicism of what can happen.  But one thing we can learn from these men is that just because you get through one obstacle, it doesn’t mean the battle is won. In fact, the reality is, it takes facing obstacle after obstacle, and that persevering spirit to help bring anyone before Jesus.

As I remember my own story, this is so true. As I think of my spiritual leaders, Pastor Ed, Kelly, Eunice, Sunny, the word that comes to mind is perseverance. They refused to give up,  in midst of many obstacles. I don’t think I was necessarily outwardly the most rebellious, but I was so unresponsive, unwilling to take my life seriously, unwilling to take the Word of God seriously, and in that way, I put up fight after fight. And yet, they continued to persevere, continued to plead with me, point me to God’s word, and through that, enabled me to come before Jesus, to experience His healing touch, and to receive new life.

I’m reminded of some messages we listened to recently that the reality of ministry is that we are each hardened and rebellious sinners who prefer to remain in our darkness. And so, as we are in the business of trying to bring as many as we know before Jesus, these are the kind of obstacles and perseverance I must be willing to have. It’s an ongoing process, and I need to be willing to face any obstacles in order to bring one person before Jesus.

As we minister to students in Taiwan, we’ve faced many different obstacles from ancestor worship, family opposition, culture that encourages them not to think, people who’ve never even heard of the Gospel, or just plain unwillingness to talk about anything spiritual, etc. But I’ve tasted the joy of pushing through these different obstacles, many difficult talks, a lot of pushback, discouraging situations, battling through prayer, and experiencing people receiving salvation and healing from their sin. And that much more, I want to commit to doing whatever I can to help people come before Jesus, to fight against my fears, my what-if thoughts, and to instead face whatever obstacles come my way–like these men, being willing to think outside of the box, to consider each person’s story, background, struggles and think through different ways that we can bring them before Jesus.

I think it’s also significant that it was a group of them bringing the paralytic before Jesus. Sometimes the task of bringing people before Jesus seems pretty impossible, but the thing is it’s not up to me on my own. Even the recent salvations we’ve been able to experience here in Taiwan was because of many of the previous missionaries’ labor and tears that were poured into this person; it’s the prayers lifted up throughout all of our churches; it’s the guidance and wisdom we receive from our leaders that allow us to even have this church; and, it’s the body of Christ together pouring out, that enables us to do all that we do.

Submitted by Joyce L. from Gracepoint Hsinchu Church

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

Luke 5:12-13 

“The regulations concerning leprosy are in Lev.13-14. The most terrible thing about it was the isolation it bought. The leper was to cry ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ wherever he went; he was to dwell alone; ‘in a habitation outside the camp’ (Lev.13:45-46). He was banished from the society of men and exiled from home. The result was, and still is, that the psychological consequences of leprosy were as serious as the physical.”

  • What was the posture and attitude of the leper before Jesus? 

The posture of the leper was one of humility – “he fell with his face to the ground” and also of desperation – “and begged him.” He approached Jesus with a sense of reverence by addressing him as “Lord.”

  • What is the significance of the words “if you are willing”? 

In his mind, the leper had a big “IF” – will this Jesus heal me? Will this Jesus respond to my request? After being so banished by society, separated from family, being an untouchable, subject to the scorn and disgust of others and completely ignored for so long, the leper held onto a host of doubts. Will I continued to be left alone? Will I be healed? Will Jesus have pity on me? Is there any hope?

From another aspect, the leper did not have a sense of entitlement. He did not expect necessarily or think that he deserved to be healed. And even though he might have had some doubts or fears, the amazing thing was that the leper knew that Jesus had the ability to heal him, “you can make me clean.” He did not ask him whether it was in his power, whether he can, but whether he was willing. He had the courage to approach Jesus and humbly ask to be cleaned.

  • What is the significance of Jesus touching the leper in response to his request?

Jesus could have remotely healed the leper. He could have just said, “All right, your request is granted.” Yet as powerful as Jesus was, as much as he was able to heal and do the seemingly impossible, he was also very personal. He engaged the leper. He responded with the leper’s own words “I am willing” much like a parent would imitate his child’s words or tones to relate. The leper was numb to touch and sensation, he must have been wide-eyed and shocked to see Jesus reach out to touch him.  As he was being healed, he personally felt Jesus’ touch, perhaps physically and definitely in his heart. How he must have longed to be touched all these years. That sensation of warmth, connection, the power of touch eased all his fears and doubts. And it must have brought healing to his heart as well.

Also, as Jesus touched the leper, he conveyed his love and compassion for this man; he was ultimately interested in his complete healing.

Luke 5:18-19 

  • Who brought the paralytic to Jesus?  What obstacles needed to be overcome for the paralytic to come before Jesus? 

Some men brought the paralytic on a mat. The obstacles that needed to be overcome include the obvious obstacle that he could not walk. First, the paralytic had to be willing to be allowed to be placed on the mat by these men. He could have resisted, been adamant, refused. And then when these men tried to take him to the house, it was so crowded. At that point, the men could have all said, forget it. It’s hopeless. Jesus is too busy today. There’s no way we’re going to be able to push through this crowd. There must have been so many voices that they had to push against, so many temptations to just give up and go home. Yet, these men persevered, and they even boldly went up the roof, lowered this paralytic through the tiles. They did not care what others would think, and they took great risks to themselves physically as well to bring their friend before Jesus.

  • To what extent do I go about helping someone to come before Jesus? 

I think oftentimes I am not as willing to go to such extent to help someone to come before Jesus. I quickly listen to the voices within – ah, these people are not so interested in Jesus. Ah, it’s not the right time. Ah, they are too stubborn and resistant. I also fall into complacency – I think this is enough – or want to settle with the shortest, bare minimum amount of my energies and efforts. I settle for comfort and don’t want to push myself. I lack that kind of creativity and thinking outside of the box… what would it take for this person, how can I bring this person before Jesus? What do I need to do? I am so challenged by these men, who were willing to do whatever it takes, to put in that extra effort to bring this paralytic to Jesus. I have to see myself, along with my co-laborers in Christ as these men, and see the people around us as paralytics who need to come before Jesus, to receive forgiveness and healing. Together, we can overcome these voices of doubts and our passion can spur one another on and push ourselves to labor in love.

Luke 5:20-26

  • What kind of authority does Jesus have? 

Jesus had the authority to forgive sins.

  • What is more amazing to me: forgiveness of sins or healing of paralysis? 

Though I have never witnessed the healing of paralysis, I would think seeing a paralytic get up and walk would be quite an amazing sight. Yet to me, the forgiveness of sins is much more amazing. As I think about when I first encountered Jesus and his promise to forgive me of all my sins, I remembered how it captured me. Could Jesus really forgive me for all that I have done? All the shame, the guilt, the regrets? As I looked into the darkness in my own heart, and how it was so impossible to let go of the tiniest of grievances or forgive someone who has hurt me deeply no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t forgive and failed miserable – the fact that Jesus would forgive me was amazing indeed. When I became Christian and experienced Jesus forgiving of my sins, I also experienced the power of release in my own heart, that I too was able to forgive others who have hurt me. In the early years, as I failed again and again as a Christian, I went through so many doubts, could Jesus forgive me for the nth time, but time and again, his response was, “Yes, I forgive you.” As far as the east is from the west, so far have I removed your transgressions from you. And now, over ten years as a Christian, my amazement for Jesus’ forgiveness of sins never ceases and only grows more and more because I see the ugliness, the horror, and the depth of my sins. I experienced the depth of his grace and mercy.

PERSONAL PRAYER                                                          

  • Please write out a prayer of commitment or confession either based on today’s text, or upon reflection over recent events in your life.

Lord, thank you that you have reached out to me, and touched me, that you were more than willing to love an unlovable person like me and extended your forgiveness to me. How amazing is this forgiveness and now you give me this opportunity to bring others before you. I thank you Lord, that you place me in a church full of people like the paralytic’s friends, these co-laborers. That together, we have this amazing privilege to bring people to you so that they too can experience your love and forgiveness. I thank you for their passion and commitment, and I pray that I would go to further extent, giving all my energy and pushing pass all the voices within to help others come to know you and experience you personally.

Submitted by Richard L. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

Reflection Questions

Luke 5:12-13  
“The regulations concerning leprosy are in Lev.13-14. The most terrible thing about it was the isolation it bought. The leper was to cry ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ wherever he went; he was to dwell alone; ‘in a habitation outside the camp’ (Lev.13:45-46). He was banished from the society of men and exiled from home. The result was, and still is, that the psychological consequences of leprosy were as serious as the physical.”[1]

What was the posture and attitude of the leper before Jesus? 

The leper fell before Jesus, his face was to the ground and he was begging. He was contrite and desperate in his asking for healing.

What is the significance of the words “if you are willing”? 

It demonstrates a particular lowly and yet honest view that the leper had of himself. He’s heard of this Jesus doing miraculous things and healing people. But his disfigured body and rejection from society was his greatest reality and identity. Perhaps he was thinking that this Jesus could heal him. But why would Jesus want to? If you are willing, Jesus, you can change me. If you are willing to get near me, if you are willing to talk to me, if you are willing to look beyond my disfiguration, if you are willing to associate with me, Jesus, even though everyone around me is horrified by me… This man understood his condition; he was leprous. He had nothing on which to base his self worth. This picture is a picture of the reality that I often face when in honest reflection. If people truly knew me, if they knew my thoughts, if Jesus or others got closer to me, maybe they too would run away, horrified by my sins. It is an approach that I have had before God and others as a result of my sins.

What is the significance of Jesus touching the leper in response to his request?

This is a huge act of love and acceptance that Jesus demonstrates by touching the leper at his request. By doing so, Jesus himself does the unthinkable and publicly makes himself unclean by touching an unclean man. The law was very clear regarding social norms around lepers, and everyone understood what their roles were when an unclean man comes onto the scene. Avoid the man at all cost. They were to shun the man, despise him, and consider him a curse. It would be anathema for anyone, let alone a religious leader and public figure, to physically touch any leper. Jesus, knowing full well the implications, embraced the man and pulled him closer and healed him. This man had his greatest problem fixed, but for the first time, perhaps in years, experienced being touched and this began the process of another greater healing, the reacceptance into a community. But as a result, this encounter ends with Jesus withdrawing to lonely places to pray. Almost as if a swap in roles, Jesus experiences and takes on what the leprous man had to endure, isolation, banishment. This foreshadows what Jesus would ultimately do on the cross. Jesus took on the consequences of my sins and experienced death, brokenness, separation from God and others, but through it, I myself am able to experience being healed from my sins, reestablished in a relationship with God and others around me. And like the leprous man, I am able to have this second chance at life by being forgiven and having the greatest issue of my life addressed in a tangible and historical way.

Luke 5:18-19
Who brought the paralytic to Jesus?  What obstacles needed to be overcome for the paralytic to come before Jesus? 

The paralytic’s friends brought him to Jesus. There were so many obstacles that these men and the paralytic had to overcome. They had to physically carry the man on the mat. Who knows how far they traveled? Then, the house was blocked by so many people that these men couldn’t go in. So they had to carry him up the roof, dig through the roof, find a rope or mechanism to lower the poor man. And just the sheer awkwardness of the scene, for the friends and for the paralytic, must have been an obstacle.

To what extent do I go about helping someone to come before Jesus? 
I am often easily discouraged in my desire to help someone come before Jesus. My pessimism will get the better part of me and I’ll assume that the person won’t want to come before Jesus. I’ve been so thankful to have many older people in my life committed to me and have been a tangible model for me to see what it is to bring me before Jesus. I am able to grow in this area of loving others by concretely bringing them before Jesus.

Luke 5:20-26 
What kind of authority does Jesus have?

His authority is amazing; he has the authority to do the impossible by physically healing people, but also pronouncing forgiveness from God of people’s sins.

What is more amazing to me: forgiveness of sins or healing of paralysis? 
Both are simply awesome! To witness something like an instant physical healing is amazing. It is full of shock and awe! But on a deeper level, I must say that what amazes me the most is forgiveness of sins. The act of true forgiveness, even the concept of forgiveness is amazing. For someone willing to say that they were wrong and for the other party to acknowledge that and pronounce forgiveness, for the sake and preservation of the friendship is so sweet. But for God to actually take on the burden of forgiving me of my sins is one of the greatest things that I have come to truly appreciate. As I get older, I find that a relationship can often grow colder simply because of sins and an unwillingness to forgive. Yet, God does this out of his commitment to love me despite being unlovable. That is truly amazing.

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