A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man, “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning. “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralysed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves. “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the ‘sinners’ and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
This passage focuses on his compassion toward those we normally avoid. In order for us to better understand this passage, it will help to look at leprosy in the historical context. Leviticus 13:45-46 states that a leper:
“Must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alive; he must live outside the camp.” (NIV)
The religious wisdom of Jesus’ day demanded that a holy man keep away from various social outcasts, the ‘sinners’ and the unclean. With this in mind, the reaction and opposition Jesus faces is not unexpected.
1. Compare the difference in the pace of this passage, with that of Mark 1:1-39. What do you think is the significance of this change of pace?
2. Jesus encounters lots of resistance, particularly from the Pharisees. What seem to be the main causes for their resistance?
3. Bear in mind our comments above about leprosy. What risks did the leper take in coming to Jesus? What risks did Jesus take in responding to him as he did?
4. How can we learn from the way the leper approached Jesus? Look in particular both at his humility and his confidence in Jesus’ power.
5. How does Jesus respond to the man’s total need? How does he respond to our total needs?
6. The paralytic’s friends provide a model of caring. What are some practical ways we can follow their example?
7. Jesus heals the paralytic. Why do you think he chose to do so in the way that he did? In what ways does it call attention to his authority?
8. What do Jesus’ words tell us about his priorities and his greatest concern about humanity? In what ways do we need to learn from Jesus’ priorities? (E.g. Do we realise how big a problem sin is in our own lives? Are there areas we need to change? Are we as concerned for our friends’ needs as Jesus was for the needs of the paralytic?)
9. Contrast the Pharisees’ attitude towards tax collectors and ‘sinners’ with Jesus’. What are the modern equivalents of these people? What is our attitude towards them? What practical steps can we take to be more like Jesus in our attitude towards today’s unreachable?
10. Jesus compares himself to a doctor, in answering the Pharisees’ complaints about his eating with tax collectors and ‘sinners.’ In what ways has he acted like a doctor, throughout the passage? How is sin like an illness, especially leprosy and paralysis?
11. Jesus says he came to call sinners. What change needs to take place for the Pharisees to answer his call? What about ourselves – Have we answered Jesus’ call? If not, how do we need to change? What about our friends? How can we help them to respond?
· Pray that God would enable us to see others as he does and to act towards them as he does, with great compassion and love.
· Pray that our friends would recognize who Jesus is and respond to his call.