"One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins..." He said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on, and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today." (Luke 5:17–26)
The story begins simply enough; it's a common theme in the Gospels, Jesus is speaking and people are listening. There is nothing out of place here until we see who was sitting in the house. We read that it is the Pharisees and the teachers of the law that have filled the house. That is what makes this uncommon. They have actually gathered to hear Jesus speak and have taken up all of the seats in the room. Now it's standing-room-only, and the place is packed. The Pharisees must have come from all over because they heard about the miraculous things that have happened around this man, Jesus, and now, as the "authorities on all things spiritual", they have come to investigate.
We know from the rest of the story that when Jesus tells the paralyzed man that his sins are forgiven, the Pharisees and teachers of the law that have come from all over to see the show begin to call Jesus blasphemous, but this is only the beginning. From here, the rift between them and Jesus continues to grow. In Luke 5:27-32 we see that they have followed Jesus to the house of tax collector Levi (Matthew) and proceed to question Jesus about the people that he hangs around. To the Pharisees and teachers of the law, the people that Jesus is sitting with are not exactly the kind of people that they would hang out with, so Jesus shouldn't either. Jesus takes the diplomatic road and instructs them that he did not come to sit with the well but to heal the sick. The gap between them and Jesus continues to grow in Luke 5:33-39 when they question the behavior of His disciples compared to the disciples of John. Jesus responds to their criticism by calling them "old wineskins that would bust if filled with new wine," - so much for diplomacy! He is telling them that they are too rigid; they cannot bend and flex with the grace that he is pouring out. Their "religion" has trapped them in a constrictive set of "do's and don'ts" and now Jesus is messing all that up for them. Needless to say, the Pharisees and Jesus are now definitely at odds, but it doesn't stop there. In Luke 6:1-10 we see the Pharisees attacking Jesus and His disciples again, accusing them of breaking the Sabbath after the disciples grab themselves a quick snack while passing through a grain field and Jesus heals a man with a withered hand. We see how this situation has escalated when we read Luke 6:11, where the Pharisees were "furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus."
The problem started when Jesus did something outside the Pharisee's perception of what could and could not be done. He challenged their perception of when and where God does and does not work. Jesus is changing the very culture of the "religious system" of that day. We can see Jesus' concern for people and the Pharisee's concern for the system. In their eyes, Jesus is not doing things "the way that we have always done them." This is the group that is taking up all of the room in the house. In a very real sense, "religion" is crowding people away from Jesus.
I think the Pharisee's problem has a discipleship solution. Discipleship is the journey to being more like Jesus and so our response when some else rips the roof off our house should be to make room and minister to their need like Jesus did. In a sense, the Pharisees so loved their programs that they lost sight of the people those programs were designed to minister to. We don't exist for our programs. Our programs exist for us to use to reach, teach, and keep people for the Lord. Discipleship can include programs. The programs aren't bad! However, discipleship always contains a relational element. To share life and be known. In the midst of our programs, people who are hurting by real-life issues, like the man lowered through the roof into Jesus' presence, will appear. We find the discipleship mandate to help in the Great Commandment. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:36-40 NKJV). The call is to love God and to love people. At best, the Pharisees could claim one-half of the equation. Disciples who are on the journey to be like Jesus can claim both.
Bishop Scott Hampton currently serves as the Conference Superintendent of the Great Plains Conference of the IPHC. He is also privileged to serve on the IPHC Council of Bishops, Discipleship Ministries Council ,and the Southwestern Christian University Board of Trustees. Scott, his wife Heather, and their children (Shanna, Karsyn, and Paxton along with granddaughter Kinsley) live in Amarillo, TX area.