This “obnoxious” “offensive” Jesus, the man you love to hate, is the Messiah.
I wish I had been there as a fly on the wall at the time of Jesus. You had to be there to understand the excitement; the pandemonium Jesus caused among the pastors, bishops and popes of the day. You can cause no greater excitement than by doing the impossible. That is precisely what Jesus did.
He set the ball rolling by healing a leper. Then he sent the healed man to the religious establishment: “He charged him to tell no one, ‘But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded.’ However, the report went around concerning him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. So he himself often withdrew into the wilderness.” (Luke 5:14-16).
Asking for trouble
Our Jesus was asking for trouble. Every leper in Israel had a certificate of leprosy. Leviticus 13 establishes how to diagnose leprosy. When the leprosy is confirmed, the leper is issued a certificate which effectively ostracises him from the rest of society. Leviticus 14 then establishes how to validate officially the healing of leprosy. After the healing is certified, the healed leper is required to make some sacrifices of thanksgiving.
No Jew had ever been healed of leprosy in Israel, so Leviticus 14 had never ever been put into effect before. Elisha healed Naaman of leprosy; but Naaman was a gentile from Syria and not a Jew. As far as the Pharisees were concerned, should a man with a certificate of leprosy ever show up at the priesthood without any trace of leprosy, it can only mean one thing: the Messiah has arrived. Imagine then their surprise and consternation when they discovered that the man who healed the leper was their arch-enemy and critic: Jesus of Nazareth.
As a result, Jesus’ ministry was immediately inundated by the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. They came in droves from every town in Galilee to see this man who has the power to heal a leper: “Now it happened on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.” (Luke 5:17).
Raising the stakes
Just think about this; you come to church one Sunday to discover that all the seats have been taken by unbelievers; so you had to stand outside. This is what happened in Jesus’ ministry as a result of his healing a leper. It became standing-room only. Therefore, when they brought a paralytic to him, there was no way for them to get to him. They had to resort to the extreme action of removing the roof in order to let the sick man down with a rope.
With all the Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, Jesus created even more problems by saying to the paralytic: “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” (Luke 5:20). The scribes and the Pharisees were livid thinking: “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:21). The answer was obvious but they did not want to admit it. This man who forgives sins is the same man who healed a leper. Therefore, this “obnoxious” “offensive” Jesus, the man you love to hate, is the Messiah.
As I said, I wish I had been there. You had to be there. Nevertheless, Luke managed to capture the moment vividly in the scriptures. Jesus would not let up. He read their thoughts and asked them provokingly: “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’?” (Luke 5:22-23).
Even me: I can answer that one. It is far easier to tell a paralytic your sins are forgiven than to tell him “rise up and walk.” If you tell him his sins are forgiven, nobody can tell if they are forgiven or not. But if you tell him to rise up and walk everyone can tell if you are fibbing. If the man does not rise up and walk, they will know your words are worthless.
Boy, I really wish I had been there. Jesus then turned to the paralytic and said; “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins, I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” (Luke 5:24). In short, Jesus decided to do the more difficult task. Luke says of the paralyric: “Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen strange things today!” (Luke 5:25-26).
I think you can now begin to understand my insistence that everybody must have known Jesus is the Messiah. Before they could recover from the shock that Jesus healed a leper, he forgave a man his sins. Before they could recover from the audacity of a man forgiving the sins of a stranger, Jesus validated his authority to do so by healing the man instantaneously of his paralysis. While they were still reeling from all this; Jesus raised the stakes yet again.
Before they could decide what to do about the fact that the Messiah who healed a man of leprosy was this ragamuffin called Jesus, Jesus proceeded to heal ten men of leprosy in one go; all in one day: “Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.” (Luke 17:11-14).
Don’t miss the implications of all this and the complications Jesus was bringing to the Jewish religious establishment. No leper had ever been healed in Israel before Jesus broke the mould by healing a leper. Now in one day, he healed ten. They had just finished conducting investigations about the one healed leper, now they are confronted with ten, and all from the same source: Jesus of Nazareth.
What are they going to do about this? The house of the Pharisees was divided and therefore could not stand (Matthew 12:25). Some reached the obvious conclusion. Jesus is the Messiah. Others found the truth too inconvenient. Jesus is the wrong Messiah.
Among the ranks of those who already admitted defeat was Nicodemus. Although he would not yet openly identify with Jesus, he came to see him by night to avoid detection. He said to him: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” (John 3:2).
But “Nicky,” Jesus is not just a teacher; Jesus is the Messiah.
To be Continued…
Femi Aribisala is the fellowship coordinator of Healing Wings. Healing Wings is a pentecostal Christian fellowship which meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He blogs at Femi Aribisala . E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org