1. A few days later Jesus returned to Capernaum, and, as was typical, the word got out that He was staying at someone's house.
2. And so when it became publicly known whose house it was, people started gathering there...so many, in fact, that there wasn't room for all of them, not even around the doors. So everyone just stood wherever they could, practically piling in on top of one another, while He was inside discussing the Word.
3. Then four men came to the location, carrying a paraplegic on a stretcher. They had picked the man up and brought him there with the intention of getting Him to Jesus.
4. But the crowd around the house was so thick and impenetrable that there was no way for even one of them to get through. So they climbed up on the roof and dug through it directly above Him. And when they had made a large enough opening, they let down the man's stretcher through it.
5. And when Jesus saw the boldness of their faith, the compassion that they had for their paralyzed friend, along with their undaunted determination and spontaneous ingenuity, He stopped what He was doing and immediately acknowledged them. But He said something quite unusual and unexpected to the paralyzed man...instead of speaking to his obvious physical condition, He said to him, "My son, all of your sins are completely forgiven and removed from you!"
6. Well, some of the local religious scholars happened to be there in the crowd, and when they heard these words, they started whispering among themselves, saying,
7. "Wait a minute...He can't talk that way! That's total blasphemy! God and only God has the power and authority to forgive sins!"
8. Jesus, of course, knew what they were thinking and saying...He had made this statement to evoke such a reaction from them...so He said, "Why do you have such a problem with this?
9. I mean, which is simpler...to say to the paraplegic, 'I forgive your sins,' or to say to him, 'Get up, take your stretcher, and start walking'?
10. I'll answer the question for you, and at the same time make it clear to you that the Son of Man is authorized, beyond the shadow of doubt, to do either, or both...and to reveal that the word of forgiveness and the word of healing are basically the same thing!" Then He focused on the paralyzed man, and said to him,
11. "Get up! Pick up your stretcher, carry it out of this house, and walk home!"
12. And instantly the man got up, grabbed his stretcher, and walked out as Jesus had commanded, with God and everyone there watching him. The religious scholars were speechless, but everybody else there was absolutely amazed. They started praising God, saying, "We have never in our lives seen anything like this!"
13. After this, Jesus went out beside the lake again, and a large crowd came to Him there, and He began to teach them.
14. When He finished, He took a walk, and as He strolled along He saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax collector's booth. People typically avoided the tax collector, if at all possible, going out of their way to walk as far as they could from his booth...but Jesus went right up to him with no hesitation, and said to him, "Follow me!" This bold action on Jesus' part was so unprecedented and surprising, that Levi just got up and followed Him.
15. That night Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, and many other tax collectors (who usually were never invited to dinner parties) were there, along with many other people who had the reputation of being sinners (and were seemingly always at a party)...all eating with Him and His disciples, enjoying lively conversation, and having a good time. At this point in Jesus' ministry there was quite a large, eclectic group that followed Him.
16. When the religious leaders, namely, the Pharisees, saw Him openly socializing with and befriending this strange mix of characters...all disreputable for different reasons...they asked His disciples: "Why does He unashamedly eat with tax collectors and sinners? Doesn't He know that He is being seen with all the wrong people?"
17. On hearing this, Jesus quickly shot back, "It's not the healthy ones who need a doctor, but those who need healing. You might as well know that I have not come to call the ones you call righteous, but rather the ones that you call sinners."
18. Now John's disciples, in contrast to those who were following Jesus, were intense and very serious, and they and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people who noticed the difference came and asked Jesus, "Why is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but Yours are not?"
19. Jesus calmly answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while He is celebrating with them? They can't do it as long as He, the Guest of Honor, is still at the party.
20. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then and only then will they fast.
21. Look...I'm giving you a whole new way to think about these things. No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, do they? No, because if they do, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear even worse.
22. And to further illustrate my point...you know that people do not pour new wine into old wineskins. That's because, if they do, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined and unusable. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins....new garments...new wineskins...new thoughts...new perspectives...that's what I'm talking about!
23. But old wineskins (old ways of thinking) aren't so easily done away with. Case in point, one particular Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and His disciples were walking along with Him. At a certain point they became hungry, and without giving it a thought, began to pick some heads of grain there in the field and started eating them.
24. The ubiquitous and ever-vigilant Pharisees were scandalized by this, and said to Him, "Look...look...Your men are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath! Why would they do such a thing?"
25. Jesus just looked at them for a minute and then said, "Gentlemen, have you never read what David did when he and his men were hungry and in need?
26. Go look it up...in the days of Abiathar the High Priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. Not only that...he also gave some to his companions to eat."
27. Then He said, "Don't you get it? The Sabbath was made for people...people weren't made for the Sabbath! You need to align your priorities with what is actually important to God!"
28. And if that bit of new wine was difficult for them to swallow, He made it even more challenging for their old wineskin-mindset by saying, "I can say this with all confidence because the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath!"