What does Luke 5:23 mean?
ESV: Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
NIV: Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?
NASB: Which is easier, to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?
CSB: Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?
NLT: Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’?
KJV: Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?
NKJV: Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’?
Verse Commentary:
A crowded teaching session in a house is interrupted when a paralyzed man descends from a hole in the ceiling. The men lowering their friend are attempting to get him through the crowd and in front of Jesus. Seeing the faith involved in such a bold display, Jesus forgives the man's sins. The scribes and Pharisees present are horrified and conclude that Jesus is committing blasphemy by claiming God's prerogative (Luke 5:17–22). Jesus knows their thoughts and challenges them in two ways.

First, Jesus notes how easy it is to say the words, "your sins are forgiven." Such a thing is spiritual, and there's no tangible evidence that would disprove it. But it's much harder to heal a man who is unable to walk. If Jesus can heal this man, that is strong evidence His words about forgiveness are also valid.

Second, Jesus pushes back against a cultural bias by showing its own wrong conclusions. In Jewish social and traditional culture, handicaps were thought to be the result of sin (John 9:1–3). If the man is healed, this tradition would affirm that he is freed from his sins—that the healing is a result of God's forgiveness of his sins.

These two concepts combine to send a powerful message to everyone, but especially to Jesus' critics. If Jesus has the power of God to heal, His claim to have the authority to declare forgiveness must also be valid. Miracles would validate His position as at least that of a prophet: God's mouthpiece. The scribes and Pharisees have silently reasoned (Mark 2:6–7) that Jesus has committed blasphemy because of His words. If they are intellectually honest, they must reason that the healing miracle disproves that initial judgment.
Verse Context:
Luke 5:17–26 records Jesus' second miracle after the first call of His disciples. He has already touched a man with leprosy (Luke 5:12–16). Now, He declares a paralytic's sins are forgiven. The scribes and Pharisees question Jesus' authority; even after Jesus heals the man, separation between His followers and His detractors continues to grow. Luke follows the pattern of connecting Jesus' provocative actions with His calls to His disciples until all twelve are chosen (Luke 5:27—6:16). The healing of the paralyzed man is also in Matthew 9:1–8 and Mark 2:1–12.
Chapter Summary:
Luke 5 continues Jesus' Galilean Ministry (Luke 4:14—9:50). The passage alternates calls to discipleship with miracles and teachings which demonstrate what discipleship entails. Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, and their business partners, James and John, to follow Him and make more disciples. Then Jesus makes a man with leprosy ceremonially clean. He forgives the sins of a paralytic. After He calls Levi to follow Him, Jesus celebrates instead of fasting. This draws critical questions from the crowd. The religious leaders consider Jesus' actions blasphemous. His message of forgiveness, faith, and repentance cannot be contained by their tradition.
Chapter Context:
Jesus has already proved He can expel demons, heal ailments, and reveal the kingdom of God (Luke 4:31–44). In this chapter, He begins to separate His followers from His detractors. This begins with calling the first five disciples and emphasizing faith and repentance over religious tradition. He will drive home the point by treating the Sabbath as a blessing rather than a burden (Luke 6:1–11). After formally inviting the Twelve to follow Him, Jesus will explain to a crowd what discipleship looks like and invite them to build their lives on Him (Luke 6:12–49). In chapter 7, Jesus champions Gentiles and the marginalized.
Book Summary:
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
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