One of the earliest names for God in the Bible is God Most High (Genesis 14:18-20). It’s such an awesome description. No matter what we can see or imagine…He’s higher, bigger, and stronger. By the time of the first century, the Hebrews had learned a lot. God had revealed his personal name to Moses; He had delivered them from slavery and given them His Law. Afterwards, they went through the Kingdom years and were currently dealing with Roman oppressors. On the surface, it appeared they still served the same God, but did they?
In Luke 5:17-26 the story is recorded of the paralytic being lowered through the house roof by his friends. With a pressing crowd and religious experts watching, Jesus did something unexpected; He forgave the crippled man of his sins and caused the scholars great distress. Why? It was because His action didn’t fit their well-defined, predictable template of God. They were thinking “only God can forgive sin” which is true; they just missed the fact that He was standing in front of them. Jesus went on to say, “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.” (v.24) Now consider their reaction in verse 26, “And they were all amazed and they glorified God and were filled with fear saying, ‘we have seen strange things today’”.
Now before you think I’m slamming the scholars, I must admit, I would have also struggled to reconcile the event with widely held beliefs of the time. So, what does it teach us about God and His ways? Well, in Isaiah 55:8-9 God says of Himself, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor My ways your ways. For as the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
In the Old Testament accounts prior to the first century, God didn’t fit the template of what was expected of a “god” either. The reason is simple…He’s not a “god”, He is God Most High. His ways of looking at things are unique and complete as was Jesus’ in the Gospels. He didn’t fit the template of a “messiah”, but He was and is the Messiah. His mission was unique and complete. He said and did unexpected things, not because He was a rebel, but on the contrary, He was the only one whose heart was not in rebellion.
Jesus not only healed physically, He healed completely as with the leper in verses 12-15. At the time, skin diseases were thought to be a physical manifestation of inner corruption. The leper asked Him if He was willing to cleanse him…not heal, but cleanse. Jesus answered “I am willing”. What incredible words to hear, “I am willing” and He even touched him while saying it.
What about us? Is He really God Most High to you? I’m often tempted to offer prayers lacking in Kingdom value and eternal-difference-making-power. Is God truly big to you or is He just slightly larger than a pressing personal problem? What image do you see when you pray? Do you see Him “high and lifted up” in awesome glory as Isaiah did? Or something less? If we’re not careful, our view of God can become very “Hallmark”, but His true nature as King of Glory is SO much higher, bigger, and stronger than that.
Our communities don’t need “Hallmark Christians” armed with clichés; they need bold believers who’ll speak truth in love while praying big. Jesus is still in the cleansing business and transformed lives are the result. I’m very thankful He’s graciously tolerated my small prayers, but now it’s time to pray bigger. How about you?
Series: Thoughts on Luke – Luke 5:1-26