Could Have Been But Weren’t

March 5, 2013 Web Steward

I had what I thought was an interesting thought from my reading of Luke chapter 5 this afternoon. Reading verse 17 from the New King James Version, the text says: “Now it happened on a certain day, as He [Jesus] 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.” My mind sort of snapped to attention and I reread the last part of the verse. “And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.” [Emphasis mine] Normal grammatical structure in English would say that the antecedent—the word that the pronoun “them” refers to—is the “Pharisees and teachers of the law.” But if you read the rest of the chapter, you’ll discover that not one of them was healed. Not one of them even asked to be healed.

Not wanting to base my interpretation of this verse on one translation alone, I checked several other translations and paraphrases. Typical of the others was this rendering from the New International Version: “And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick.” Well, that’s certainly true enough, but what did the original say? The Nestle Greek text doesn’t say who the Lord Jesus could heal that day. It just stops after, “the power of the Lord was in Him to heal (period).”

What the next verses tell us is who would be healed that day—the paralytic who was let down through the roof by four of his friends. He walked away healed that day.

While I don’t want to base my case that “them” refers to any specific group of men on the basis of an English translation alone, the fact that the Pharisees and teachers of the law could have been healed but weren’t is given some strength later on in chapter 5 when these self-righteous men grumbled about Jesus eating with “tax collectors and sinners.” (verse 30) “And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Those who are well do not need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.'” (verses 31-32) What the Pharisees and teachers of the law needed most was spiritual healing, but unwilling to see the sickness of their souls, they went away unhealed that day.

How many of us sit by (as these men did that day), seeing the power of God at work in other people’s lives, but never opening up ourselves to His work in our own lives. As I see it, quite a few. What do you think?