“The Answer To The Biggest Problem You Have” (Luke 5:17-26)

What if I told you this morning that I know the answer to the biggest problem you have? Some problem just jumped to the front of your mind, didn’t it? “You have the answer to THAT?!” If you’re like me (and I hope you’re not, but …) then you often have one “biggest problem” right at the front of your mind.  

What is that to you? What would you say is the biggest problem you have right now?  I don’t think most of us would have any difficulty listing something. Maybe it is a health issue that has suddenly popped up, a relationship that’s giving you trouble; or a financial burden; or a problem at work; but I bet you could identify something right now as the biggest problem you have. 

The thing is, our passage today shows us that your biggest problem may not really be what you think it is. It wasn’t for the people in Luke 5 — and it may not be for you either. The good news is: God has given us the answer to the biggest problem we really have. Let’s look at what these verses teach us about our biggest problem, and the answer that God has given us:

I. The biggest problem you have is your own SIN.

:20 “Friend, your SINS are forgiven you.”

To me, this episode of Jesus and the paralyzed man is one of the most important, and most revealing passages in all of the word of God.  Verse 17 says Jesus was teaching, and all these people were around, and the power of God was there for Him to heal. And :18 says some men were carrying on a stretcher “a man who was paralyzed.” 

That’s an extreme condition, isn’ it? This man wasn’t like some, who could bring themselves to Jesus. He couldn’t walk over to the side of the road and wait for Jesus, like the blind men; he couldn’t run alongside the road shouting out, “Lord have mercy on us,” like the lepers did. This man was “paralyzed”; he couldn’t move his arms or his legs. Anyone who saw this man, for ONE SECOND, would tell you that his biggest problem was. Well, he’s paralyzed, right? Isn’t it obvious? No question what HIS biggest problem is, most people would say.

But that’s what is SO amazing about this passage. Just about any of us who looked at this man would say immediately say that the biggest problem this man had was his paralysis. But not Jesus. When this man’s friends brought him to Jesus; and the crowd was so great around the house that they couldn’t get in, they took the tiles off the roof and lowered him down, right before Jesus on his stretcher. And Jesus takes one look at him, and He immediately addresses this man’s most important problem. Jesus says to him: “Friend, your SINS are forgiven you.” 

To all those people who were watching that day, that must have been a huge “Wow! We didn’t expect that!” Here’s this guy, totally paralyzed, can’t even bring himself to Jesus, somehow his friends get him to Jesus, and Jesus says to him, “Your SINS are forgiven you”? In light of his physical condition, WHY would Jesus say that? There is only one reason: Because Jesus knew that this man’s SIN was the most important problem he had. 

If you don’t understand that, then you probably don’t understand YOUR biggest problem, either. See, the biggest problem that any of us has is not physical. The biggest problem any of us has is not financial. Even if you are totally bankrupt financially, or totally paralyzed physically like this man, your biggest problem is still not physical or material; it is spiritual. 

Because God made you to “run on Him,” like a car runs on gasoline, C.S. Lewis said (on His glory, like we saw in II Thessalonians in our Sunday School lesson this morning.) But we all turned away from God to sin. Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And our sin has messed up everything else in our lives:

— Our sin separated us from God, whom we were made to “run” on; so nothing in our lives runs right

— Sin has corrupted our hearts, so that instead of loving people, and being patient towards them and kind to them, we are selfish and self-centered and impatient towards them instead.

— But far worse even than that: because sin separates us from God, if we die in our sins, we will spend eternity in hell separated from God and from His glory forever. Nothing else bad in life compares with that. No other problem you have even begins to compare with the fact that your sin has ruined your life, separated you from God and is sending you to hell. It is the biggest problem you have. 

A few years ago, a Southwest Airlines flight was headed from New York to Dallas, when an engine exploded, the flying parts broke a window, and nearly sucked one passenger out, killing her, and sending the entire plane to a crash landing. One of the passengers said that while all that was happening, she and her husband just held hands, and she said “we were praying, praying, praying” the whole time the plane was attempting to land.    Nothing else was more important in their lives right then, was it? I guarantee you, they were NOT sitting there going: “I’m afraid I’m never gonna lose those last 10 pounds”; they were NOT thinking, “How can I balance my checkbook?”; they were NOT worried about whether they needed to paint their house, or what their grade point was — there was something so much bigger; so much more threatening — they were about to lose their LIVES! Nothing else compared to that biggest problem! 

And that is exactly what Jesus is showing us here. Our biggest problem is not any of these little things we often think about it being: our biggest problem is not our bills or our relationships or even our health. Our biggest problem is that our sin has separated us from God, messed up our lives, and is sending us to hell; NOTHING else compares to that. Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” He’s saying, you’ve got to realize what your biggest problem is. He said yeah, there are people who do some bad things to you; but that is not the worst thing that can happen to you. Death will be over in an instant. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to you. The worst thing that can happen to you is that you might be in hell forever. 

See, all the physical, financial, and social problems we have here on earth are just temporary. They will soon be over, one way or the other. But Heaven or hell is forever; it’s for eternity. No earthly problem we have even  compares with that. So much of the New Testament is spent trying to teach us this:

— Jesus showed us in Luke 16 that it’s better to be a poor man, covered with sores, and starving, for a few years here on earth, than to be a rich man here on earth, and spend eternity in hell, longing for just a drop of water on your tongue.

— Jesus said in Matthew 5 that it would be better to lose an arm or an eye here on earth, and go to heaven, than to have an arm and a leg here on earth, and go to hell.

— Jesus told another sick man whom He healed in John 5, “Behold, you have become well, do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you” — because Jesus knew that the worst thing that could happen to that man was NOT that he might get sick again but that his sins might send him to hell! Nothing else compares with that. 

Your sin is THE biggest problem you have. And until you deal with that, you don’t really HAVE any other problems — at least none that compares with this. Nothing else really matters, until you know for sure that you have an answer to your greatest problem, and that your sins are forgiven. You’re up at night worrying about whether you can pay the electric bill? I’m sorry, but that ought to be a few items down the list. Your sin is ruining your relationship with God, ruining your relationships with other people, and sending you to hell. Nothing else you’ve got going on compares to that! 

And this is true even for those of us who are Christians, and know that we are going to heaven. Our sin is STILL the biggest problem we face every day, much more important than anything else we have to deal with. 

Listen: I am not downplaying the importance of our physical bodies. We have to live in these bodies, and we should pay some attention to them, and take care of them. We are poor stewards of what God has given to us if we don’t. We should try to take care of our bodies with proper eating and exercise. I’ve recently cut out coffee and my favorite caramel creamer, to try to help my physical body. I’m upping my walking every day. I’d love to still be pastoring this church when I am 70 years old if God wills. I hope to still be preaching when I’m 90. And I need to keep my body in good shape to do that. So my physical body is important.

But at the same time, my physical body is NOT the most important thing. That’s why I spend much more time on my spiritual disciplines than I do on my physical disciplines — because the biggest problem I have is NOT that I’m 20 pounds overweight or that my cholesterol is too high — the biggest problem I have is my own selfishness; the biggest problem I have is my own lack of trust in God; the biggest problem I have is MY OWN SIN that I have to battle with every day. 

We talked about this last week, in the message on “The World, The Flesh, and the Devil.” One of our biggest problems isn’t the world, or the devil, but our own FLESH. My own sin is my biggest problem, and it is yours too:

— Your biggest problem is not your husband or wife. It is YOU.

— Your biggest problem is not that picky boss or that uppity co-worker. Your biggest problem is YOUR selfishness; YOUR lack of patience; YOUR lack of love; your own sin.

— Your biggest problem is not your weight; it’s not your sickness; it’s not your bills; it’s your sin. And you will never get things right in your life until you own up to that, and recognize that the biggest problem in your life is your own sin.

II. The answer to your biggest problem is JESUS. 

So the biggest problem we have is our own sin. So what can we do about it? This passage shows us: JESUS is the answer to our biggest problem. 

When they brought this paralyzed man to Jesus, Jesus looked at him, and He saw that the biggest problem in his life was his sin, and so He instantly said to him, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” Jesus gave him the one thing he needed more than anything else; even more than he needed physical healing. He gave him forgiveness for his sin. Because He knew that was the biggest problem that man had.

In fact, when Jesus DID go on to heal the man of his paralysis, He made a point to say in :24 that the reason He did it was NOT because his physical problem was so important, but it was “SO THAT you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive SINS.” That’s an important statement. Jesus was saying, this man’s physical condition, as bad as it is, was NOT his most important need. His spiritual condition was. And He said the reason I am healing this man physically right now, is to SHOW you that I DO have the power to do the most important thing, which is to heal you of your sin spiritually, which is by far the most important thing.

But notice here: what was the answer for this man’s greatest need? It was Jesus. Jesus was the answer to his problem. What did this man do to save himself here? He did NOTHING, did he? He couldn’t do anything. He couldn’t even bring himself to Jesus; his friends had to bring him there on a stretcher. (By the way, I think that man’s friends are a good picture for us of what we need to do with our lost loved ones: bring them to Jesus. Bring them to church where they’ll meet Him; bring him to Sunday School with you; bring them to Him with your personal witness; bring them to Him every day through your intercessory prayers. Bring them to Jesus!) 

But I think one of the reasons God put this story in the Bible was to be a picture to us of our own inward spiritual condition before the Lord. Spiritually speaking, we are all just like that paralyzed man. Sin has made us “spiritually paralyzed” before God. Ephesians 2:1 says: “And you were DEAD in your trespasses and sins.” What can a “dead” man do to save himself? Nothing!  And we can’t do anything to save ourselves either.

It’s all JESUS and what He does to save us. That’s what God is showing us all through His word. It’s about looking to Jesus alone to save us. 

As we read through the Bible together, we’re coming across some pretty interesting passages, right? Some of them are pretty puzzling. For example, the other day we came across what seemed like a really odd one in Numbers 21. The people of Israel were complaining against God and Moses (again) and :6 says the LORD sent fiery serpents that bit the people, and they died. So the people came to Moses and repented and said, we’ve sinned; intercede with God that He may take away these serpents. So Moses did pray to God for them. And God told him to do the oddest thing: He said, make a bronze replica of one of those serpents, and put it up on a wooden pole, and whoever is bitten by one of those poisonous snakes, if they LOOK at the serpent on the pole, they will live. So the Bible says Moses made a bronze replica of a serpent, and put it up on a pole, “and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.” End of story.   OK! Well, that’s not something you come across every day. Bronze serpent, put it on a pole, it’ll save you? Well, that’s the Old Testament for ya! Let’s go on to Proverbs and Luke, right?!

That story sounds so odd — UNTIL you come to the New Testament. In John 3 Nicodemus comes to Jesus and he wants to have eternal life, and Jesus says you must be born again, Nicodemus. And He said, here’s how it happens, and He quotes Numbers 21: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15) 

Now all the sudden this “crazy story” in Numbers makes sense, doesn’t it? We’ve talked before about how God in the Old Testament was giving us the “ABC’s” to help us understand salvation when it came. This is one of those places. God was showing us in that story in Numbers 21 that we’ve all been “bitten” by the biggest problem we have — our sin — and there is no cure we can make for ourselves. And the answer is just to LOOK, by faith, at the salvation that HE raised up in the air for us to see. What is that salvation: Jesus on wooden “pole” — Jesus on the cross!  

And what did the Israelites have to “do” to get cured from those serpents?
They didn’t really “do” anything, did they? They didn’t have to offer any sacrifices, or bring any money, or do any good deeds — all they had to do was believe enough to LOOK at what God raised up on the pole. Whoever believed enough to look, and trust that it would save them, was cured.

And Jesus told Nicodemus: that’s how you are saved today, too.  “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.”

What do you have to do to be saved? Get baptized? No. Give money? No? Do some great deed? No. “Whoever believes.”  Just like the serpent was lifted up, so JESUS was lifted up on the cross, and whoever looks to HIM, believing He will save them, will be saved. No works, no deeds, no NOTHING on your part. JESUS saves, and Jesus alone.

George Whitefield was preaching in Scotland in the 1740’s, and a woman there was troubled about her soul, and whether she was going to heaven. She said while Whitefield was preaching, it was suddenly as if she could somehow “see” Jesus hanging on the cross, suffering there for her sins. And she realized that her sins had been PAID for, totally, by Jesus on the cross. She didn’t have to do anything else. It was finished. It was done. She was saved by looking to Jesus, and Jesus alone. 

As a young man, Charles Spurgeon was burdened with his sin, and he went from church to church, listening to all the “great preachers” in his area and trying to find how he could be forgiven and go to heaven. He said one pastor preached Calvinism, another preached Methodism, one preached this and one preached that. Finally one winter’s day the church he planned to attend was closed because of a snowstorm, so he ducked into a little Primitive Methodist chapel, where he said a shoemaker was preaching because the minister got snowed out. Spurgeon said “This man was really stupid.” He couldn’t even pronounce all the words right! His text was Isaiah 45:22, “Look to Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth!”  “The preacher began thus: “This is a very simple text indeed. It says ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pain. It aint liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look. … “Jesus Christ says, ‘Look unto Me’ “Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me, I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again.” Spurgeon said this man preached about ten minutes and that’s all he had. But he said when this pathetic preacher had finished preaching, he looked right at him and said, “Young man, you look very miserable. … Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but look and live!”  Spurgeon said at all once he understood: he had been waiting to “DO” 50 things, but now he saw it wasn’t what he had to “DO”, but just “LOOK!”  “Look to Jesus”!  He said, suddenly “then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away” HOW did that happen? It was nothing HE did; just “Look to Jesus”!  

I think that’s about as simple as we can put it. If you want the answer to your biggest problem; if you want to know that your sins are forgiven and that you are going to heaven, just “Look to Jesus!” HE is the answer to your sin problem. HE did it all. John 19:30 tells us that when Jesus died on the cross, He cried out “it is finished;” a business term that means “PAID IN FULL.” If a businessman tells you that your account with him is “paid in full,” how much do you have left to pay? NOTHING!

This is how it is with you and God. Jesus has totally paid in full for your salvation. You don’t have to pay any of it.

— It’s not Jesus plus your money

— It’s not Jesus plus your good works

— It’s not Jesus plus your baptism

— It’s not Jesus plus anything; 

Jesus Himself alone is the total answer to your biggest problem. LOOK TO HIM! Just like Israel in the wilderness, just like the paralyzed man, there  is nothing else you need to do or CAN even do. Just LOOK TO JESUS! Trust what HE did on the cross and know that saves you. And if someone ever asks you how you’ll deserve to be in heaven, just say “I DON’T deserve it — but JESUS died on the cross for me.” Jesus is the answer to your greatest problem.  

If right now you are realizing, like Charles Spurgeon, that you don’t have to do 50 things to be saved; and if right now you are looking to Jesus to save you — then right now, you are being saved! Trust that; have peace with it! Look to Jesus and be saved!

But this speaks not only to US; it speaks to a lot of people we know as well. Jesus is not only the answer to YOUR greatest problem; we need to remember that He is also the answer to the greatest problem of every person you know. We need to remember that the greatest need of all the people we encounter in life is NOT what often appears to be their greatest need. The biggest need they have is to look to Jesus to forgive their sins. 

This is one of the dangers we face when we go on mission to places like Mexico, or Bulgaria — or even here in Brazoria County. Because we’re accustomed to the riches of America we’re often taken aback by the material poverty in some of these places, and we say things like: “Oh, it is so bad in India; the people there are living in cardboard huts along the river”; or “this gypsy family in Bulgaria all lives in one room,” and so on. But we mustn’t  lose focus that the biggest problem these people have is not that they don’t have a car, or an “American dream home.” We are all going to lose all of these things one day. This passage reminds us that the single biggest need anybody has, is their SIN, and the most important thing they need, is to look to Jesus. And we need to point them to Him! Any other problem they have, is just temporary. Does that mean we never help anyone with physical or financial problems? NO. But we’re doing it for the same reason Jesus healed the man here in Luke 5: to show people the most important thing we have to share with them: the forgiveness of their sins.  

That’s the most important thing. Everything else here on earth is just temporary. One day that nice home will burn up. One day that car will be a rusty heap. One day, no matter how much you diet and exercise, you WILL lose your health. All these things are only temporary. But the forgiveness and glory in heaven tht Jesus gives us can never be taken away. 

In fact not long ago the Lord reminded me, that as a Christian, all the problems I have, are only temporary; but the blessings I have — especially my greatest blessings — are eternal! That really puts things into perspective. And that’s true for you too: If you are a Christian, your problems are only temporary, but your blessings are eternal!

But once again, that phrase: “IF you are a Christian” is the key; all that is ONLY true if you have really looked to Jesus as the answer to the biggest problem of your life.


Many of you know the story of Joni Eareckson Tada, who broke her neck in a diving accident 50 years ago and became a quadriplegic. She has been confined to a wheelchair ever since. Many charismatic Christians have criticized her “lack of faith” as the reason why she hasn’t been healed, but Joni has consistently testified that she is grateful to God because He has healed her of the greatest problem of her life: her sin. In fact, some time ago, someone came up to Joni, and said, I bet when you get to heaven, you will be so happy to be out of that wheelchair! And Joni said, yes, I will be happy to be out of that chair, but she said, the thing I am really looking forward to, is that my HEART will be totally free of SIN!  

Joni Eareckson Tada is an amazing person, and her perspective is exactly right. She knows that the biggest problem she has, is NOT that she is a quadriplegic; she knows that the biggest problem she has is NOT that she is in a wheelchair, or any other physical problem. She knows that the biggest problem she has, is her own sinful heart — and thankfully she also knows that the answer to her sinful heart is Jesus, who paid for her salvation, so that one day she will be totally free from sin.  

God is showing us in this passage today, that we think so much about the physical and material things of this world — but this whole world is going to burn up, with everything in it. And the only thing that will really matter, is whether you, and the people you care about, have ever taken care of “The Biggest Problem You Have” by looking to Jesus.  

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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