One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, and the power of the Lord was with him for healing. And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set (him) in his presence. But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle in front of Jesus. When he saw their faith, he said, "As for you, your sins are forgiven." Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?" … (Lk 5:17-26)
There might have been a great crowd of Pharisees and teachers of law because they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and also from Jerusalem. As Luke, the author, presents in this passage the crowd is overwhelming with the lay people besides the crowd of Pharisees and the teachers. Jesus looks at the faith of the people who brought the paralyzed man. The paralyzed man does not express anything not even his desire to be well again; he is just a passive receiver. The faith of the other persons and their prayers and their expression of piety can work miracles for the person for whom they pray for. Yes, the receiver of the miracle need not be a man of faith and need be a man of prayer as the case is in this passage.
The question raised by the Pharisees and the teachers of the law is authority to forgive sins. How could a human being forgive sins of the other which only God could do? Jesus has been teaching forgiveness among people and among disciples. He answered seven times seventy when Peter inquired him about the number of times one should forgive his brother. In the prayer that he taught his disciples which is also the model of all prayers the believer prays to God for forgiveness as he forgives his transgressors. Everyone is asked to forgive sins and it is in forgiving that he becomes Godly. Where there is total and complete forgiveness then there is the presence of God.
In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea (and) saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: "A voice of one crying out in the desert, 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'" John wore clothing made of camel's hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins…
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire… (Mt 3:1-12)
John the Baptist appeared in the desert and he was preaching. Desert was the place of God experience for the Jewish people. It was also the place where the people grew up into a nation of liberated people. It is in the desert their freedom began. (They had the freedom to worship golden calf though they were punished for that; they also had the freedom to grumble against Moses, while in Egypt, as slaves, they never raised their voice openly) So the location itself, where John the Baptist appeared, presents something Godly. The beginning of the kingdom of God is similar to the Exodus of the Old Testament. The journey of the kingdom of God, since it is beginning in the desert, shows that it is the new Exodus. The river Jordan was the entry point for the Old Exodus, so also now, it the entry point for the New Exodus.
The message is a message of hope, of forgiveness, of healing. Similar message was uttered by prophet Isaiah (chapter 40) for the people who were in exile. The God is coming back to take them back home. His coming is to rescue them from slavery, now from the slavery of sin. The God is coming to comfort them. This coming is the coming of the kingdom: God’s kingdom. People should get ready to welcome this arrival of the kingdom. No claim of ancestry (Abraham is our father etc) would help them in this moment. God is the God of creation. He could create man from the stones as he had done in the past: creating man from the dust. God is not just the God of Israel rather he is the God of creation and hence God of all and God for all.