Becoming Easter People
The story today is one of the most remarkable stories of hope in the Gospels. It may very well be one of my favorite passages. There is so much hope here among friends and in the community of faith that brings the opportunity for healing. There is so much hope that strips away our religious pride, haughtiness and indignation as a self-righteous people. Aren’t you glad that we have these stories that help us to humble ourselves before Jesus, and accept the miserable, wretched mess that we are? Praise God that we can receive the forgiveness of sin when we are really looking for something less condemning in our lives. We long to look to others for the purpose of our brokenness, when it often lives within ourselves. There’s just something about Jesus that moves us to get up and walk away from our sick bed to live again!
Our story begins with Jesus. All eyes are on Jesus from the disciples to the crowds to the sick and his friends to the local religious leaders. It is Peter’s home that is about to be disheveled, and his roof totally destroyed. I can only imagine how Peter would have been so indignant. Perhaps we can stretch this to be the first real Trustee crisis in the New Testament! Sometimes we get derailed with the initial problem of people coming to Jesus. We find ourselves frustrated with the turn of events that can be very messy and we can get our nose bent out of shape. Let’s review the text. Jesus has come home to Capernaum.
2.1-2 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.
Have you ever longed to be a part of something that didn’t seem possible? Jesus makes room for us! Jesus has a new hometown and it’s not Nazareth. It’s Capernaum. It is believed that Jesus is staying with Simon Peter right next to the local synagogue. Such a large number of people are with him that there isn’t room to move, even outside the door. And, he moves into his purpose statement: preach the word! The last time he was in town the whole town had gone out to him for healing by bringing him every kind of sickness, disease, and demon-possessed person in order that he might heal them. The ministry had gotten upside down, and now that he is back in his new hometown and he is making his purpose clear by preaching the word. Jesus brings us back to the main purpose (Mark 1.38-39)! Repent and believe the Son of God (Mark 1.14-15). And, we will soon discover in our story that repentance and belief in the Son of God produces much fruit: forgiveness of sin. Let’s read on.
2.3-4 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.
Have you ever experienced a situation that seemed impossible? The impossible becomes possible with Jesus. Friends make a difference in this man’s life! So often we allow our gaze to linger too long on our medical situation instead of hoping in God’s restoration. We may have found ourselves lying on our poor man’s mat wondering if anyone even cares that we are down and out. But the friends of this man did not fall into the self-pity trap of discouragement. They hoped for something more so much so that they were willing to become fools for the sake of someone else’s healing. Notice here that they didn’t pray at home and not respond. Instead they put their prayers into action!
The roof diggers are a big surprise! Who digs the roof off of a house? The story says some men had carried a paralyzed man on a mat, a poor man’s bed. There were so many people clamoring around to hear Jesus preach the word that there wasn’t any room for them to help this man get to Jesus, and they weren’t going to wait for a break in the preaching to find their way forward. There wasn’t an altar call! They climbed up the outside stairwell and made their way to the flat rooftop and began to dig through the hardened clay and thatch. They pushed through the branches and twigs until they tore open a hole in the roof just above where Jesus was and big enough to lower the man down into the crowd below. They have stuck their neck out for their friend in a mighty public display.
We have all stuck our neck out for our friends in hopes that they would come to know Jesus. We’ve invited them to church in hopes they would find Jesus. Perhaps just the suggestion isn’t enough. Perhaps we have to be like these men who took the next steps to put their prayers into action. We have all offered hospitality like Simon Peter, then found our home trashed by visitors. It’s easy to get caught up in frustration when you offer hospitality that pushes you beyond your comfort zone. Simon Peter was sinned against, but he had to deal with the fact that Jesus was not disturbed by the fact that he was going to have to make repairs to a leaky roof. These four friends had destroyed his property – intentionally. Peter is going to have to do some forgiving for this act of mercy. What was a merciful act for the friends became a Trustee’s nightmare. What comes next in the text might surprise you!
2.5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Have you ever felt an unwillingness to forgive, unforgiven or unforgiveable? The unforgiveable becomes forgiven in Jesus. The paralyzed man is forgiven! The paralyzed man has been dramatically carried, dropped through the roof, and is now before Jesus. When the paralyzed man meets Jesus, I can only imagine what this encounter was like… Did he close his eyes and grit his teeth with stage fright? Did he desire to be healed or was it thrust upon him? Did he request the forgiveness of his sins or was he confused by the kind of healing he received? Was he embarrassed that his friends made such a fuss over him? So many questions!
In his most vulnerable state Jesus declares not his physical healing but the forgiveness of his sins. I can only imagine how he must have felt when the whole crowd heard this declaration. How deeply touched he would have been to have his sins removed from his inmost being. He had a heart healing. This was not simply a token word, but a deep felt need that was met. Surely each of us have been bound to our beds with illness from time to time, and we have prayed to be healed. But healing does not often come instantaneous like this paralyzed man in our story. What we don’t want to forget is that this man suffered from paralysis for some time before he was healed. Sometimes healing takes time, but it often begins with the profound act of the forgiveness of our sins. Because of their tenacious pursuit to get their friend to Jesus, they found what their hearts desired – their friend’s healing.
Jesus witnessed the faith of the friends and the paralyzed man then was moved to respond. These folks so desperately needed to find healing that they ripped the roof off of a home to lower their friend to Jesus. These folks were tenacious. They gave their friend every opportunity to find his healing. And, the answer they received went to the very core of the problem: sin. It was Jesus who saw the heart of the issue and addressed.
No one had spoken a word to Jesus about the man’s condition. Jesus was simply moved to a compassionate response. Jesus was moved to express deep love for this man. Jesus was touching the heart of the injured man and offering the perfect cure. It is at the point of the cure for sin that Jesus’ authority is challenged by the religious leaders. Jesus is the cure, and the religious leaders are jealous. They are struggling with change as they are about to lose their jobs. Jesus takes away their job security. It’s like a corporate buy out, a hostile takeover.
This cure for sin was not how they understood forgiveness. How could this Jesus exact a cure for sin apart from the traditions of the religious leaders? There was a sacrifice that needed to be made to atone for the person’s sins. There was a ritual and a process. But now Jesus is saying that he has the authority to forgive sins. Well, that was just blasphemy to the religious leaders. They believed Jesus was insulting the One True God. But to drive his point home, Jesus teaches that he has the authority to forgive sins and he further demonstrates his authority by inviting the man to get up, take up his poor man’s bed, and walk on home. This same story is found in both Matthew 9.6 and Luke 5.24 and emphasizes the fact that Jesus has authority to forgive sins. And, the conflict heightens as Jesus declares forgiveness of sins which is considered something only God can do! Jesus is taking away their job security, and the familiarity of the way they have always lived as a people. Jesus is introducing something new that is really very old.
2.6-8 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things?
Have you ever experienced judgment from others? Jesus silences the voice of the critics in our lives! The teachers of the law are muttering in their hearts. We have seen the muttering leaders who questioned someone else’s actions in the church perhaps even their forgiveness and unconditional love toward someone that seemed undeserving. Sometimes it’s hard to love unconditionally, and to forgive freely as Christ has forgiven us. When we look across the Gospels, we read that we are to forgive unconditionally like Jesus did. Our choice to forgive others provides the opportunity for God the Father to forgive us (Matt. 6.14 and John 20.23). When we choose to release others from their sinful debt, then we have healing in our own hearts toward God, self, and neighbor. The story we heard today highlights the religious legal experts or scribes who were muttering under their breaths (blasphemy). They muttered that Jesus was “insulting God” in the way that he taught and demonstrated forgiveness of sins. Ultimately, they did not submit to Jesus’ authority to forgive sins. The lack of submitting to Jesus’ authority would soon create enough tension in their relationship that they would find a way to have him crucified under the Rome leader Pontus Pilot. But in the text, Jesus is holding his ground. Let’s read on.
2.9-11 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
Have you ever wanted to tell Jesus just how you expected him to fix someone’s issues? Jesus chooses his own answers to our requests! Jesus doesn’t submit to triangulation. When multiple parties are involved in the acts of healing, Jesus goes to the source of the situation. He cuts out the middle person. The conversation becomes between the person and Jesus.
Jesus becomes the man of the hour, and amid the distractions his attention remains on the paralyzed man. The healing process is between Jesus and the man. Jesus doesn’t ask his friends what they wanted, and he doesn’t consult the religious leaders about their opinions. Jesus doesn’t take a poll from the crowd as to whether the man deserved being healed or even why he was sick to begin with. Jesus simply extends grace and mercy to someone who would not otherwise have had a chance at living a full life. No questions asked. His healing is between him and Jesus. The cure was instantaneous just like Peter’s mother-in-law who had been sick in bed with a fever then Jesus helped her up, the fever left her, and she waited on them.
2.12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
The crowd is amazed! Across Mark’s Gospel the people are constantly amazed with Jesus. We have seen the crowd who has stood by and watched as others have made their way to Jesus and found their healing. Sometimes it seems like others have cut in line ahead of us when we really thought they were behind us. We watch in awe and amazement as lives have been lived out transformed before us. Yet, in the back of our minds do we still wonder what that was all about. Did they really have an encounter with Jesus?
And, as the man walked home that day we see the crowd of people were afraid, amazed, and praised God. But the crowd beyond the walls of the home did not hear or see the whole story. They simple saw a man and his friends cutting in line to get up on top of a house. They watched the men dig a hole in someone else’s roof, probably thanking God it wasn’t their home being destroyed. Then the mat disappeared inside the home. I can only imagine how the next thing they saw are men jumping up and down on a roof they had just demolished, and the paralyzed man on the mat is now walking out into the crowd with his mat in hand – going home completely whole. What a bizarre set of circumstances to witness.
Perhaps the key ingredient in this text are the acts of hope. Simon Peter opened his home to Jesus and the crowds, expectantly. The friends bring the paralyzed man to Jesus desiring for him to have complete healing. When they couldn’t get him to Jesus easily, they took the initiative to do whatever it took to make sure their friend got to Jesus – even ripping a roof off a home. Their hope was in the Son of Man. Hope was stirred as the paralyzed man submitted and trusted his friends to get him to Jesus. Because of the hospitality of Simon Peter and the friends, Jesus has the opportunity to encounter an injured soul with the hope of the Good News. But let’s not forget that Jesus has made himself available to all people as the hope of the world. There’s a lot of hope being shared among these folks, but there are some folks there that did not have hope in Jesus. They were the leaders of the old guard that was being reordered to align with Jesus’ new way. They were not impressed by the exchange of hope but muttered amongst themselves. They could not see the hope of Eternal Life seated right in front of them. Together we must guard our hearts not to be like those who have no hope! We want to hope even when we do not understand the circumstances or the answers.
Can you find yourself in the story? I can only imagine that each one of us have been all of these folks at some point in our lives. We have been Peter whose house has been wrecked by extending hospitality. We have been the friends who are doing everything they can to get their friend to Jesus. We have muttered in our hearts and thought ill of others. We have been lived like we have no hope. We have been amazed when someone actually received a healing of their heart or a physical ailment. We have been the paralyzed person whose life was turned around by some life altering event. And, we have been radically healed by Jesus with the forgiveness of our sins. Our passage today leads us to Eternal Hope in Jesus Christ. He is the Good News! He forgives all our sins, even when we don’t know we need to be forgiven!
O God, we are hopeless without out you! Today we come humbly before your throne of grace to receive the mercy we need and the forgiveness of our sins – whether we know we need it or not. Expose our hearts to your grace and mercy that in the places we are harboring sin, set us free to live in the hope of Eternal Life. Amen.