2nd November, 2012
BRUCE C. WEARNE
Read Mark 2:3-12
PICTURE: © Tupungato/www.istockphoto.com
Having sins forgiven is more important than worrying about a roof. When Jesus said that, everyone was free, free also to have a good laugh. This Rabbi was not going ballistic over a busted ceiling, even if it was His family home. As far as He was concerned, it was OK!
Jesus was at home and the roof had just fallen in. A man was lowered in front of Him because he couldn't be brought through the front door. It was too crowded. Imagine it. What it would have been like. Maybe it was like this:
Jesus: And so (scratch, scratch, scratch) I am trying to tell you that in God's Kingdom nothing compares with... (the ceiling collapses...dust and bits of ceiling everywhere, people ducking for cover...they cough and splutter and return to their seats. The bits of roof are thrown outside and the man is hanging there from the roof, an extra person in the audience, all ready to listen)
Jesus: Now where was I...in God's Kingdom nothing, absolutely nothing, compares with having your sins forgiven (turns to the man hanging before Him who now looks very embarrassed) and that goes for you too young fellow - your sins are forgiven!
Having sins forgiven is more important than worrying about a roof. When Jesus said that, everyone was free, free also to have a good laugh. This Rabbi was not going ballistic over a busted ceiling, even if it was His family home. As far as He was concerned, it was OK! And He had, after all, grown up in a carpenter's shop. But that was just when the trouble started. Get people happy about God's Kingdom and a class-room becomes something like a party. The laughter, however, seems to force some to make trouble. They can't help it. Jesus was ready to respond. He saw the faith of the men who broke through the roof; He also saw the lack of faith of the religious fat controllers. What’s a bit of dust or a hole in the ceiling in comparison with sins forgiven?
Mark doesn't tell us how the roof was fixed, who paid for it, or if Jesus got out Joseph's old box of tools and did the repairs Himself. The religious guys were not worried about the roof. They were complaining - "He's forgiving people sins! How bad's that? People have to be reminded they are sinners? We don't forgive!"
These guys mumbled angrily to each other and wanted to leave. They couldn't stay and listen to this stuff! And certainly not in this house! That would make them complicit in such error, such blasphemy, such crime. Jesus had told the crowd they had nothing to fear from God's forgiveness. God's law is good. It is not there so some religious leaders can control our lives. But God's forgiveness is not about controlling people. It's about setting people free. Jesus turned things down side up: “The real miracle , my friends, is forgiveness of sins. You want proof that the miracle of forgiveness of sins has taken place? Here’s proof. Takeup your mat. Go home!”
By this healing, Jesus proclaimed the good news that God's promised fulfilment of Torah, comes to expression in the complexity of our sometimes broken lives, wrecked roof and all. With that assurance from the mouth of the Messiah, the paralytic got up, and he was a paralytic no more and he took up his mat and went home. The Bible picture book I love has this man, with his mat rolled up on his shoulder, walking past the religious fat controllers, with a huge smile, on his way, straight out the door. This guy, unlike the leper, "did what he was told". And it's almost like Jesus had said "And that's the end of the story. You, time to go to your home! The rest, everyone out, my mother needs quiet now. Who's going to help me with the roof?" The healed fellow would be jumping out of his skin to tell his grandma what had happened...it's a lovely story.
It reads as another eye-witness account, a precise chronicle of something visibly remembered from childhood experiences.
Now think about what it meant that Jesus declared "Your sins are forgiven!" What did this healing say to those who wanted to argue about the words Jesus used when He took command of the situation and healed that fellow? As the one responsible for that house, He maybe could have pardoned him, along with those carrying him since they had wrecked the roof of the dwelling. But to forgive this guy's sins - wasn't that simply going too far?
Too far? Wasn't the wrecked roof included in this fellow's sins that were now forgiven? Jesus answered the opposition with the action of One on whom the Spirit of the Lord brooded. "What is the house that you would build for me, and what is my resting place? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things are mine, says the Lord. But this is the one on whom I will look, to the humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at my word" (Isaiah 66:1-2).
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