2nd July, 2012
BRUCE C. WEARNE
Read Mark 10:13-16
PICTURE: Sanja Gjenero/sxc.hu
"Mark tells us that people mattered to Jesus more than things. It was most important to have your sins forgiven ...They knew His basic message. But when He showed concern for this guy everyone took a deep breath, had a good laugh and were relieved that Jesus, the older brother in that family, had said not to worry because it was OK."
Imagine it. Mark is visiting your house, talking to you and a group of your friends. The children play with Thomas the Tank Engine on the floor. There is this buzz. Mark tells the adults about Jesus and has them spellbound. But in the background there is this whispering - it is the children as they pass on secret messages to each other - "Has he got to the story bits yet? He always has a story bit and it's so good. He's started? Really? Quiet! Don't make a noise just sit and listen...Callum hold Duck - leave the Fat Controller there! Shoosh!"
"Well, try to imagine it. There were these pieces of plaster lying there all over the place and the palm branches that had been the base were hanging down and people had ducked for cover and Jesus is standing there and this guy, this crippled guy with Friedrich's Ataxia, he's just hanging there in mid-air in front of him.
"Well, what else can you say in a situation like that? The law doesn't exactly give us explicit directions for what we are to say when a paralysed guy drops through a broken ceiling. So what are you going to say in that situation? Well, of course, Jesus knew what He was going to say and He said it: 'Your sins are forgiven' and there was all this dust and people were coughing and when He said that everyone went dead quiet.
"What was He trying to say? That this man had to share the blame for a broken roof? Not really, but, yes, His friends did have the responsibility to stick around and help the people who lived there get their roof fixed. Jesus turned to this guy and forgave him his sins. Even though he was a Friedrich's Ataxia sufferer this guy needed the encouragement of knowing that God accepted him, too. Jesus accepted Him.
"But it was not just the roof that had fallen in. You know the local scribes in that town; well when Jesus said that they were just gobsmacked. Completely stunned. Imagine it. They thought they knew what it meant. 'Blasphemy!' That's what they thought but they didn't dare say it. Jesus looked around and read it on their faces..."
Mark tells us that people mattered to Jesus more than things. It was most important to have your sins forgiven - if Jesus' family had been alive today they might have called him a “Johnny one note!” They knew His basic message. But when He showed concern for this guy everyone took a deep breath, had a good laugh and were relieved that Jesus, the older brother in that family, had said not to worry because it was OK.
Mark wasn't ridiculing these teachers of the law. He was wanting to tell us how they ridiculed themselves by their refusal to enjoy God's gifts. Jesus said something that made them very religious. There was no laughing: “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Mark doesn't tell us about how the owner of the house complained. You'd expect him to give Jesus a bill for roof repairs. But there was not a whisper about the broken roof and maybe that is because Jesus Himself was the owner of that roof. But what we do hear is the complaints of these religious people because Jesus was forgiving people their sins. But what happened next? Well, Jesus turned everything down side up: "The real miracle, my friends, is forgiveness of sins. You want proof that that miracle has taken place? You want proof? Proof coming up! Here’s proof."
The paralytic got up and took his mat home with him. Jesus acted like the person who has a good idea of what most people are thinking and is one step ahead of them. Maybe two steps ahead. Not too far, but far enough to keep them on their toes so God's concern for ordinary people can be demonstrated. Then, when we know that, we can relax and enjoy life.
Mark knew what it was to be in the midst of brawls. But "Stubby Fingers" could hang on, and he did not lose his grip on Jesus. He didn't let brawls stop him from being Jesus' student. He had been there. He had personal experience of Jesus, he had touched him, smelled him, and knew that He was a special friend of paralysed people who couldn't do much except slur their speech and spit. Young people and children were also important to Jesus. Jesus had come for them too. He didn't come so grown-ups could feel important in God's kingdom. Jesus said that those who thought that hadn't even taken the first step - "Let the children come to me..." and "Rise, take up your bed and go home."
Now we can get on with more of Mark's Gospel. I started in this way because I want you to keep thinking about Mark the story-teller as we go along. My hunch is that Mark's Gospel was initially written as notes to help him tell his story about Jesus. Then he realised it could help him remember the order in which things happened, and then he realised it would be good for others to read so they could understand the whole story and also they could then tell it themselves. Mark not only wrote the Gospel; he was a story teller and story-tellers don't always write everything down.
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