Jos 16-18; Mark 2 Psalm 140
In my desk bible, the text from Mark is headed, ‘the healing of the paralytic.
I wonder what it is that catches our attention in this well known story – we must have seen it in our minds eye many times. The four friends who break a hole in the ceiling to get their paralysed friend to Jesus. I wonder How we saw it – what was the message we came away with.
Of course if it was told perhaps to a Sunday School class, the emphasis might have been on the four friends – or the drama of the breaking ceiling – or the man getting up and walking. Just another of Jesus’ miracles . . .
But read the text again – the focus is clear – it is on Jesus’ forgiving the man – everything else, Including the ‘healing’ is peripheral. There is a conflict – can a man forgive sin??? The scribes who saw him accused him of blasphemy . . . note they saw it as a sin of speech. Jesus in his reply does not treat it in the same terms. ‘To show you that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins’ Jesus contends that the words ‘your sins are forgiven you’ are effectual, they are the vehicle for the forgiveness, in a sense they are sacramental.
The healing of the man’s paralysis is a sign – it is not The Thing. That is the forgiveness of sins.
There are many parallels between Mark and Johns’ gospels. In John there is also a healing of a paralytic on a mat (Ch 5) – although he has no friends to bring his to Jesus . . . but also in John Jesus emphasises his Word, if you must then believe because of the miracles . . . (10:38, 14:11)
At the heart of this story is the heart of Life – that forgiveness of sins is the door to real life – knowing we are forgiven sets us free. our understanding of sin is so shallow, in that we tend only to hink of it in terms of what offence it causes to us. But as Jesus shows it is not so much offence, indeed the Scribes are offended – perhaps we ought to stop thinking of sin as being offensive to God, at least in the terms in which it is offensive to us. The Scribes are offended by what they hear as Jesus sinful behaviour.
Perhaps we would do well of thinking of sin as something which fundamentally damages us, and affects us at a most profound level, at every level of our being. And see in the healing the confirmation that the man is forgiven – for the deepest damage as been healed – telling him to take up his mat and walk is, contrary to the challenge Jesus lays down, actually really easy thing. Perhaps if we found it easy and natural to forgive sins, as God in Christ evidently does, we too might find it easier to say ‘take up your mat and walk!’ . . .