August 6, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
The good news today is in the beginning of Marks second chapter verses 1-5.
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them. They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”
As many times as I have read and heard this miracle story what I remember is that Jesus told him to pick up his mat and walk. I had forgotten or overlooked that the first thing he told the paralytic was that his sins were forgiven. This seems odd since Jesus pointed out in other episodes that disease and physical disability was not a product or sign of sin. So, what’s going on here? Why did Jesus say that?
If I had been the paralytic or one of the four friends, I would have been asking myself, “Is that it? Is that all?” I would have been disappointed that there was no healing or at least that the paralytic still couldn’t stand or walk. Why had Jesus healed others but not this man? My skepticism would have immediately kicked in. Who is this guy? What has all the fuss been about that he’s a miracle worker? He’s just talking. Of course, Jesus did go on to heal the paralytic, but there was enough time before he did that my mind would have entertained a lot of negative thoughts.
This story introduces the scribes for the first time in Mark’s gospel. It may be that Jesus used this as an opportunity to re-educate the scribes, those were enslaved to God’s law to the point that they had become separated from His love. Jesus addresses the paralytic as child. It seems clear that the paralytic was not a child but a grown man who required four of his friends to carry him. Jesus chose to call him child as a term of endearment, of affection. He used it as a sign of his love and God’s love for the man.
Jesus didn’t tell this man that his sins were forgiven because he believed that his paralysis was a sign of sin. Jesus was pointedly letting the scribes know that he was the messiah, the anointed one of God, the son of God. For, as Moloney references Exodus and Isaiah in The Gospel of Mark, “The forgiveness of sin is the prerogative of God alone.” Word had spread like wildfire of his hearings. Perhaps Jesus wanted early on at this point in his ministry to let people know that he was not just a miracle worker; he was the living word of God. More than just healing them, he wanted people to know that God loved them, that He had compassion for them, that He forgave their sins, and that He extended His mercy upon them. This was the good news that he was preaching. Jesus used this unexpected and vivid scene of a paralyzed man let down through the roof to make the point of his preaching. That’s why he first told the man that his sins were forgiven.
That’s the message for me as well, the first and most important teaching that I need to learn — God loves me and forgives me. I am His child; I am His beloved; I am the only one in all time. Before I can be healed I need to realize that I am loved and I am forgiven.