“Some Get Up And Go”
Mark 2: 1-12
We’re going to deal with some difficult scripture readings from the life of Jesus over the next few weeks. Namely, we’re going to look at miracles. Miracle stories in the Bible can be tough for us to read at times. These are stories of healing, stories of control over nature, stories of demon possession. Stories which challenge how we look at the world, especially when miracles change the outcome of things we normally expect.
Many of us know someone who has been in need of healing, and have probably prayed for it to happen. Yet, despite our prayers, serious illness often wins more often than we would like to see.
Conditions like cancer and dementia feel like they are rampant in our society. So far this year I’ve had two funerals, both victims of cancer. One was 47, the other 56. Too young, too soon. No doubt for both of these men there were people praying for a miracle to happen, and they still passed away.
Yet in other situations people seem to be healed and allowed to live. The cancer might go into remission, never to come back. We struggle with these. Who decides who gets what disease? Who decides what impact it will have on the person? Who gets to decide who lives and who dies?
I believe there are many different parts in determining the results of a person’s life. Things like lifestyle and health certainly have a key role. As does the type of care that is offered through the medical professionals and the equipment they have access to.
Often in the miracles Jesus performs we need to look deeper into the text. We need to look for what the miracle is uncovering, what it is revealing to us. It’s so easy for us to look at the miracle and think, “I wish so-and-so would be healed” and keep reading. By not stopping and looking deeper into what is happening, we might miss out on an opportunity to learn more about who Jesus is.
The healing of the paralytic is such a story. Here’s a man who cannot walk for himself, he’s got a condition that even our modern medicine most likely cannot heal. Broken necks or spines are something that we can’t do a lot about. These people are often confined to wheelchairs for the rest of their lives.
Of course we know that this isn’t the end of their lives. I know a number of people in wheelchairs who live life to the fullest and don’t let it slow them down.
When I was in high school, my basketball team would play a game against the provincial wheerchair basketball team. We were the best high school team in the province, playing against the best wheelchair players around.
After some time to get used to being in the chairs, we would take the court against our opponents. We lost every year. On the scoreboard the game looked close, we’d lose 65-60 or something like that. But during the game, the other team would go to the scorers table and say “give them another 10 points.” So in reality, we would actually lose about 65-10, but we would save face a little bit through their generosity in our exhibition game for charity. We were very thankful.
But fun, it was probably the most fun we had on the court all season long. Us fumbling with trying to be pointed the right way, and the other team spinning circles around us.
Loving life, finding hope, being part of community. It makes a difference.
For the man in our scripture reading today though, he would not have had a lot of hope. Since he couldn’t walk, he would have been seen as useless to society and left on his own.
So when Jesus came to town, there may have been a glimmer of hope for him. Maybe something could be done!
Jesus has returned to Capernaum, trying to keep a low profile as he was in an area where his presence wasn’t entirely welcome. So he went to a house to teach and once word spread he was there, the crowds came. The house was full, no room at all for one more person. People were gathered outside, crowded around doors and windows, just hoping to catch a few words of what he was saying.
So when the paralytic’s friends decided to carry him to see Jesus, there was absolutely no way they could get through the packed crowd to even reach the door, much less get inside to where Jesus was.
So with a bit inspiration, and maybe desperation, they climbed onto the roof, carrying their friend the whole way. Once on the roof they began to dig and pull at the mud and sticks with which it was made from.
Imagine the scene on the inside. Jesus teaching those in the room when bits of mud and sticks begin to fall on top of them due to the work being done above. Then the roof opens up and 4 dirty faces look down on them. What an odd sight it must have been!
But then that’s not the end of it! The next thing they know there a man on a mat being lowered down through the roof. Imagine the chaos that must have happened as people tried to make room for this guy to land!
Jesus then looks at him lying there. He looks up through the hole in the roof and the four faces staring back. He looks back at the man on the floor and says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Immediately a murmur spreads through the house as the scribes, the keepers of the law, begin to think to themselves, “Who does he think he is forgiving sins like that?”
And Jesus picks up their thoughts right away. He says to them, “Now why would you ask that? What’s easier, forgiving sins or healing? But since you need some sort of proof, watch this. I say to this man, get up, pick up your mat and go home.”
And he does!
The man gets up, picks up his mat and makes his way out of the packed house.
Everyone is amazed. Everyone. Even the scribes.
Here’s where we need to look a little deeper into the exchange between Jesus and the scribes.
As I mentioned, the scribes are the keepers of the law. They are the religious lawyers of the day. When there’s a question regarding whether something is permitted or not, then it’s best to check with them. So, if there’s anyone in the religious establishment of the day who would know who is allowed to forgive sins, they are the ones. Of course this would be considered common knowledge to anyone who is faithful to the Jewish customs of the day. Everyone knows who can forgive sins.
It’s one of those things where when Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven” most people would have thought, “Oh, isn’t that nice of him to say that to that poor man.”
But the scribes responded out of their positions. They knew who people were thinking Jesus was, so if he is saying this, it will only reinforce their false belief.
So they began to question in their hearts who this man might be. Imagine their surprise when Jesus responded to what they were thinking.
“’Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.’”
He’s right though. It is easier to forgive in this case, isn’t it?
Jesus takes it a step further. He answers their thoughts with an act certainly no one could ever perform. No one but God himself that is.
Jesus tells the man to get up and walk. An impossible task for any person in that house. That is if everyone in that house were fully human.
Jesus shows that he not only has the authority to pardon sin, Jesus does much more than that. Jesus heals the man.
Jesus shows without a shadow of a doubt that he is who people are beginning to say he is. If Jesus simply stopped by saying, “Your sins are forgiven” then it would not have been as strong a proof. How do you measure power in simple words that don’t have an outward, lasting impact?
But in saying, “rise, pick up your mat and go home” Jesus shows he has power over the impossible. He not only has power over spiritual matters, but he also has power over the physical world as well.
So while some in the crowd had been thinking, “Oh how nice of him to say to that poor man” while others thought, “What gives him the right to forgive sins?” they are all sharing a single thought now. The scribes and the rest of the gathered crowd all together, “This man is the Son of God.”
The work of Jesus Christ is beyond anything we can imagine, because it is God’s work.
So often we put God in a little box up on a shelf, out of the way of our daily lives.
But Jesus pushes us in the other direction. Jesus confronts us with the everlasting, the unpredictable, the out-of-the-world amazing love, grace and mercy God has for the whole world and everyone who lives in it.
God is in the business of doing amazing things.
Yet we think we can do it all for ourselves. And so we try, and fall short. We try again. We fall short again.
Yet in Jesus Christ, God shows the world that nothing is impossible when He is in control.
So what are we waiting for? God is here waiting for us. The invitation is for all of us. How will we respond?
Rise, pick up your mat, and go.