The friends tore a hole in the roof and lowered the paralyzed man down to where Jesus was.* What a spectacle that must have been. I’m pretty sure that unlike the flannelgraph and picture book stories I saw as a child, people in the house weren’t standing by serenely. People would have probably been heading for the doors and windows to get out. That detail alone — the hole being torn in the roof invites a lot of thought about what all this means.
But then Jesus surprises everyone by saying, “your sins are forgiven.” Had I been one of the friends peering down from the hole in the roof, I probably would have thought, “Hey, we came here for a healing, what’s this talk about sins?’
But the religious leaders nearby got stuck on that point — the one about sin. “Who can forgive sins except for God?’ In other words, who does Jesus think he is?
The gospel writers seem to be making the case, and most interpreters after them, that Jesus can do this because he is one with God, the Son of God. That, of course, is not news to us; it is one of the central claims of Christianity that Jesus is the Son of God. And though there have always been and will always be questions about the identity and nature of Jesus, this remains a major Christian claim. That Jesus can forgive sins because he is that near, that much like God — he is divine.
The differing views about Jesus intrigue me, but for right now, I want to slow down and talk about what Jesus was saying about God. Though it seems obvious, Jesus is actually making a pronouncement about God and about God and sin. God forgives sins; sins are forgivable. This is really good news.
I join the current crowd stating that Christians today are deeply divided. And, I also wonder if news reading gives an accurate picture — but that is for another day. So, it looks like Christians are deeply divided. One group seems to be heavy on news about God that doesn’t sound all that good. For this group, God is under attack, and God is going to destroy us for this (that is if we don’t destroy each other first). The other group may be less focused on God and sin, but they are certainly focused on the sins of the other group for a long list of grievances.
Can this story speak into that situation? Jesus said God forgives sins, which means sins are forgivable. Jesus went on to insist that we should forgive each other. The starkness of this in the morass of our troubled society could be a lifeline, but not if we don’t grab it.
What is your view of God regarding sin? Maybe you don’t like too much talk about sin because you came from a group that majored in it. Ok, I get that, but something is wrong in the world and always has been. And how people think about God is part of everyone’s worldview. Even with various views of God, or no god, each is a worldview and affects how we relate to each other in all our problems.
Jesus surprised and seemed to offend people by saying the paralyzed man’s sins were forgiven. But I wonder if failing to recognize forgiveness as a possibility and a reality in God’s economy, failing to forgive each other and find ways to tear holes in the roofs of our problems is a way to keep everybody confined to a mat.
* The story of Jesus and the paralyzed man and his friends may be found in Mark 2:1-12, Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26