This is the story of four friends bringing their friend who was paralyzed to Jesus for healing. As the story goes in Mark 2:1-12, “. . . They couldn’t carry him through the crowd, so they tore off part of the roof above where Jesus was. When they had made an opening, they lowered the mat on which the paralyzed man was lying.”
The context around this story is that Jesus had returned “home,” to Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee. When word got out that he was there, a crowd gathered.
He was staying in a house there, probably at the home of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, which served as a kind of base in Galilee for Jesus and the disciples.
Eventually, the crowds grew so large they couldn’t fit in the house, and people were spilling out the door and standing around in the area around the house.
Picture this: The house is made of stone. It is a one-story house with a number of rooms. The roof is constructed of beams laid out about three feet apart, and the space in between was filled with brush-reinforced sod or clay, and sometimes grass grew on the top of these houses in Galilee. These roofs were also rolled with cylindrical stone rollers to pack the clay tightly enough that the roof, accessible by stone stairs, was a place people could go for quiet relaxation and meditation.
Now imagine this scene with that structure in mind. Jesus is teaching, the place is packed, and these caring friends bring the paralyzed man to Jesus, carrying him on a stretcher. But this isn’t going to be as easy as they thought it would be. The place is so crowded that they can’t begin to get into the house. There is no way they can get their friend in to see Jesus . . . or is there?
You can imagine that one of them had an idea — and the rest agreed and jumped right in. They began digging a hole in the clay roof. Now Jesus is still down in the room below, teaching, and chunks of dirt and sod begin falling on the heads of the people listening.
I can imagine Jesus’ smiling when he realizes what is going on, the chuckle in his voice when he sees the faith and the resourcefulness of those four guys lowering their friend down through the hole. These are real friends! They are people of faith. They are people of action.
When Jesus saw the faith of his friends who had interceded on his behalf, he said, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” In the argument with the scribes that ensued, Jesus made it clear that the man’s guilt and his paralysis were bound up together. Jesus elsewhere dismissed the ridiculous idea that illness is a punishment for sin. Instead, he seemed to indicate that THIS man’s paralysis was a symptom of the guilt that he carried and the healing of the guilt and the healing of the paralysis were the same. What we see clearly here is the healing power of forgiveness.
I look forward to exploring these ideas with you this Sunday at First Church.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster