A few days later, Jesus entered Capernaum again. The people heard that he had come home. 2So many people gathered that there was no room left. There was not even room outside the door. And Jesus preached the word to them. Four of those who came were carrying a man who could not walk. But they could not get him close to Jesus because of the crowd. So they made a hole in the roof above Jesus. Then they lowered the man through it on a mat. Jesus saw their faith. So he said to the man, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Some teachers of the law were sitting there. They were thinking, "Why is this fellow talking like that? He`s saying a very evil thing! Only God can forgive sins!" Right away Jesus knew what they were thinking. So he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Is it easier to say to this man, `Your sins are forgiven`? Or to say, `Get up, take your mat and walk`? I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." 1Then Jesus spoke to the man who could not walk. "I tell you," he said, "get up. Take your mat and go home." The man got up and took his mat. Then he walked away while everyone watched. All the people were amazed. They praised God and said, "We have never seen anything like this!" Mark 2:1-12
This morning weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to look at the extreme measures taken by four friends mentioned in the Gospel of Mark chapter 2 to help their friend to receive a miracle of healing from Jesus. We can sum up this Gospel passage from Mark 2 in four short words in verse 5: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Jesus saw their faithÃ¢â‚¬Â. Most people would say, Ã¢â‚¬Å“You canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t Ã¢â‚¬ËœseeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ faith. Faith isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t in the physical, visible realm.Ã¢â‚¬Â But it is. And Jesus saw the faith of these four men. After Jesus had completed his tour of the synagogues he returned to Capernaum to rest for a few days. The news got out quickly that he had arrived and soon the house was overflowing with people, whom even spilled out into the streets. These four men mentioned in this story had carried a paralyzed man on a stretcher to bring him to Jesus. As they arrived in front of the house, they noticed that the doorway was blocked. So, they decided to carry him up an outside stairway to the roof. We all know that it is not easy to carry a full-grown man up a flight of stairs. Yet these men managed this difficult task. They dared to do the difficult. What an illustration this incident gives us of bringing people to Jesus Christ.
Then the next thing we notice these four men dared to do the unorthodox act. Guests in the house are invited through the entrance door, but these four men got up on the roof of the house and started ripping a hole in it. Now roofs in those days were made of beams about 3 feet apart and overlaid with reeds, branches, then covered with a layer of clay. So it wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be hard to tear a hole in this type of roof, but IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure you can just imagine what a mess it made. As they pulled away chunks of clay and bits of dirt and dried leaves, they were falling all over those below. People inside the house may be yelling up at them, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Quit tearing the house! This doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t stop these four men. They were taking extreme measures to bring their friend for a healing. They kept ripping apart the roof, making the hole larger and larger until itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s big enough to drop their friend right at the feet of Jesus.
The whole time this is going on, while everyone else is yelling, Jesus stops Ã¢â‚¬Å“speaking the wordÃ¢â‚¬Â and just sits there watching the event unfold, maybe with an amused look on his face. But while the others are angry and yelling, Jesus looks beyond their destruction. Verse 5, Ã¢â‚¬Å“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, Ã¢â‚¬ËœSon, your sins are forgivenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢
Notice that Jesus did not touch the paralytic but he understood instantly what was wrong with this man. Jesus goes right to the heart of the problem: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Son, your sins are forgiven.Ã¢â‚¬Â In fact, Matthew tells us Jesus said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven,Ã¢â‚¬Â (Matthew 9:2). This indicates that the paralysis was what doctors sometimes call Ã¢â‚¬Å“emotionally inducedÃ¢â‚¬Â illness. We can come up with many theological perspectives. One can pursue the insights of psychosomatic medicine, showing how guilt is sometimes literally paralyzing (Ã¢â‚¬Å“hysterical paralysisÃ¢â‚¬Â). That may be something in this manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s past or present, some attitude he harbored, some feeling he indulged, was causing the paralysis. We have no details of the past of this man. But our Lord had the feeling that this man needs more than physical healing. Jesus went to the heart of the matter and forgave this manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sins. The Jewish leaders sitting nearby were puzzled, and our Lord understood that. Jesus read their thoughts and read their hearts. He said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic. Ã¢â‚¬ËœYour sins are forgiven,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ or to say. Ã¢â‚¬ËœStand up and take your mat and walkÃ¢â‚¬â„¢? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sinsÃ¢â‚¬ÂÃ¢â‚¬"he said to the paralyticÃ¢â‚¬"Ã¢â‚¬Å“I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.Ã¢â‚¬Â And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have never seen anything like this!Ã¢â‚¬Â (Mark 2:10-12)
The most fascinating element in this passage for me is to observe the relation -ship of sin to paralysis, of forgiveness to healing, and of faith to both healing and forgiveness. The text does not specify any particular sin on the part of the paralytic, nor is guilt mentioned. Yet the point at which Jesus injects his word of forgiveness shows that he perceives sin to be the manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s real problem. At the same time it would be wrong to form a conclusion that all illness is the result of sin, for sin is not mentioned in connection with any of the dozen other healings and exorcisms in Mark. Here in this story of forgiveness and healing of the paralytic St. Mark testifies that Jesus came to proclaim the good news that sinners are forgiven by the grace of God and their sin sick souls and bodies are restored by the healing hand of Jesus the Christ. The Old Testament reading for this Sunday from Isaiah 43: 18-25, also speaks of YahwehÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s gracious forgiveness which does not depend on the worthiness of his people: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am He who blots out your transgression for my own sake.Ã¢â‚¬Â
In many cultures today, forgiveness is seen as a sign of weakness. Revenge, for them, is a moral duty. Hatred and revenge can torn apart families, communities and nations. For example hatred for generations in Northern Ireland, Israel-Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Kashmir or the Balkans have destroyed countess lives. People who live that way tend to think that God lives that way too. We shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be surprised, then, that JesusÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ unexpected declaration of forgiveness sent shock waves running through the house, the village, the nation, and finally through the world. Forgiveness is the most powerful thing in the world, but because it is so costly we prefer to settle for second best. JesusÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ people have to be for the world what he was for Israel.
We have to find ways of bringing healing and forgiveness to our communities. It can be done Ã¢â‚¬"think of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa Ã¢â‚¬"but it is enormously costly. People will oppose it. But the new life that comes as a result is enough vindication, enough proof that the living God is at work.
In the recent few weeks we have seen images of anger and hatred in the protest of the Muslim community against the Cartoons of Prophet Muhammad. I have been almost in daily dialogue with the Editor of Islamic Horizon. On February 2 I received the following e-mail: The time is now for Christians to stop the hate and Islamophobia. The Christians can butcher us, torture us, maim and mutilate us, and bully us but insulting the Prophet shall never be accepted.
There is lot of pain and anger my friend shares in this e-mail with me. I prayed about it and thanked him for his e-mail message. We have exchanged at least twenty e-mails on this subject. My message have been that Jesus always taught "love thy neighbor" "Pray for those who persecute you" and help people in need. You know Jesus rebuked people who would put down others. He even crossed the boundaries and healed and preached among the gentiles against the Jewish traditions. You are absolutely right that Jesus would not allow Islamophobia. We both need to stop pointing fingers at each other, but contemplate on forgiveness and ask God to fill our hearts, minds and spirit with His everlasting peace. Embassy burning and calling others names is no service to religion. The face of God I come to know through Jesus is of mercy, forgiveness and love. It is and has always been GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s intention that we should live in friendship and harmony. I ask your forgiveness. In order to live in a peaceful world, Christians and Muslims both will have to take extreme measures to forgive and love each other.Ã¢â‚¬Â As in the words of Bishop Tutu: There is No Future without Forgiveness.