St. Mark 2.vv.1-12

~ When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven". Now some of the Scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?". At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, "Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven', or to say, 'Stand up and take your mat and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins", he said to the paralytic, "I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home". 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, "We have never seen anything like this!". ~

This lovely story of one of Jesus' healing miracles is full of tenderness and spiritual insights. "My son, your sins are forgiven", is like a response to an unspoken appeal, for the paralytic had not asked for healing but Jesus knew his need and the reason why he was confined to his bed.

At no point in the story do we have even a hint of the man's faith, or lack of it. His friends show their faith and determination. The Greek word for "opened up" the roof in this Gospel is dug out. How much structural damage they caused we do not know; it was probably quite considerable, but all worthwhile if their faith in Jesus the healer was to be justified and their friend healed. There is here an important lesson for us; we must in faith bring others to Christ. We cannot heal; only God can, but we can and should co-operate with God by bringing before him in prayer our friends, sick or in need.

It is surprising that even in these (enlightened?) days there is still such confusion in the minds even of Christians about the connection between sin and suffering. The Rabbis of old said there can be no healing until all sins are forgiven. This is at the best only a partial truth, based upon the erroneous presumption that all suffering is due to the sin of the sufferer. We must acknowledge the fact that not all suffering can be so readily explained. Did not Christ die for our sins, that is because of them? The Book of Job, that spiritual masterpiece of the Old Testament, sheds welcome light on the mystery of suffering as Job protested his innocence. On the other hand, we must accept the fact so often recognised by doctors and psychiatrists that a great deal of pain and suffering is attributable to a sense of guilt or sin not forgiven in the mind of the sufferer.

Jesus by his spiritual insight knew that the paralytic needed to know that God was his friend and not his enemy; he needed to find peace and healing, to know that he was not estranged from God. When he heard those gracious and loving words from Jesus, the man felt his burden of sin lifted and, like a child in the dark when someone comes to his aid, received reassurance and comfort, the prerequisite of his healing.

For me the most intriguing part of the story is the situation that arises (or one can imagine it arising) when Jesus in our modern parlance "put his reputation on the line". Sensing the unspoken criticism of some Scribes who were present, Jesus offers to prove his authority to forgive sins by doing what would appear to them to be the more difficult feat - that is, healing the man. I have often speculated upon the atmosphere of doubt, hope, disbelief and incredulity, that must have ensued until Jesus told the man to take up his bed and walk.

On one thing I have no need to speculate, for St. Mark tells us plainly of the amazement of those present, "We have never seen anything like this!".

We must bring our sick to Jesus for healing. "Lord to whom else can we go. You have the words of eternal life".

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