Sermon on Mark 2:1-12 preached by
The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman
23rd February 2003
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralysed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ." He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!" Mark 2:1-12
Sometimes airlines do all that they can to retain custom, including providing one of those electric buggies to take you from the lounge to the plane.
I like it - and you get to share the buggy with some interesting people.
And it's interesting the comments some of them make:
- Doesn't someone else need this more than me?
- Is this putting you out of your way?
- It's not too much bother is it?
- Doesn't someone important need this?
A bit like the cripple who was brought to Jesus in the gospel reading.
Image what we would say if we were that person:
- It's a hot day and I'm too heavy, let's do it another day when it's more convenient
- There's no need to do this?
- Isn't this putting you out of your way?
- There's no need to do this, others are looking, what will they think?
Because we don't like to be made a spectacle of, don't like to feel we inconvenience anyone, don't want to put anyone out, sometimes think we're not worth it, there must be more important people who need attention.
And certainly when our friends broke through the roof we'd be worried about the mess!
Yet in the story, whatever the cripple was saying on the way, perhaps encouraging his friends to stop, they persisted and get him to Jesus home only to find the crowds had got there before them.
But being persistent they went up on the roof, hacked away through the first century equivalent to the wattle and daub until they'd got a hold big enough to get their friend through and lowered him down.
In the pictures we always see the man lowered very carefully down, in a horizontal position. But thinking about it, that's probably unrealistic. Most people would make a hole and as soon as it was big enough to get someone through they'd stop digging and lower away. So I think the cripple was probably lowered into the room on his bed in the vertical position, feet first. And the picture I get in my mind is of the cripple dangling nose to nose in front of Jesus, his friends trying to work out if they'd lowered him far enough yet.
Jesus, at this stage, would have found him quite difficult to ignore so we have the interchange with the cripple and the authorities that we are all familiar with.
His sins are forgiven and he is healed, in many ways the same thing, not that illness is a result of sin. But in pronouncing both healing and forgiveness Jesus is declaring and demonstrating His authority over all things, both natural and spiritual, 2 ends of the same spectrum, we don't need to split the 2 in this case. Both are about wholeness, and being made complete, being restored to the former glory.
When Jesus said 'your sins are forgiven', and 'stand up, take your mat and walk', both brought about wholeness and restoration.
Which is exactly what Jesus did when He came to earth.
Because in the parable of the cripple being lowered through the roof, we have a graphic illustration of what God was doing when Jesus came to earth. God broke in through the roof of the world so that each of us could have a nose to nose encounter with Jesus so that each of us could have a restored relationship with God through Jesus.
God had been trying to speak to His people through the priests and prophets for years but they had not heard Him. Indeed, the legalistic approach they had established made it difficult for anyone to get in through the door of faith.
Rules and regulations had begun to encase the love of God.
God needed a different approach, so He lowered Jesus to the earth so that He could meet directly with man and by pass the gatekeepers of the faith, breaking through the roof of the Temple and the established religion as He did so.
Because when he came Jesus brought both healing and wholeness to a broken world, and he fulfilled the law of the Old Testament.
In the story of the healing of the cripple, right at the beginning of Mark's gospel, is an image and model of how God is breaking through afresh into the world and a graphic illustration of why Jesus has come.
But the parable of the cripple being lowered through the roof is not just an allegory or metaphor of God coming to earth or a parable of Jesus encountering the world face to face.
It's a parable of what He invites us to do - to come to that place where we can meet Jesus. To meet with Him face to face, to meet with Him nose to nose. To have that encounter with Him so that we can be restored, so that our sins can be forgiven and we can be made whole again.
This might need the help of other so that we can get to where we can meet Him. But the parable is not just for ourselves as Christians, it's for others too.
For just as the cripple was brought by more able bodied people. So we should bring those around us to a place where they can meet with the risen Jesus, both physically and spiritually.
And that can mean lots of different things:
- Praying for them
- Speaking to them and with them, answering their questions, spending time with them
- Encouraging them
- Drawing alongside them
- Doing things for them
- as a church - reflecting the importance of church as social centres
- at work - and the importance of our work in the workplace
- enabling people to meet Jesus nose to nose through us
Bringing them to a place where they can meet with Jesus and trusting in Him that He will meet with them there
Lowering them through the metaphorical roof to meet Jesus
So that their sins might be forgiven.
And the things that have been crippling them healed
So that they too can have a relationship with the Jesus that breaks through, however hard the roof
Bible Readings and Notes, for 23rd February 2003