January 14, 2024. Texts: Daniel 7:13-14; Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; Mark 2.
From January to mid-March we are reading the gospel of Mark from beginning to end covering on average a chapter per week. Reflections (sermon, homily or meditation) on the content of each chapter will vary from general to specific. Some weeks there may be questions to ponder with the text which will be posted on our website within or accompanying the reflection.
Sermon on the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 2
To read this passage online click this link to Biblegateway.com
What associations does the phrase, a come to Jesus moment have for you? Probably for most of us it’s some sort of well-deserved summons to moral or ethical accountability. Although it can have a spiritual dimension, these days it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Jesus. But in Mark’s gospel it absolutely did.
Many people were coming to Jesus. Mark has only just begun the story of Jesus and already he’s a rock star. Houses where Jesus found hospitality became ad hoc lecture halls. The overflow could be found leaning in the windows, crowding around the door. And once, spectacularly, a man was lowered on a mat right through the roof.
The man could never have come on his own. He was a paralytic. You might be in awe of this man’s faith, but he is not the one whom Jesus praises. It’s the man’s four friends who loaded him onto a woven mat, carried him who knows how far, who dug through the roof. This was no easy task since it involved removing dried clay packed around reeds, laid across a wood framework.
These people were very determined that their friend would come to Jesus. And Jesus noticed it. But bringing the man to Jesus was all the friends could do. They couldn’t fix him. And that must have been heartbreaking. It makes me think of our friend Andrew and his journey with addiction.
In the first chapter of Mark’s gospel, Jesus healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. He took her hand, lifted her up and it was gone. Not a big production. Next a leper came along and Jesus healed him with a touch. Jesus didn’t want any press about that, but the man was not to be silenced. (Whatever form Jesus thought his ministry would take, we’re learning that he wasn’t necessarily always in control of it.)
The account of the paralyzed man is odd. He was not healed of a fever, a skin disease, or even demons. Jesus did not touch him, but only spoke to him. “Son, your sins are forgiven.” For this reason we should resist jumping to the conclusion that this story was about curing mental illness.
In fact Mark does not use the words cure and heal at all.
No. This is story about coming to Jesus with faith. About how to be a faithful friend. A few such folks cared so much about their companion that they would not abandon him in his sins. They were willing to break through a ceiling to get him help.
It is also a story about how being unforgiven can paralyze us. Sometimes we cannot help ourselves. Even though our society is all about self-help. Sometimes, when we are too deeply broken and paralyzed we need intervention especially when it comes to guilt and forgiveness.
It is a beautiful story. “Son, your sins are forgiven”. The paralyzed man got up and walked away. He only needed one thing, and that was to be told that he was worthy of forgiveness. Those man’s friends intervened. Jesus intervened. The man’s sins did not disqualify him from God’s love. He was still God’s cherished child.
But. Along the lines of no good deed goes unpunished, the very thing that Jesus does out of grace brings him immediate pushback – disgrace. Because some people, it seems, are offended by mercy.
Among the most easily offended, are religious people. Oh yes. The offense continued as Jesus went on to call Levi, a tax collector to follow him. Jesus accepted an invitation to dinner at Levi’s house. Every guest there was a sinner simply because they ate with Levi. Oh, the disgrace! He eats with sinners and tax collectors!
Self-righteousness always does love public disgrace, with a vengeance. Just check out our own social media! And there was so much opportunity for people to disapprove of Jesus. Daring to speak God’s forgiveness! Failing to eat or fast correctly!
But it never stopped Jesus. He just said, people who are sick need me and I have come to call them. It comes down to this in Mark 2. Following Jesus means you know you’re a sinner. And you know you’re forgiven too. So, are you coming or not? Pick up your mat, it’s time to get going.
Questions to Ponder
What paralyzes you, and can friendship help you in those times?
Does Jesus still offend religious people?
Do any teaching of Jesus oppose what you believe?
Are you ever offended by Jesus?
Do belief and faith conflict with one another in Mark 2?
Is there anyone you would not associate with because of your faith?
Who would you like to share this story with?