Reflections on Mark 2:1-12 Part 3

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"They were all amazed and glorified God" (Mark 2:12)


In the person of the paralytic we have the image of a man whose relational world is undermined. Jesus goes right to the heart of the matter. He sees the root of all suffering and fragmentation in the broken relationship between man and God. Here the vital message for man is that we need the healing touch of Jesus, who alone can bridge the gap between God and man enabling the restoration of spirit, soul and body. Here Jesus addresses the root problem, the invisible but all-important illness, the rift between man and God caused by sin. Jesus restores this spiritual relationship by forgiving the sins of the paralytic. Only when this obstacle has been removed and the vital relationship between the individual and God has been restored do we have healing on other levels of existence. Having a right relationship with God is the key to having right relations in all other spheres of life; it is the key to wholeness and wellbeing for ourselves and in our relations with others. Only then can man really be himself, the self he was meant to be. Here physical healing takes place to confirm the message.

Let us take a closer look at the dramatic nature of the whole scene. The house was full, jam packed. All were listening to the words of Jesus, albeit with different attitudes. All of a sudden, during the delivery of the message, movements and noises are heard directly above the place where Jesus was speaking. The noise lasted some time as a hole was being made large enough for the bed on which the paralytic could be lowered. Babies crying in the congregation of many of our churches are nothing compared to this disturbance and yet Jesus has no negative reaction. On the contrary he is pleasantly surprised.

Just imagine bits and pieces of the material from the roof falling directly on the spot where Jesus himself was standing. It must have been difficult for the message to come across effectively. Then all of a sudden, lo and behold, when the digging was over, the bed of the paralytic landed right in front of Jesus! The scribes were suddenly deprived of their privileged position! The last are now first! The first have been displaced!

The preaching stops. The dramatic action begins. The content of the message Jesus was preaching is not revealed but what is revealed are the words spoken directly to the person most in need. It is these words, together with the healing, that constitute the spiritual and material climax, not only of this episode but, indeed, of the whole of this first part of the Gospel of Mark.

The first thing to note is the association of ‘faith’ and ‘seeing’. Faith, of course, is not tangible; it cannot be seen or touched. What is actually ‘seen’ is what true faith produces, actions and works which point to the faith that is unseen. Actions or works are the incarnation of faith, that which makes faith ‘visible’. In other words what Jesus saw here was the fundamental principle, expressed by James, which connects so intimately faith and works that the two, if genuine, cannot be separated:
But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith. (James 2:18)
Faith can be seen only by the works that it produces; faith can be heard only through our words that emerge from a life energised in faith and through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is interesting to note that it was the sight of his bearers’ faith which drew from Christ’s lips the words of forgiveness. It is a consoling fact that much healing and restoration are obtained through the faith and prayers, not so much of the sick and afflicted themselves, as of their relations and friends, as for example, the centurion’s servant (Luke 7:1-10), Jairus’ daughter (Mark5:21-24), the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-25), the Syro-Phoenician’s daughter (Mark 7:25-30). It is the same in our lives today. The intercessory faith of others can bring healing and salvation. This is one of many reasons why infant baptism is accepted through the faith of the parents. By dwelling on this we can see the value of the communion of saints, the value of our local church and the value of the fellowship we have with each other bearing each other’s burdens and weaknesses.

There is more in this episode than meets the eye and which needs to be borne in mind if we are to understand the reaction of the scribes.

Jesus came to preach the Kingdom of God and the words Jesus spoke to the paralytic lie at the heart of that message: ‘your sins are forgiven’. It is not difficult to imagine this climactic moment as something of an anti-climax for the paralytic and his friends who had come in expectation of physical healing. Something perhaps of an anti-climax also for the modern ear but here we reach the climax of the whole first part of the Gospel of Mark, the central theme of which is the revelation of the real identity of Jesus. It is an illustration of the words of the first verse of this Gospel: ‘the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’. Everyone here is standing in the presence of the ‘son of God (Mark 1:1; 1:11), ‘the Holy One of God’ (Mark 1:24), the one who had power over demons (Mark 1:27), the one who had power over illness and suffering (Mark 1:32-34), the one who alone had the power to forgive sins (Mark 2:5), ‘the Son of Man’ (v. 10). They were standing in the presence of the power of he who was the perfect image of God, in whom God dwelt in the flesh. But they knew him not: “He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him” (John 1:11). No, it was not blasphemy; the authority over sin was his and still is his. As Paul said: “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9).

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