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 paralyzed 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 is full of these healing stories, like the one featured in this Bible passage. Jesus is the one who bursts in upon the scene, challenges established conventions, established ways of looking at the world. In these numerous healings in the gospel account, Jesus demonstrates a power let loose in the world, a confrontation with sickness and death, which challenges the concepts of those who experience him and his work.
Jesus still challenges. Epiphany is that season when the church reflects upon the significance of the God who comes to us as the babe at Bethlehem, the great healer of Galilee, the Lord of the Sabbath. People like us like to think of ourselves as those with unlimited, expansive worldviews.
And yet, here at the beginning of a new year, I know lots of modern Americans who feel, not that our consciousness has grown, but that it has shrunk, restricted to what can be tasted, touched, researched, and understood.
At Capernaum, where Jesus is "at home" (2:1) and a group of people brings their sick friend to Jesus, making a hole in the roof so that the man who is sick might come face to face with this powerful figure. Their faith (verse 5) is amazing as is their imagination. Perhaps that's a good definition of the word faith. Jesus intrudes among us, working wonders, and we say as one, "We have never seen anything like this!"
It is typical of us to try to make sense of our world on the basis of past experience. Yet Jesus brings us new experience, experience outside the realm of our conventional means of making sense of the world. What then?
The world thinks of Christians as those with limited worldviews, those whose vision is limited to the confines of what the church believes; those whose brains have been constrained by their religious tradition.
This month's scripture passage suggests otherwise. Christians are those who have literally had their minds expanded in order to take account of this one who shatters our notions of what can and what cannot be; this one whose presence transforms our little world into an outbreak of the kingdom of God. The ability to see that and to live on the basis of it is what we mean when we say "faith."
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
May God's richest blessings rest upon your life,