Mark 2:1-12 (CEB)
Healing and forgiveness
After a few days, Jesus went back to Capernaum, and people heard that he was at home. So many gathered that there was no longer space, not even near the door. Jesus was speaking the word to them. Some people arrived, and four of them were bringing to him a paralytic man. They couldn’t carry him through the crowd, so they tore off part of the roof above where Jesus was. When they had made an opening, they lowered the mat on which the paralyzed man was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven!”
Some legal experts were sitting there, muttering among themselves, “Why does he speak this way? He’s insulting God. Only the one God can forgive sins.”
Jesus immediately recognized what they were discussing, and he said to them, “Why do you fill your minds with these questions? Which is easier—to say to a paralyzed person, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk’? But so you will know that the Human One has authority on the earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed, “Get up, take your mat, and go home.”
Jesus raised him up, and right away he picked up his mat and walked out in front of everybody. They were all amazed and praised God, saying, “We’ve never seen anything like this!”
OK – let’s get the obvious thing out of the way right from the start – language changes and we now use the word “paralytic” primarily in a context where somebody is so drunk they cannot function. That is not what this incident is about. There. Glad that’s cleared up! Nobody lowered a staggeringly drunk man through a roof, though, come to think about it, that is just the kind of thing that a group of staggeringly drunk blokes might actually do… we’ve all been there…
I went to have a look on Google images this morning at paintings of this bible story. I think that many of them are struggling to capture the full drama of what went on that day. But what struck me most was that in all of them, Jesus looks totally unphased by what has just happened – his face shows no surprise at all, no animation, no shock, no humour, no nothing! In most of the paintings he just looks faintly bored by the whole affair – or wholly (holy?) unruffled by what has just happened, as if this is something that happens all the time.
What did you do today, Jesus?
ahhh – nothing much.
Anything interesting happen?
nahh – just did some preaching to a big crowd and some blokes dropped a drunk guy paralyzed man through the roof… my life is so samey…
I can’t draw. No – I can’t. And to all those people who are now repeating the mantra their school art teacher used to repeat “everyone can draw” – like the music teachers who always said “everyone can sing” – I have some news for you – they lied. I can’t draw.
But if I could… and if someone commissioned me to draw this scene, I think I’d want to put a whole lot of effort into getting Jesus’ face right. I wonder if some of those old painters were worried by the idea that Jesus could even be surprised, as if that would somehow constitute a heretical denial of his divinity – he must always know what’s going to happen next… I guess that’s quite a big question! I’m going to ride roughshod over it, though, and assert with confidence that OF COURSE Jesus was surprised! How could you be fully human and lack the capacity to be surprised?
So – this face I am drawing has surprise in it. It has more than that. It also has laughter and joy. This has made his day. These blokes are so sure that Jesus can fix their friend that they have climbed on the roof, bashed a hole in it and lowered him through it. It’s a gloriously bonkers and faithful plan. Jesus is preaching – probably about the Kingdom of God – to an interested but probably bemused crowd with some grumpy-looking Pharisees plotting in the corner – and then BAM! – right in the middle of it, with a shower of dust and bits of roof, four blokes demonstrate with Baldric-esque panache – exactly what faith IS.
So this face has surprise, and joyful laughter and pride that someone gets what he is saying and what he is about. Jesus roars with laughter – it makes his day – it gives him energy and hope for the Kingdom he is proclaiming – here it is among us!
So – today, or this week – maybe you can surprise Jesus with something staggeringly unexpected that gives him joy and hope that YES! someone actually gets what the Kingdom is about…