Isaiah 43: 18-19,21-22, 24-25 II Corinthians 1:18-22 Mark 2: 1-12
Third grader confessions: Three small boys went to confession. The first told the priest, “I threw Peanuts in the lake.” The second confessed the same crime. When the third came in, the priest said, “I suppose you threw peanuts in the lake too.” The boy answered, “No, no, Father, I am Peanuts.”
Dear friends! Today’s gospel passage actually consists of two stories. The first story is a healing narrative, in which Jesus miraculously restores a paralyzed man to health. The second is a debate between Jesus and the scribes about his power to forgive sins.
The first story demonstrates the power of faith, and in this particular case we learn what others can do for us if they are persons of faith. As soon as Jesus had returned to Capernaum after a preaching tour of Galilee, the crowds gathered in and around the house where he was staying so that there was no room to get in or out. Four men carrying their paralyzed friend tried in vain to enter through the crowd.
This passage is unique among all of the reports of Jesus’ healing ministry because the faith of the paralytic is not expressed. Rather, it is the faith of the friends who have brought the paralytic to Jesus that is highlighted. It is the faith of the community being exercised on behalf of an individual. Here is a man who is saved by the eager and expectant faith of his friends.
It still happens today. For example, there are many who are saved by the faith of their parents. When Augustine was living a reckless and immoral life, his devout mother came to ask the help of her saintly bishop Ambrose. “It is impossible,” he assured her, “that the child of such prayers and tears should perish.” Many of us would gladly bear witness that we owe all that we are to the faith of godly parents. There are also those who are daily saved by the faith of those who love them. Many of us avoid evil ways so that we may not cause pain and sorrow in the hearts of our parents and dear ones.
We are called to intercede for others and bring them to Christ: The dramatic role played by the friends of the paralyzed man in the healing story reminds us of the need for, and power of, intercession for others. The actions of the four men were prayers, expressing faith, hope and love.
Do we recognize the power of the collective faith and prayers of our community? Most congregations and individuals pray regularly for people who need healing. The text gives us encouragement to intercede for those who are ill or in special need. There are many among us who need a healing community, a group of faith-filled friends, a fellowship to carry them for a while – to carry them to the One who has the power to heal and forgive, to the One who speaks the truth, to the One who can bring justice and restore that which has been lost. Healing, forgiveness, justice, restoration –- these require friends, a family, brothers and sisters, people who will not give up, just like the four who brought the paralytic to Jesus and who did not give up, but instead, made a hole in the roof of the house so that the one in need might meet the healer.
Remember the classic story about the young man who found his new wife in the kitchen preparing a roast for dinner. Very carefully, she cut the roast in half. Then, very conscientiously, she put half in one pan and the other half in another pan and then put them in the oven.
Puzzled, her husband asked why she had cut the roast in half and put the halves in separate pans. “I’ve always done it that way,” she answered. “But why?” persisted the husband. “Well, because Mom did it that way.” The husband picked up the phone and called her mother and asked her why she always cut the roast in half and baked the halves in two separate pans. She said, “Because Gramma did it that way.” When they asked Gramma why she did that, she said it was because she didn’t have a pan big enough to hold the roast.
Now, this is a light illustration of a very significant point, namely, that we can get so locked into certain ways of doing things, that we fail to consider whether they are right or wrong or whether they make sense. That’s what happened to the Pharisees. They had gotten so accustomed to doing things a certain way, that they were not open to any new way, even though it made sense. They couldn’t understand the common sense of Jesus in helping this man because their common practice was not to help people on the Sabbath Day. Blinded by the Law, we can miss the chance to love. Blinded by the common practice, we miss the common sense.
Let ask ourselves: How often have I tried to bring someone to Jesus? Do I come to church just to fulfill the law or I realize if I don’t I miss the forgiving love of God and the opportunity to receive Jesus’ body and blood?