Lenten Devotional // Day 18

Tuesday, March 22
HEALING FRIENDSHIPS by Dave Dietrich

Mark 2:1-12
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 man who was paralyzed. 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!”

Reflection


Verse 4: “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.”  

The story never addresses it, but I do have to wonder what the person who owned the house was thinking the moment the roof opened up. I try to imagine calling my AllState agent: “Hey Jim. Yeah, so the Son of God was in my house just chilling with some legal experts when a group of altruistic heathens broke through my roof and lowered in a paralyzed man on a yoga mat. No, he’s fine; but what’s my deductible on this?”

I mean, they tore the roof off. Such was the commitment of these people to their friend; a friend who lacked even the ability to labor, among many limitations, which all the others likely took for granted. Even a prone cynic like me is shaken by the imagery. The passage has one of the more potent descriptors of any story in the bible because it’s so tangible. Granting that the materials and shapes were slightly different given the era, we all still know what roofs look like and how difficult they are to penetrate. This one got torn open.

Soon after we are hit with Verse 9: “Which is easier- to say to a paralyzed person, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take up your bed and walk?” Basically, it’s a miracle for me to forgive another person- though it is completely within my power to do so. I call this “mic drop Jesus.” The speech is bold and astonishing. I am at once in awe and also want to give a raucous ovation. Though we Christians have a tendency to make such gestures a bit awkward at times.
In the first part of the story, it seems I’m supposed to courageously support my friends and neighbors who are less fortunate. But I like to put myself on that mat. Because I’m probably the paralyzed man more often than the one tearing the roof open; paralyzed by relationships, jealousy, doubt, anger, resentment and so on. Which means, when I’m presented an opportunity to be on the roof, I shouldn’t hesitate.

In the end, the man picks up his mat and walks out in front of the crowd. Clearly a watershed moment for the man, but also for humanity. We’re affirmed the power to forgive. And with that power comes the responsibility to use it- a duty to which we are held accountable.
Underlying the entire account is the notion of community. The church is one such example. But is it reflective of the kind of community Mark describes? I fear we may spend more time watching the people work on the roof rather than laboring alongside them.  

But I’ve witnessed the extraordinary impact that imperfect humans can have, particularly those in my church. Many have helped me when I’ve been paralyzed to the bone. And as someone who needs a lot of forgiveness, it is fairly miraculous to even be allowed to be part of such a community.

The crowd responds: “We’ve never seen anything like this!”
Jim from AllState replies: “Thanks be to God.”

Questions for Contemplation


  1. When was the last time you felt paralyzed?
  2. Have you ever ‘torn the roof off’ for someone?
  3. How can Christians better reflect Mark’s description of community?

Prayer

God, when I am paralized by relationships, jealousy, doubt, anger or resentment, please allow me to take up my mat and walk. Allow me to lean into the communities that you have so graciously allowed me to be a part of. Then, when I see others paralized, help me be a conduit of your grace. Amen

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