Second Sunday of the Great Fast
And when they could not come near him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where he was. So when they broke through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying
Mark 2: 4.
We see today that faithful response to Christ is full of creativity. The house is full, a crowd blocked the entry, but faith finds a creative way of getting to the Lord and placing the paralytic before him. If we cannot get sinners to Jesus by ordinary methods, we must use extraordinary ones, it seems, according to St. Luke (5: 19), the roof tiles had to be removed. That would create dust and cause a measure of danger to those below; but when the case is very urgent, we must be prepared to run some risks and even shock some people. Jesus was there to heal, and therefore roof or no roof, faith ventured also that the poor paralytic might have his sins forgiven. We need more daring creative faith among us! We ought to seek it every morning of our lives and the times afterwards as well. We must seek it for our fellow-workers and truly today, to perform some gallant act for the love of souls and the glory of our Lord. That is our purpose, particularly during this sacred season when we are to arm ourselves with a faith response that will continue beyond the boundaries of the preparation period for the Resurrection.
The world is constantly being creative and inventive, genius serves all the purposes of human desire, so why cannot faith
be inventive too and by some creative means reach people who are strangers to the gospel message?
Jesus is moved. So He applauds, if not with hands, at least with his heart. And not only does He applaud, He also blesses and so we witness a divine love-burst. Genuine friends want him to heal their friend. But our Lord has a greater purpose. He will not simply settle for a healing of the body, of the physical flesh, He wants to heal the heart and soul. He leapfrogs the physical and deals with the spiritual. To heal the body Is temporal; to heal the soul is eternal.
The request of the friends is valid but timid. The expectations of the crowd are high, but not high enough. They do expect Jesus to say, "I heal you." Instead He says, "I forgive you." They expect him to treat the maladies of the body, of the flesh, for that is what they plainly see. He chooses to treat not only the body, but also the spiritual dimension too, for that is what He plainly sees. They want Jesus to give the man a new restored body so he can walk. Jesus offers him heavenly grace so the man can five.
How remarkable for this needy man. How many times our God is so touched by what He sees that He gives us what we need and not simply that for which we ask!
Of course not all who were present were delighted to behold what is transpiring. What can be more reasonable than to believe a man when He comes and tells us that He is sent from Go to heal the diseases of our souls and in order that we may believe him, He heals all sorts of men, at all times, of all manner of diseases, simply by a touch or even simpler, by uttering a word. He plainly shows that he can do it when He will, let the disease be what it will. He tells us that He will deliver us from spiritual and eternal death and also from temporal death in particular cases, that He will raise us from the dead and give us eternal life, so that we shall live forever and not die. And to prove this He gives us visible and invisible evidence that He has power over man's life by not only prolonging their lives, but even restoring them after they are dead and besides, He rises from the dead himself. He tells us that He will bestow heavenly glory upon us and will translate us to heaven. And to confirm us in this belief, He tells us that we shall like him, after his death, ascend into and return to heaven. What more could we desire from a man who comes from God and has power so evidently visible to do all these things for us, than to give us such evidence of this power which we plainly see today?
"Which is easier to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven or to say, Get up and pick up your pallet and walk? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, he said to the paralytic, I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home"' Mark 2: 9 - 11.
Jesus had the power to forgive sin. "And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, `My son, your sins are forgiven'" Mark 2: 5; Luke 7: 48 -50. By limited Jewish understanding, even law, what Jesus did only God can do; the prominent and wellknown prophet Isaiah restricts this prerogative to God alone. "It is I, 1 who wipe out for
my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more" Isaiah 43: 25. So we can understand why the scribes are quick to ask, "Why does this man speak this way? He blasphemes for who can forgive sins but God alone" Mark 2: 7? Jesus then asks them the obvious question, which is easier to say, "Your sins are forgiven," or to say, "Arise and walk?"
This is not an unanswerable question. The statements are equally easy to pronounce, but to say with accompanying astounding performance, requires divine power. An imposter of course, in seeking to avoid detection, would find the former easer. Jesus not only heals the man so they could see the physical deformity is over as he heals the illness that men might know He had authority to deal with its cause. So they could not then deny his overcoming physical problems, plainly seen, He also could resolve problems of the soul, not so easily observed!
Today we see that love takes us out of ourselves and beyond our own limitations in selfgiving to others. The whole of our Lord is characterized by such visions. There are several references in the gospels to his great compassion for the needy crowds of people. They needed to witnesses Christ's love of mankind and his greater love for souls.
St. Luke in particular stresses that the love of Christ brought him into contact with those who were despised or under-valued by the society of his day. Lepers were excluded from ordinary society, but He not only cleansed them but even touched them, something no Pharisee or scribe would ever have dreamed of doing. (Luke 5: 12 - 14). The tax collectors were regarded as beyond the pale because of their daily contact with Roman officialdom, but He not only ate with them and their despised friends, but actually called one of them to be a member of the inner band of his disciples (Luke 5: 27 - 32). The Roman occupying force was hated, yet He healed the servant of a centurion and remarked loudly and clearly about the greatness of his faith (Luke 7: 1 - 10).
"I tell you, not in all Israel have I found such faith" Luke 7: 10. Regardless of our circumstances, may we be in that category of believers who, in approaching the Lord are blessed to hear this exact observant blessing from our Saviour, particularly during this holy season of the Great Fast.