"Just Dropping In"
by Gary in New Bern
Jesus has been having some problems the same problem weve been facing
here lately hes a bit too popular. Hes run out of space to do his
ministry. Mark says that he cant go into the local towns and teach, because of the
commotion and press of the crowds. But, now and then, even a Rock star has to end his tour
and go home, change his socks and get a decent meal. So Jesus goes to his new-found home
in Capernaum, the home of Simon Peters mother-in-law.
But the crowds follow him even there. Now her house, if archeologists are correct,
was probably shaped like a large "U" with a courtyard in the middle, rooms for
the disciples along one side, storage and cooking facilities along the other side, and
connected by a Great Room in the middle. It would have been here that Jesus was receiving
some of the local religious when the crowds showed up at the door. The house fills up. The
courtyard fills up. People are pressing at the door as Jesus heals and teaches, probably
commenting to his invited guests as he ministers to the crowd.
Meanwhile, outside, there are a few fellows that want to get in to see Jesus
not for their own sakes, but for the sake of a friend. He is paralyzed, and they
have brought him on a pallet to see Jesus, promising him that they will, indeed, make sure
that he gets in, filling him with hope of healing. But when they get there, they see the
crowds and realize the impossibility of their task. They are not dismayed not to be
put off. "Dont you worry," they tell their friend. "Well get
I like to think of these friends as the "Frat Boys." I remember in
college when the school was going to tear down old Recitation Hall, one of the first
buildings erected on the campus. It had a bell up in its bell tower that the kids would
run up and ring whenever the school won a game. But the administration said they couldnt
save the bell. It was too hard. Too expensive. Too dangerous. So, on Homecoming Eve, five
of us slipped into the building, lifted a three-hundred pound bell off of its moorings,
lowered it through the tower, carried it down two flights of steps, and hauled it to the
student center, chaining it to a post there. We sent the President of the University the
key to the lock.
If you want something bad enough, possibilities open up. The "Frat Boys"
looked over the situation, and noticed something: the crowds were pressing everywhere
except on the roof!
Inside, Jesus is healing and teaching. There is enough noise that no one hears the
ladder bang against the side of the house, the footsteps above, the scraping, the voices.
Until dust and a few small twigs drift to the ground. A couple of folks point up, nudging
those beside them, "Look at that woodja!" There is some laughter from the crowd,
along with some consternation, especially on the part of Simon Peters mother-in-law,
whose roof they are destroying. Shes thinking, "Its a good thing that
Jesus is a carpenter hell have a job to do tomorrow!"
The religious are shaking their heads. They are the "I told you so,"
bunch. "See, Jesus this is what happens! You start this stuff, telling them
your little stories and healing people, and suddenly you have plaster in your eyes and the
roof is caving in!"
Jesus stops and watches along with the crowd. Is there the hint of a smile on his
face? A small hole opens at first, and a shaft of sunlight filters in, picking up the dust
drifting down upon the crowd. Small sticks and chunks of mud fall, and hands can be seen
reaching down, tearing at mud and sticks, lifting some pieces up, and letting others drop.
Then a smiling face or two at the hole, a hand waves cheerily at the crowd below; the
faces disappear, shouting ensues with the sound of something heavy being pulled across the
roof. A large package is lowered down. With every jerk of the rope, a grunt emerges from
it, until all can see that it is a palate with a man on it. Soon it rests upon the floor,
in front of Jesus.
Whatever Jesus might have been saying to the crowds before is lost in the moment
Mark doesnt even mention it. Yet it doesnt seem to bother Jesus. There
is a compelling quality about him he is always open to new opportunities, open to
change; he receives these moments as gifts from his Father teachable moments.
Ministry often happens in times like this, moments of holy praxis, where God breaks
unexpectedly into our life, opening up new possibilities.
Those who are with him look at him wonderingly the religious, the crowd,
the disciples, the friends, the man. But Jesus is focused on the man before him. He kneels
and talks quietly to him, perhaps taking his hand in his own, as he did the leper.
"My son," he says to him, "your sins are forgiven."
What was that? Wait a minute! That isnt what he came for! That isnt
what his friends climbed up the roof for, tearing at it until their hands were bloody!
That isnt the spectacle the crowds came to see. And the religious the
religious are thinking, "Blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!"
Jesus looks up at the scribes, their questioning hearts now on his mind. It was
for this teachable moment, this time of holy praxis, that God sent this man. "Which
is harder to say," he asks, " your sins are forgiven, or rise,
take up your pallet, and walk?" And of course, the answer seems clear. Who can
test whether ones sins are forgiven? I can stand up here all day long and say,
"Your sins are forgiven," and who knows? Many will still leave, not sure whether
THEIR sins are forgiven! What do I know? But a healing well, as they say, "the
proof is in the pudding!"
Jesus turns to the man, and addresses him again. The man is still lying there.
Sins forgiven? Maybe. He doesnt know. Probably doesnt care. Thats not
why he came. Then Jesus speaks to him: "But that you may know that the Son of Man has
the power to forgive sins, I tell you rise, take up your pallet and walk!"
And he does.
To the crowd, that is the miracle. And perhaps to us as well. We love a good show,
dont we? But which is easier? To heal or to forgive? To Jesus, its all the
same. But the latter exacts a greater cost on him. For him, to heal is a small thing. To
forgive will cost him his life.
St Paul, in our Epistle lesson, says, "In God, it is never yes
and no. For in him it is always, yes." He points us back to
our baptism, to Gods great "Yes!" over our life, where God opened to you
that great Mother of All Possibilities that you are, indeed, his child, eternally
loved, eternally planned for, eternally in his heart and mind.
The four friends dare to open up a new possibility for their friend the
first skylight. In faith they dare to entertain the notion that God may break into life in
unusual ways, if we will only believe. Jesus also opens up a new possibility to those
gathered there that day that Gods healing power reaches beyond the expected,
into the furthest stretches of life, that where we had limited the scope of our
expectations, God opens up possibilities for healing, reconciliation and forgiveness.
In these waters, the waters of our baptism, God opens up new possibilities for our
life. We look at life with blinders on. As St. Paul says elsewhere, "We see as
through a dim mirror." Meanwhile the Holy Spirit is at work. Meanwhile God is opening
up whole new world for us, new dimensions of life, as he said, "I have come that they
may have life life in all of its abundance!" God opens new paths for us. Where
they lead us, the journey and the end, only God knows.