At that time, Jesus entered Capernaum and it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak thus? It is a blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk? But 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, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
I have many favorite Scripture Passages. Peter walking on the water, Jesus feeding the five thousand, and of course who can forget the story of the Resurrection. I seem to gravitate towards stories that show real people in real circumstances getting things done. Today we have such a story.
Jesus was in Capernaum, and like he usually does, He finds a place where He can teach people about the Kingdom of God. I would assume, by this point, that His name is known about the region as Scripture tells us, “and many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them.” So the house that he was in was filled to overflowing with people and they were all listening to what Jesus had to say.
There was a man who was paralyzed and his friends carry him to see Jesus in the hopes that He would heal him. Again, we have to assume that Jesus name was pretty well known around the area. They must have heard about other healings to take the chance to carry their friend to see Him. They get there, and of course they cannot get it. But this will not deter them from getting help for their friend.
They climb up on the roof and remove part of it, actually Mark’s Gospel says they “removed the roof” and they lowered the man down. Now a few observations here before we continue. Did not one notice that the roof was being removed? Where did they get the ladder and the rope? What did the man say who owned the house? And the big question, did they put the roof back on? Let’s come back to those questions in a minute.
When the man is lowered Jesus “saw the faith of the Paralytic” the faith of the paralytic? What about the faith of those who did all the work to get him there? Anyway, I digress.
Jesus simply tells the man, your sins are forgiven. There just happened to be some Scribes in attendance and they heard what Jesus just said, and Scripture says, “they questioned in their hearts.” Scribes were the ones who wrote stuff down but they also were teachers of the law, so they knew their stuff. They are not like people today who have read a few books and are suddenly experts on everything, although they tend to have the same attitude towards things they really do not understand.
Well Jesus knows this is going on and He asks them why they are asking questions. Jesus approached everything as a teaching moment and he also approached situations with compassion. So he asks them why they think these things. He then asks them a question, “What is easier to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk?’” You see to the scribes only God can forgive sins and Jesus is taking that power on Himself. I will pause here to say that during confession it is not the priest who forgives, never in the prayers to I say “I forgive” but I tell you that God forgives, as He is the only one, but also remember, Jesus is God!
He tells them that in order for them to understand that He, the Son of Man, has power on earth, He tells the man to get up and walk and go home. You see, Jesus did not heal the man’s body when He told him his sins were forgiven, the man was still lying there, it was only when the Scribes questioned Jesus that he healed the man’s body. This is an important point for us today, the body is not important; it is the soul that is what matters.
There is a common thread here between the men who brought the paralytic to Jesus and Jesus himself. They both saw what needed to be done, and regardless of the rules, they Just Did It!
Recently, Pope Francis went to a prison in Rome and washed the feet of some of the prisoners there. Two of them happened to be girls and this has sent the conservative Roman Catholic world into a head spin. “How can he do it” they cried, “it is against church law” others have said. Well, Pope Francis has immense compassion on everyone and he did what needed to be done. He went to the least of these, got down on his knees and washed and kissed their feet, in imitation of what Jesus did, but also to show compassion and service to those who need him most.
Now don’t get me wrong, rules are there for a reason and God knows we Orthodox have lots of rules, but we cannot let the rules get in the way of authentic ministry to the least of these!
Let’s look for a minute at the ministry of Jesus, He healed on the Sabbath, He ate with Tax Collectors and sinners, He mingled with Prostitutes, He talked to Samaritans, and as we see today, He forgave a man his sins.
Sometimes I think, we Orthodox, hide behind the rules so we do not have to face the reality of the situation out there in the world. Sometimes I think we believe that ministry only takes place here in the Church. I have been very impressed thus far with the new Pope of Rome. He seems to know what needs to be done, and he is just doing it. He is driving the establishment crazy but he is just doing it!
Jesus drove the establishment crazy. He called people to a deeper sense of spirituality and service. He said the rules are important as a guide for your life, but we cannot let them stand in the way of meeting people where they are and being true servants of those who need us the most.
Jesus defied the rules, He was born of a virgin, He was killed for no reason, and if that was not enough, He rose from the dead. He did this to show us the way, the way for us to live and the way for us to serve.
The time is now, it is time to Just Do It!