Pastor's Ponderings: Meandering through Mark 2:1-12 bible study (September 5, 2023)
Updated: Oct 4
May the richest blessing of our Father in Heaven fill your lives today!
I pray that you had a wonderful Labor Day and were able to do the things that you desired to do. I hope that you were not at the Burning Man Festival outside of Reno, NV. I hope that you will join me in prayer for the drivers of our community. Every day as I bring the boys to school downtown, I am encountered by people driving who feel that traffic lights, speed limits, using turn signals, making legal left turns, holding a lane until by signal one can move to the lane next to them and so much more. I know that I am an older driver, but I am really a very conscientious driver who watches my speed, regards red lights as a signal to STOP! and so many other rules of the road. Since the pandemic year it has gotten really rough to drive anywhere. Please work to be a good driver, to be a blessing to other drivers around you, and to be forgiving of others who seem to not care about their own safety or ours.
Today we move on to chapter 2 of the Gospel of Mark bible study. Let's start by looking at the other three Gospels to see how this story appears or doesn't appear in them. In Matthew 9:1-8 we have a very similar story, though somewhat abbreviated. In Matthew the man is brought to Jesus, but not through the roof of His family's home. In Luke the story of the paralytic is nearly identical to Mark's. It is found in Luke 5:17-26. A similar story is found in John 5:1-9a. However, in John the ministry encounter with the paralytic takes place in Jerusalem at the Pool of Siloam. The emotion of this story is much like the other three Gospels. As you can see, John is often different in its content and approach to its parallels with the other Gospels. And, it is entirely possible that there were two occasions on which Jesus encountered a paralytic being cared for, at least in part, by relatives or friends in different places in Israel. According to Mark these four men were determined to get this paralytic to Jesus, the only one who had the power to affect a miracle of healing, so much so, that they tore into the flat roof of the house, where cross beams were three to four feet apart and filled with grasses, branches, and clay. The Bible doesn't tell us who got to repair that roof. That fact was unimportant to Christ's mission to reveal the true nature of God to the people of God in Israel. In this passage in Mark, we learn that the house of Jesus was probably pretty humble. In all likelihood its door opened right onto the street, so, once the house was filled with people, others filled the street in front of the house too. Have you ever been to a block party, or a concert in Reid Park? This mass of people came to Jesus to receive healing, but they got so much more than that. In Christ they discovered a person of hospitality and compassion, willing to welcome strangers into His home, and ready to take care of all who gathered around Him. We also discover that the burden of sin is greater than we might ever think, it not only affects the one against whom the sin is committed, but the sinner must carry the load of their own brokenness with them all day, every day. So, the nature of the Father that Jesus reveals to all who are gathered there is to offer the paralytic forgiveness, to share that God is no longer angry with the paralytic. Please know that in the culture of Jesus' time people saw illness as the result of sin. We see that most vividly in John's story of the man born blind. John 9:1-38. However, we see here too that sinfulness has burdened this paralytic, at the very least with the probable emotional issues linked to sin and health, but also the possibility that this man's health circumstances were related to his own understanding of his sin. Today we understand that such illnesses can be caused by deep psychosis. In other words, linked to the thinking of the time that his sin became such a burden that the man lost his mobility. In the face of all of this, the very next thing we learn about God from Jesus is that he desires and brings to reality forgiveness of sin. The historic understanding of the people of Israel about the nature of God is all about His anger, His readiness to judge, and even more frightening, his desire to punish. Jesus came to reveal the true nature of the Father in Heaven. The commentator, William Barclay, offers a wonderful way to see all of this. "Child, God is not angry with you. Come home, and don't be afraid." (The Prodigal Son) We all need to know this in our own lives too.
Now there were Pharisees present in this group of people who had gathered to be healed. That makes really good sense since Jesus had just been touring area Synagogues. Like others, the leaders from those communities had come along with their people. What we encounter now is that hard heartedness that the religious leaders of Jesus's day had historically learned and who had an agenda of not moving from the God who was brutal and hard to please, to the One True God which Jesus revealed as loving and forgiving. Their argument was that only God could forgive sin. In that thinking they were losing sight of the Messiah, and who was walking in their midst, Jesus, the Son of the Most Holy High God. Like so many people today, the contemporaries of Jesus could not understand. As Jesus said, "They were the blind leading the blind." Knowing that this conversation was going on, Jesus asked the men of the law, which was easier, to forgive someone their sin, or to say to them to pick up their pallet and walk away home. And then Jesus said to the paralytic, take up your bed and walk out of here. The community was shocked, with surprise at Jesus teaching and His desire to heal. But it must also have been the very beginning of religious leaders being concerned about the power of Jesus, and His ability. After all, to follow Jesus would mean giving up their wealth and growing power. You and I must always remember that the choice to live in sin is pretty easy and self-serving, but the journey toward righteous, seeking to live according to the Grace which Christ lives, is not easy. Just something to think about.
I will be back with you on Monday, Sept 11, 2023, with the next section of Mark.
In Christ, Pastor Kim