Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Jesus healing the paralytic: Moving beyond our paralyzed selves
2 When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. 3 Then some people[a] came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” 12 And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
The story of Jesus healing the paralytic is quite a popular story. The intrigue in the story is increased by the adventurous four persons who help get the paralytic to the roof and then struggle to let him down so that Jesus would see him. The crowd that had surrounded Jesus is neutralized by this very creative way of approaching Jesus. It must have been quite a sight for people then. There are two things which come across to us in this passage. This helps us construct a spiritual basis for lent and takes us through a Lenten experience.
Taking the paralytic up and letting go would have been difficult for the four persons. It is like our talks and prayer to God. We are reluctant to pray and give our needs to God. The four men do the opposite of what we do. They know that they cannot get through the crowd. So they become enterprising and take the man up, only to let him down. After being enterprising and knowing that their enterprise works when Jesus takes notice, they are willing to let go of their friend into the hands of Jesus. During lent are we willing to do the same? Are we willing to accept that lent is a time when we should not only take a commitment to those who are in need of our help? Are we after fulfilling our role, willing to pull back and see God working rather than expressing our over powering ego and saying that we should then be given the honour of doing everything even when we know we are not skilled for that. Our preparation may make us feel that we can have easy access to God because we are closer to God in our own assessment. But we then understand that this is not the case. This is why we need to let go completely, lent or no lent. Letting go completely gives us uncertainty but coupled with faith and belief is the most important and beautiful thing in Christian faith.
Jesus heals the paralytic of his existence in the midst of people who look down upon him. Jesus says that his sins are healed. The healing is misleading because we think that sickness and sin are related. But this is confusing because sickness can’t be related to sin. Rather what this shows is that it is not and if at all, sickness is a corporate responsibility and therefore cannot be pin pointed on one person. What Jesus does through asking him to get up and walk is to tell them that he is fixing their short coming instead of the paralytic’s. Before that he says that your sins are forgiven. This is what the scribes complain about. They bicker as to how and from where Jesus got the authority to forgive sins. But it could also mean that Jesus is offering something greater than healing when he says that your sins are forgiven. But this is opposed by the scribes by their bickering. The paralytic could then not have been linked to his personal sin but rather to the corporate sin that everyone was bound to. It could be that Jesus could have been offering him eternal life which would then give him the courage to get over his paralysis. The scribes deny this to him.
But since the others there try to make that controversial, he says, get up, take your mat and walk. This then brings to an end the way people are going to see him. But the sin of the community remains. The paralytic is given the strength to get up and walk. This was what was denied to him all these years and this is what he now gets through the intervention of Jesus. Even as the onlookers who criticize Jesus and the paralytic stay on, the man on the mat walks away.
Disability is something we like misinterpreting in lieu of the scripture. This becomes so serious that priesthood and lay participation is being done taking into consideration such a framework which is in terms of perfection and the acceptable and unacceptable. Such a notion has dangerous ramifications on the real and true expressions of the church. This becomes a big sin during lent. Since lent is a time when we are trying to work on our short comings and sins, we then should also work on our concept of sin and who is sinning. Any set up which looks into disabled people as people who have in some way sinned is flawed. Jesus tries to go beyond the usual notion by saying that he as the second person in the trinity is capable of saying that the sin alleged and pinned on a particular person is being wiped out by him because he feels that this is unjust.
There is a feeling that lent is a time to become strong internally and spiritually. This internal strengthening sometimes also becomes a strengthening of moral attitudes in our culture. Moralizing like the scribes brings about such comments like who is he to forgive sins and by what authority is he doing it. Churches fall into the trap of thinking that priests and church committees are in the business of saying what is and what is not sin when only God can judge in reality. This means that lent can become a time to be inspired by what Jesus did. He offers forgiveness for sins which have been alleged and labelled.
When Jesus tells the person to stand, take his mat and walk, what he may have meant is to tell the paralysed person to not take this humiliation any more. Give it back to them and which better way than to stand up, take the mat and walk. Jesus inspires the paralyzed person to walk and to walk away after all that the person has had to go through. There is no need to take this insult anymore.
Lent becomes an excellent time for discernment. This is a discernment to accompany those who have been marginalized and then discern and accept the role of God in bringing them to the main stream. The Lenten experience should help us towards this commitment of accompaniment, moving back and then accepting the will of God.
Picture courtesy: http://lavistachurchofchrist.org/Pictures/Standard%20Bible%20Story%20Readers,%20Book%20Two/target46.html