Sunday, March 12, 2017
Challenge the accusation of sin this lent
St. Mark 2:1-12
The story of the paralytic is a story of the faith of a group of people and not one person. Many of Jesus’ miracles were performed when the person healed had faith in the ability of Jesus. But in this story that we read the faith is of a group of four who break through the roof and lower down the paralytic into the presence of Jesus. Usually we look up at God. In this case we find four people and the paralytic looking down at God for a miracle.
During lent we do kneel and pray and feel that we are lifted up into the presence of God. But we fail many a time to feel and see the presence of God in our midst. Why do we put God up there when God can very well be here with us? The verses following the story of the paralytic stress this point. In verse 17 Jesus says “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” He defends the fact that his disciples don’t fast and finally says in verse 27 “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for sabbath.” Jesus is questioning ritualistic fasting.
We have the habit of raising ourselves into the presence of God without actually checking whether God is up there or down here. Jesus suggests that he is with his people and not far away from them. We can perhaps put it this way. Jesus stands for his people and he comes to earth for them. The people are not created for Jesus. The scribes who were also in the house where Jesus was sitting were perhaps looking up and therefore could not experience the power of Jesus. They simply could not fathom God in their midst.
The paralytic does not get space to reach Jesus. His friends think different and reach down to Jesus instead of reaching up to him. Their faith is also a turning around of the usual into the unusual. It is different from all others present there. This is what makes Jesus notice them with the paralytic. Jesus then says that the paralytic’s sins are forgiven. But why did he say that? Did he say that because he also like others associated disease with sin? In another case Jesus answers his disciples that someone is blind so that God’s name will be glorified and not because of the sin of his parents or anyone else. St. John 9:3 says “Jesus answered, “Neither this man not his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” So Jesus may have talked of forgiving the man’s sins because he was talking to the scribes present there. The paralytic cannot pass the crowd and come to Jesus because society does not let him pass in his accused sinfulness. So his friends go up and bring him down to Jesus. The paralytic comes down to Jesus.
Lent is a time to come down. But how liberating it is to come down and find Jesus? It is not lonely here. Rather in our coming down we find Jesus. The paralytic and his friends cross the barrier of the crowd. But they reach on top of the house where it is lonely and Godless. They then break through the roof and come down to Jesus. Lent should not just be an over the top, over the roof experience but an experience which leads us down to Jesus. We must break through the roof and come down. Jesus is always with the people and not unreachable up there. It also reminds us that we must not judge others and call others as sinners as Jesus refrains from doing that. Lent is rather a time when we should realise that Jesus, the son of God humbled himself to be with the people. We should do the same. We must not go through the roof and set ourselves up there through the ritualistic purity we think we attain. Rather we should look at Jesus’ association with ordinary people who are termed as sinners by the society. Jesus’ fasting is to challenge the notion of sin and the labelling of people as sinners.
This lent we can also do the same. There are many people in the world who have the burden of being called a sinner by others. The lent should make us strong to take upon this accusation upon ourselves. Jesus does not heal from a height. Rather Jesus shoulders the burden of sin accused upon the paralytic. He tries to set the scribes and Pharisees free out of their notion of sin. Jesus looks up not for a blessing but to carry someone’s burden and lead to a blessing. May we be a blessing to someone this lent and carry the burden of sin for someone accused of being a sinner wrongly. Amen.