Please forgive the lack of posts over the last few weeks. Studying at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary continues to be fantastic, but it has left me with barely enough time to work my part-time job besides studying, let alone post here, but I had to share this with you.
In my Spiritual Formation class, we’ve been trying out various spiritual practices. This past week’s practice was Lectio Divina – reading the Bible and listening for what God is saying to us through the scriptures. It’s intentionally spiritual readings, so careful exegesis isn’t really the point; in fact, it’s beside the point.
One of the passages my professor suggested was Mark 2:1-12, the story of the healing of the paralytic. Jesus returns to Capernaum and goes home.
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.
I mulled this over, not looking it up in the Greek or anything, and thinking about the comments on the blog and the numerous conversations I’ve had outside with people. I thought about that feeling I’ve gotten about there not being room for me in Christianity because I don’t agree on one or another issue that many conservative Christians consider the core of orthodoxy. Sexual ethics for same-sex attracted people, for example.
In many ways, I think I’ve internalized this. I joke with friends about being a heretic, but deep down sometimes I do wonder if there’s room for me in the house of Jesus.
Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 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.
This is such a rich section. At first I imagined myself as the paralyzed man, barely able to get to Jesus on my own, and being carried to Jesus on the prayers of people who care about me. You know who you are. Thank you.
But I so resonated with the part of the story where these people trying to get their friend to Jesus get blocked by a crowd – a crowd of people who are there to listen to Jesus and hear Jesus, but who, in their nearness to Jesus are blocking those who would come to him. (If you’re wondering why there aren’t many millenials in church, that might be a place to start).
The people carrying the paralytic were not deterred. They simply removed the roof. They got a new perspective on Jesus. They came at him in a different way.
The normal and appropriate and proper way to Jesus was blocked by people who were very interested in hearing what Jesus had to say and were not interested in stepping away from their position of privilege in Jesus’ house. This left those carrying the paralytic with no choice but to find another way in — a way I imagine did not meet with the approval of those already inside the house.
There are three reactions here that likewise caught my attention:
1. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Jesus isn’t bothered that they changed the shape of his house to allow someone in who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to get in. Not only is Jesus not bothered, Jesus is impressed. He immediately gives the paralytic what he came for, and what his friends brought him for.
The next reaction, for anyone who has ever gained access to Jesus through unconventional means and gotten there with a different perspective, is rather predictable: The people in the house of Jesus immediately launch into judgment mode. Who they judge, though, is less predictable:
2. Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
That’s right. They don’t judge the paralytic for coming to Jesus in an unconventional way. They don’t even judge his friends for digging a hole in Jesus’ house. Once the people who, at least physically, appear to be close to Jesus realize that Jesus has given this paralytic what he wants, their immediate reaction is, in the silence of their hearts, to judge Jesus.
But Jesus will have none of this.
3. 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? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so 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, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.”
Jesus gives the man what he needs and sends him home. And the reaction is palpable:
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!”
They were all amazed. Not just those who carried the paralytic. All. I can read Greek nowadays, but I trust the NRSV translators that whatever Greek word is behind that word “all” means “all.”
I took this text in two ways. First, personally. I see Jesus as accepting me, though I have a different perspective on him. Second, I see this as Jesus accepting those that people inside Jesus’ house (the church) have been keeping out, especially my LGBTQIA+ brothers and sisters.
I see this as a calling to dig a hole in the roof of Jesus’ house and lower in anyone who wants Jesus, and a call to watch as God is glorified in what Jesus does in, to, and through them.
This is not, for me, a calling to change people.
This is a calling to change Jesus’ house.
Will you be inside the house of Jesus blocking the door, or
will you find a shovel and help me dig a hole in his roof?