By Sarah Cornwell
Reading from the Gospel of Mark, 2:1-12
1 When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2So 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. 3Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4And 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. 5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6Now 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?” 8At 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? 9Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? 10But 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.” 12And 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!”
While Jesus is preaching to a large crowd who have gathered at his home, some people bring a paralyzed man to him. As they cannot bring the man through the crowd, the four carrying the man climb to the roof, remove the outer layer, and dig a man-sized hole to lower him down. This is a remarkable act of faith.
First, they carry a grown man. Presumably, the paralyzed man did not live right next door! Some distance and stamina are involved. Then they come to the crowd — the first obstacle. It may have seemed reasonable at that point to say, “Well, we tried,” or, “Maybe we’ll come back another time when there aren’t so many people.” But no: They go up on the roof and lift the paralyzed man up there with them. Then they remove and dig through the roof, another remarkable act of stamina. Then they lower the man down, not caring how it looks.
Jesus lets all of this happen. If Jesus can perceive in the spirit what the scribes are whispering, presumably he can hear people clawing a hole in his roof. Can’t he just shout up to them, “OK, you’ve proven you’re serious. His sins are forgiven. You can all go away now”? It would save the four men an awful lot of trouble. Jesus could also save himself the trouble of having to repair the roof afterwards.
But that’s not the way Jesus works, is it? Jesus isn’t about the easy road or half measures. On your road to Jesus, carrying whatever burden you wish to place before his feet, you may encounter obstacles difficult enough that it may seem reasonable to turn back. Don’t. Find another way. And if you encounter another obstacle, start digging to find your way in. Your efforts will not be in vain.
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman, ballet teacher, an an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have five children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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