As Jesus is “speaking the word” to a room so packed with people that there is no space big enough for even an extra elbow, the roof of his house is ripped away and daylight streams in. Four pairs of strong and enterprising arms lower a mat on which a man lies paralyzed.
Jesus, who could have been deeply offended at the violation, looks up and sees only faith. Then he looks down, at the helpless offering now lying at his feet, a man completely unable to move. I imagine this man finding himself in the middle of a crowd of people who could react to his sudden appearance in any number of very unpleasant ways. His eyes, wide with fear, study the Rabbi apprehensively.
And Jesus says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
It is hard for us, who have so completely divorced the workings of our bodies from the state of our souls to make any sense out of the connection between this statement and the next one Jesus makes, which is, “Stand up and take your mat and go home.” For everybody in the room, however, the relationship is obvious. In fact, Jesus uses the second statement to prove his authority to make the first one. God forgives sins and God heals; and God has given authority to Jesus to do the same.
The man is healed. He gets up, right then and there. He probably feels a mixed share of wonder and joy at being able to move and relief that he can get himself quickly out of that room. He does just that; as Jesus commands, he picks up his mat and he goes.
Imagine the joy and relief of this man’s friends. They dared something bold, and their faith in the Rabbi’s compassion and power is vindicated. I wonder: do they stay to put the roof back in place? It really doesn’t matter.
Imagine the indignation and fear of the religious authorities. “We have never seen anything like this,” people exclaim. Explanations will be sought, and they will not be favorable toward Jesus. He will be accused of being in league with Beelzebub. In the thinking of the authorities, how can the natural order of things, in which some people are disabled because God wills it, be reversed without undermining God? Jesus being in league with a demon king makes way more sense to them than Jesus being able to forgive sins. I wonder though: how many hearts are opened because this healing is a manifestation of the word Jesus speaks? This matters a great deal, even 2,000 years later.
Take a breath of fresh air. Let the roof come off your thinking. Where God moves among us, miracle happens. Bodies are restored to their proper function and souls to their relationship with the Creator. Hearts have the courage to wonder and to dream. Like the folks on the rooftop, let’s celebrate our daring risk, our faith that Jesus will always in all circumstances be compassionate and heal. High fives all around!
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries With others she manages a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations’ creative ministries: Fresh Expressions Colorado