Which Would You Rather Hear?

Mark 2:1-12
1And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But 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, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

The Roof of a House in Capernaum

Ancient Synagogue built on the site of Peter's House
I love this text for so many reasons! This is another one of those stories where the reader is transported back to that day when a crippled man was given his life back – on two levels. If you are a person who allows for mental images as you read, you can almost feel the crush of the crowded room; you can smell the straw in the floor and maybe your feet hurt because you’ve been standing in this small room listening to the Master teach about the Kingdom of God all day long. Suddenly, bits of thatch and straw begin to fall from the ceiling as a creative group of guys dig a hole in the roof so that they can lay their paralyzed friend before the Lord Jesus. Suddenly the room goes quiet. Jesus stops His teaching and turns His attention toward this unusual event. Here lies a man broken and unable to help himself. His gracious friends go to extraordinary lengths to bring him to the only Person who can heal him. The crowd holds its collective breath to see what will happen.

We should not be surprised by Jesus first words to the man but you can be sure the people in the room were surprised, not the least of which would have been his friends. “Son, your sins are forgiven.” That wasn’t why they brought their friend to Jesus. But what follows is beyond fascinating. With these words, Jesus is claiming Deity. The doubters in the room already question, in their hearts, how Jesus can even utter these words and Jesus knows their thoughts! Sign number two that He is indeed Divine. How would you like to be called out on your thought life?!? Thanks, but no. So, Jesus does the easy thing; He heals the paralytic, displaying His authority over our brokenness in body and spirit. The people in the room explode in praise for the Living God. (Although the text is silent about the scribes who have been called out about the thoughts in their hearts!)

This story is also interesting because archeologists believe that they have found the very house in which this healing took place. The text would lead us to believe that the house most likely belonged to Peter (or perhaps even Jesus!) and that Jesus lived in this house when He was in Capernaum, whether it belonged to Him or Peter. It appears that most scholars assign ownership of this house to Peter.

That this particular structure was special is seen in that around the middle of the first century AD the floors, walls, and ceiling of the single large room were plastered over, a phenomenon found in no other excavated house in Capernaum. At the time, plastering was used to help illuminate the interior of gathering places. Also, pottery finds suggest that after plastering, the house was no longer used for normal home activities such as preparing and eating food, as earlier. In addition, graffiti began to appear on the plaster mentioning Jesus as “Lord” and “Christ,” as well as short prayers and Christian symbols. It has thus been concluded that what was an ordinary house’s main room became the site of a house church in the late first century AD, and further evidence (such as the addition of an arch structure in the fourth century AD) suggests that it became a proper church structure after the legitimation of Christianity. This understanding receives confirmation by a comment in the diary of a Spanish nun who visited the site in the late fourth century AD: “In Capernaum a house-church … was made out of the home of the prince of the apostles, whose walls still stand today as they were” (Strange and Shanks, “Has the House Where Jesus Stayed in Capernaum Been Found?”). Secondary confirmation is given by the construction in the mid sixth century AD of an octagonal basilica over this central room, a type of structure used in Byzantine times to commemorate special sites.
 [This article from the Biblical Archaeology Society is absolutely fascinating! cb)
Voelz, J. W. (2013). Concordia Commentary: Mark 1:1–8:26. (D. O. Wenthe, Ed.). St. Louis, MO: CPH.

If you were the paralytic man, laying on the mat, broken and desperate, which one of Jesus words to You would have been the sweetest? Your sins are forgiven” or “…rise, pick up your bed and go home.” What are we looking for when we approach God? Are my immediate and temporal needs my main concern or am I willing to recognize that my greater need is forgiveness from the Lord of the Universe? My spirit hopes that I would be able to recognize my greater need but my flesh knows that I would be quickly drawn to the lesser more temporal desire. And that is the challenge for today.

Dear Lord, please realign my focus so that I am far more concerned about the things of the spirit than I am about the things of the flesh. Thank You for giving us this story. Please help me to hold the temporal parts of my life lightly and keep my eyes upon You and Your gracious forgiveness.