Well, today I’m returning to my series through Scripture. I know it’s been a long time since I wrote last, but these things come and go in waves. I’ve never been very good at consistency. Before we start, I thought I would let you know about a few other things I’ve been working on lately.
1. I’ve put in applications for scholarships to Regent College here in Vancouver. If I get the funds, I may be going back to school in September, possibly.
2. I’ve been following along with the Atheism for Lent series found here. The idea is to take a critical look at faith from an outside perspective in order to ground oneself better in true faith. I’m not sure what I think of it yet. These kinds of things can get very depressing. Believing in God is like breathing to me, so it’s not like I could just give it up, even if I wanted to… it colours everything I do. But it is good to look in from the outside, to see the flaws in our organized religion, and to get back to the heart of what my faith is – a relationship with my creator, who is bigger than anything I can imagine, and yet cares intimately for all of his creation.
3.I’m writing an editorial series on casual facebook games at JTMgames.com. This has been fun! Go read it.
4. I’m applying for an addictions counselling course that runs through the summer, with the potential to continue into next year. I’m excited about this opportunity, and about the doors that it might open in the future.
Now, on to Scripture! We’re picking up the story immediately following the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law. I’ll be liveblogging through it, and adding some theological asides where I feel I have the wisdom and / or resources to do so. mastly I’ll be asking a lot of questions though.
32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
Interesting, the line ‘he would not permit them to speak, because they knew him’. This indicates that Jesus was still hiding something of his nature from the people. Perhaps Mark wrote this line in response to questions that were asked after Jesus’ death – ‘well, if he was the son of God, why didn’t the demons he cast out recognize him?’
I don’t know why Jesus didn’t want to be fully known yet. My suspicion is that if people knew what he was claiming to be they would have killed him all the quicker. It’s a possibility for sure.
35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
I like this. Jesus did not come just for a small group of people, but for everyone – he knew that people would try and contain him, or would just use him as a miracle man, and there was much more to his story. He had to keep himself from becoming hemmed in by his audience.
40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 AndJesus[h] sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter. Jesus did not want the credit from this, but wanted to give the credit to God. He also knew that this would restrict his movements, as the people would become desperate for healing while missing the point. It’s important to note here that Lepers were dirty in more than one way – they were sick and disfigured, yes, but they were also ceremonially unclean, unable to worship in the Temple before God. Jesus healing the leper represents more than just a healing – it represents a cleansing of the body before God.
2.1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.2 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. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 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. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 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? 9 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!”
This is one of those accounts that those of us who grew up in the church heard in Sunday School all the time. It’s a neat little package with a good story, and so makes for an easy lesson for the Sunday School teacher. Plus, there’s something awesome about friends who would tear open the roof of a house in order to get their buddy in to see Jesus.
We often miss the theological significance behind the story though. The question that Jesus asks is actually a puzzling one. What is the correct answer? Is it easier to say to someone ‘your sins are forgiven’, or to tell someone to get up and walk? I would argue that the easier thing to do is to say ‘your sins are forgiven’, but saying either if you are lying about it will do no one any good. And so Jesus does both, proving that his words have power, by telling the man to get up. This astonishes the crowds on two levels – one, Jesus has the power to heal, and two, he has the power to forgive.