Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Gospel Embedded in Community - Part 2

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:1-5 NIV)

 
My last post began a series on the Gospel embedded in community, where I noted that we are called to bring people to Jesus - a living presence everywhere to be experienced.
 
Another thread in the story is what it took for these men to bring their friend before Jesus. They carry their friend some distance, through crowded narrow streets to this house, and find that the way is blocked by a crowd gathered to hear Jesus teach. The fact that their avenue to Jesus is blocked doesn't stop them. They carry their friend up a set of stairs running along an outside wall and tear a hole in the roof. 
 
They create a way where there isn’t one
They are not stopped by any of the physical barriers standing in the way of getting to Jesus.
 

But other barriers were present; barriers that come in the form of traditional ways of thinking that no longer answer the questions being asked. When Jesus doesn't heal the man, but pronounces that his sins are forgiven, Jesus introduces a new way of thinking. For traditional ways of thinking precluded that possibility. The reaction of the religious power-brokers is the moment in the story that we realize how radical a thing Jesus has just said.
 
"Some teachers of the law" are indignant: “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Often traditional ways of thinking can stand as barriers to Jesus equally as difficult and daunting to cross as anything physical. I've wondered why this is so. I think it's because it requires some real soul searching and the kind of work that many don't want to do, even though we may recognize our need to do so. Today the fastest growing religious segment of the U.S. are those who do not identify with any religion, so called Nones, many in that segment being Christians in exile, a great alumni association of former church members, who see perhaps better than many that the traditional answers don't answer the questions being asked today.
 
These friends of the paralytic, instead of being consumed with the same thoughts of the religious power-brokers - “He blasphemies! Who can forgive sins but God alone? Heresy, heresy, heresy!” - are consumed rather with simply reaching the One who can heal, who can bring life in the midst of death.
 
And no barrier of earth or heart will stand in the way.