Today’s Gospel continues a series of confrontations between Jesus and the respected institutions of Israel. His encounter this time was with a group of scribes, the “administrators” of the “honor” code in its application to the God-Israel relationship, particularly as it was spelled out in the “Law.”
Jesus’ return from his encounter with the leper and his time away did not go unnoticed. Mark said he was at home, the new base he had established in Capernaum. He was popular with the crowds, who congregated outside the door to hear him preach. But it was Jesus’ actions that gave a clearer teaching than His words.
Amazingly, Jesus did not heal the man but simply stated that his sins were forgiven. Jesus began his mission around Galilee by claiming that the Kingdom of God was near at hand. Jesus saw a connection between the faith of the four friends and the man’s forgiveness. The friends certainly had faith in Jesus’ power to heal the paralytic, to make his life better.
But the story turns away from the purpose of their faith to Jesus’ reaction to the inability of the scribes to see Jesus for who he really was. The scribes, as the experts in the Law, the Jewish way of life, determined and defined what was sin and what was not, as well as how sin was to be removed.
They were the ones to decide what God forgave and how. In speaking as he did, Jesus had invaded their area of expertise. Jesus read their mood, and directly confronted them. Which was more easily healed: physical or moral paralysis, sickness, or sin? Both interventions were expressions of the coming of the Kingdom of God, and Jesus was its herald, its exemplar, and its agent. God was moving in the world, and the old ways were being radically challenged.
The scribes believed that obedience to the Law would enable God to send to them a Savior, who would free them from slavery to the Romans. Jesus, however, was sent as the “Son of Man” to rescue them, and us, from their slavery to sin and death. Caught up in their own pride, power, and authority, the scribes rejected Jesus.
How often do we resemble the scribes with a faith limited by our slavery to sin? We want what is good, in our minds, for us in the here and now. But Jesus offers us the freedom to experience what is good for us for all eternity. It is only when we can recognize our brokenness, our spiritual paralysis, that we too, like the friends of the paralytic, will do whatever it takes to get closer to Jesus.
We must “see” from an eternal perspective so that the power of sin can be defeated in our lives.
Today’s Question for Prayer and Reflection
Do you know the healing power of forgiveness and compassion that Jesus offers you?