Mark 2:5-12

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 fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’

At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and take your mat and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic— ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’

And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’ Mark 2:5-12

Far too often we think of “faith” as something we “think” about. We reduce faith to the ideas that float around in our brains. Ideas that we freely accept or reject. Ideas that we think others should or should not also think. We turn faith into a head game.

When those four guys showed up with the guy on the stretcher, Jesus couldn’t see inside any of their minds. All he could see, through the dust and debris dropping on his head, were four guys huffing and puffing as they dropped a man lying on a stretcher onto his lap. He couldn’t see what they “believed,” he could only see what they were doing. Their effort to help their friend was the faith that Jesus saw.

Many people reduce the vast changes wrought in the Reformation as a fight between “salvation by grace” versus “salvation by works.” As if it was only about theology and specifically about the fine distinctions between “what we do” and “what God does for us.” Whether or not it was the intention of my teachers, or whether I was just a muddle headed student, I came away from the seminary largely believing that, if we could just help people think differently about the faith, to believe correctly, everything would be better for them. More head games.

That is pretty much where we find the scribes in these verses. They are playing head games about the proper understanding of how forgiveness works. Jesus is breaking the rules!

So Jesus “gets them out of their heads.” He asks them a question. At the point that they begin talking publicly, they are involving their whole selves in the moment. They aren’t hiding in their heads. Jesus both involves and exposes them in the moment. And then Jesus acts.

With a word, Jesus tells the man to get up and walk and he does. Everyone, obviously, is amazed.

Jesus isn’t about head games. Jesus is about restoring wholeness. Wholeness, of course, includes our heads but it also reaches to the tips of our toes and beyond our toes to the entire world. Jesus cares about what we know but also, and maybe even more, about what we do.

Including bringing our brokenness, and that of our neighbors, to his feet, even if it feels like we are “barging in” while the snippity ones complain.

Let us pray: Thank you for this mental picture of a man climbing off his mat while his friends cheer from the roof! We all have our own mats. We all have our own needs. We too pray for wholeness and the willingness to act in loving, healing, ways. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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