Expressions of Jesus in Our Time: The Great Healer – Then And Now
Scripture: Mark 2: 1 – 12
Ah, the mighty lavender; its essence of healing, the beauty of its symmetry, the wonder of its abilities for growth in even the most challenging of soils, the comfort of its color, the healing nature of its fragrance. I realized that I hadn’t talked about lavender yet given that the laws of Sequim state that any new pastor must utilize it in at least one sermon in the first three months of service. So, back to examining lavender. It carries so many healing properties that people come to see it, smell it, pick it, dry it, and allow it to create peace within the troubled soul. It is, in so many ways, what defines this community. And I think, can help us this morning as we examine Jesus and healing.
Heaven knows that, particularly in this time in our lives, we need something that offers us solace and peace. Yup, lavender offers us one piece of God’s creation that can work for health. It doesn’t however, have the ability to bring us full health or complete wholeness. We really do need the help of God. We also need the help of others. As tough as that is for us, the scripture this morning is the perfect example of how it all works. I will get back to lavender before the sermon comes to a close, but this story, more than almost any other in scripture, helps us know the heart for healing, the deep compassion and the even deeper wisdom of Jesus, as he seeks to bring health and healing to anyone willing to receive it. It also offers us an example of the importance of friends who are willing to help us toward Him and toward healing. So let’s take a look at it, and I think we’ll find a whole lot that helps us understand his intent. First, some items to notice in the story.
Remember, Jesus was at home (and yes, Jesus had a home – his own home), and he had invited guests to come to his home for a time of teaching. The place was packed to overflowing. His home was in Capernaum, close to his beloved Sea of Galilee, and situated so that the fresh breeze of the water would cool the house. It was made of a kind of stucco and stone. Houses in that region didn’t have roofs, per se. The edges of the walls that surrounded the home were covered in twigs. Those twigs were woven together in a way that allowed them to extend out over a part of the interior to provide shade. So, in this case, they were above the heads of those sitting on the edges of the inner room. Also, there was normally an upper room somewhere around the house, a kind of balcony. It often had stairs on the outside of the home, making it accessible from the exterior. So, there you have the setting; the home of Jesus, packed to overflowing. Now let’s talk about the belief that created the situation.
Jews of that time believed in generational sin. In other words, someone’s great, great grandfather could have committed a sin and the great, great grandchild could still be paying for that sin. In other words, the consequences or God’s punishment for sin would move through four or five generations. There was nothing anyone could do, other than continually offer sacrifices at the Temple and beg God to remove the punishment for the next generation.
That’s what we see here. The question comes up, “Who sinned, this man or his parents…?” In other words, whose fault is it that the man is a paralytic. I’m sure the man wondered the same thing. Was it me or my parents or someone else in my extended family that caused me to be paralyzed? There was no doubt that God caused whatever the malady may be…including paralysis. So we have the setting and belief about this paralytic. Now to how this man got to be in front of Jesus…and why the whole roof incident is so important.
We all know that Jesus was known as a healer, a miracle-maker, and a great teacher. It’s why so many would gather to hear and watch him. They wanted to hear him and see something supernatural. It’s also why Temple authorities were there. They were on constant watch for a mistake that could discredit this popular Rabbi. And because Jesus was a known healer, that’s where the four friends come in. They must have believed that Jesus could heal. They must have been willing to do anything to get their friend where he needed to be to be healed. This whole story speaks to the depth of their friendship, and the trust they had in Jesus’ potential to heal. They didn’t know what was going to happen, but they trusted. They didn’t know if Jesus would even look at their friend. But they took it on, and took it on with gusto.
Here’s how the story goes. They got to the house carrying their friend. They saw the crowd and looked for a way to get in. Nothing. They finally found and climbed the stairs. They located the edge of the roof closest to where Jesus was teaching, and began to tear the roof apart.
Now, back to the room where Jesus was. Can you imagine sitting in the room close to the Rabbi? Suddenly particles of the roof begin to fall on your head. Small particles turn into small twigs, and finally into full-on larger pieces of wood. You can imagine the grumbling from those on the receiving end; the language as those who’d made sure they were closest to Jesus began to watch the roof fall in and on them. I’m pretty sure some of those were the religious authorities who demanded the seats of honor, even in someone’s home. But notice, the homeowner doesn’t even seem to notice; doesn’t get frustrated or angry. He just watched, amazed, and impressed by the opportunistic passion of those who were tearing his roof to shreds. The friends had come prepared and lowered the paralytic down placing him gently in front of Jesus.
Now, hang with me here…and a reminder that I believe Jesus saw a major part of his role to redefine God. He wanted those around him to understand that God was not vengeful, angry, and didn’t want to punish anyone, particularly the sick or infirm. God did not intend to harm anyone. God offered healing and wholeness to anyone and everyone, but through Jesus. Jesus became the instrument that allowed for that healing and wholeness. So, after the question about who sinned, his first response was to heal the emotional trauma caused by the belief in generational sin. Jesus made sure that this man didn’t in any way cause his paralysis. But the language is important here. For Jesus, it wasn’t just the paralytic that brought the opportunity for healing. More importantly, it was the friends.
Notice that before Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven,” it says, “When Jesus saw their faith…” their faith. It was the faith of the friends that contributed to this man’s healing. As odd as it may sound, I believe that began the change toward wholeness in the man. The physical healing came next. Before getting there, let’s talk sin.
Sin simply means missing the mark. It is an archery term. More importantly, it means, missing the bullseye. We all miss the bullseye in our lives, but it’s not the inaccuracy that causes us harm. It’s more often things like shame, or guilt, negative self-talk, and negative emotions that cause our pain and paralysis. It’s the healing of the emotional aspects of our lives that often opens the door to other types of healing. It certainly did on this day. The man no doubt felt that part of his heart healed. Maybe for the first time in his life, he felt good about himself. His guilt and shame were healed…all of it. And that’s when he began to become whole. Forgiveness does that. It heals us. Yup, the authorities questioned, judged, demanded, grumbled, and sought ways to argue. Jesus didn’t care. He basically told them that God is forgiving, creates wholeness, and I, Jesus am God’s instrument…so just hush up.
Then came the physical healing. Get up, take up that which bound you, and go. You’ll find that I love Brene Brown. She helps us understand the power of guilt and shame. As she says, she’s a shame researcher. Shame binds us, blinds us, paralyzes us, and doesn’t allow us to get up, take up and go. I believe Jesus knew that. He healed the shame first. If he hadn’t, the man would have carried it with him, very much like his friends carried him.
Removing the shame, as I said, opened the door for a new life, a healed life, a full and whole life. But remember, it took his friends to get him to that place of healing, that place in front of the one who could offer him something he thought impossible, and that’s a lesson for us.
Friends, we deal generational sin even today. There is proof of genetic predisposition that now include emotions like guilt and shame. We often believe that we aren’t worthy of healing, or aren’t worthy of help. We’re often too ashamed to admit our struggles or insecurities to even our closest friends. I assure you, until we are willing or able to do that, we simply can’t be made whole. It takes a risk. It takes trust. It takes time. It takes friends willing to hear, accept, even carry us toward that place where we can find wholeness. I think the best kind of church is one willing to create relationships that are deep enough to offer our honest selves with each other, and opportunities for the healing of our shames. Brene Brown calls overcoming shame akin to becoming whole-hearted. Overcoming shame allows our hearts, our souls, ourselves, to become whole. We all miss the bullseyes of life, relationships, expectations, self- acceptance, and yup, Christian life. But Jesus is there, always ready to say, “Your sins are forgiven. Now get up, take up, and go…” Go carry a friend. Go, find peace. Go be who God created you to be. Go and do…and I’ll be right there with you, he says. Now back to lavender.
Lavender grows in even the worst kinds of soil. And as it grows, it changes. It’s when it blossoms that it becomes more. I think it’s the same with us. It’s when we become whole, and full, and allow ourselves to blossom that we become more. It’s when we allow ourselves to become whole-hearted that we find ourselves blossoming. So my friends, get up, take up whatever is holding you back, be healed, and go. But remember, there will be times when you need your friends, and times when your friends need you. Christ needs you and each of us needs Christ. God needs you to be another instrument of healing. So, get up, take up, go, and blossom. Amen? Amen!