DEADLY BLAST NEAR POLIO CENTRE IN PAKISTAN
LUKE CHAPTER 5
7 One day when Yeshua was teaching, there were Phariseesand Torah-teachers present who had come from various villages in the Galil and Y’hudah, also from Yerushalayim; and the power of Adonai was with him to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. They wanted to bring him inside and lay him in front of Yeshua, 19 but they couldn’t find a way to get him in because of the crowd. So they went up onto the roof and lowered him on his mattress through the tiles into the middle of the gathering, right in front of Yeshua. 20 When Yeshua saw their trust, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 The Torah-teachers and the Pharisees began thinking, “Who is this fellow that speaks such blasphemies? Who can forgive sin except God?” 22 But Yeshua, knowing what they were thinking, answered, “Why are you turning over such thoughts in your hearts? 23 Which is easier to say? ‘Your sins are forgiven you’? or ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But look! I will prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” He then said to the paralytic, “I say to you: get up, pick up your mattress and go home!” 25 Immediately, in front of everyone, he rose up, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home praising God. 26 Amazement seized them all, and they made a blessing to God; they were awestruck, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
Today I am resuming my former habit of putting a news headline at the top of the page, not because it relates directly to the Bible passage, but because it marks from day to day what is happening in the world to which the Christian faith is supposed to be relevant.
In this story Luke follows his main source, the gospel of Mark very closely, except that he didn’t know about Galilean turf roofs which could be easily “stripped” (Mark’s word), substituting a more high-end tiled roof “through which” as he coyly says, the stretcher was lowered, doubtless causing serious damage.
In all the gospels, albeit in slightly different ways, there is a special meaning attached to houses or dwelling places of Jesus. This is because the Christian communities applied to their Lord Jesus the Jewish Bible image of the dwelling place or house of God. For them Jesus himself, or any dwelling place of Jesus, was seen as a house of God.
Both Matthew and Mark specify that Jesus was at home, that is, in his own house. Luke leaves it vague, so that this house may stand for all the houses where Jesus is present. This house of God is characterised by Jesus teaching and the power of God resting upon him. As if drawn by a magnet, a group of men carry a paralysed friend towards the house. They cannot win entry, but so convinced are they that God’s goodness is available there, that they tear their way into the building. The reader is reminded of Jesus’ ambiguous words about people taking the kingdom of God by violence. Certainly Luke means to convey the passionate reaction provoked by God’s presence, through Jesus, in a community.
Jesus is shown as immediately appreciative of the “trust” (Greek pistis) so roughly demonstrated by these men. He responds, however, in an unexpected way by declaring that the man’s sins are forgiven. Whatever the man may have been told about the reasons for his illness, Jesus tells him that nothing stands between hin and God’s goodness. The Pharisees and Torah teachers, who would have trusted in the annual ceremony on Yom Kippur for the forgiveness of the sins of the people, as laid down in the Torah, were scandalised by Jesus’ apparent carelessness with the precious commodity of divine forgiveness. For goodness sake, the man had not even shown repentance! “Who can forgive sins except God alone?” they are made to ask, by gospel writers who believe that it is indeed the one God forgiving sins through Jesus.
Jesus’ reply in Matrthew, Mark and Luke, mentions the “Son of Man” by which is meant Jesus, plus his disciples, as representatives of God’s holy ones who will rule the earth humanely. (See Daniel chapter 7). The reply means that Jesus -plus-disciples is authorised by God to announce his goodness in the world. Through them God offers to humanity an advance of trust. Rather than a change of heart being demanded as a prelude to forgivness, the offer of forgivness becomes a prelude to a change of heart.
But the “house of God” is not merely a place for forgiveness, it is also the meeting place of the forgiven person and the active goodness of God. The barrier between God and people has been removed and God’s goodness is not set against the human person, but on his side, as a transforming resource for living. That’s why Jesus presents forgivness and healing as two sides of the one coin.
Mark as the first author of this story, and Luke following him, see the man as an archetypal instance of how human beings, formerly incapacitated by their separation from God, can encounter God in the house of Jesus, receive forgiveness and healing, and rise up (a resurrection word) to a new life. The man walks away carrying his bed as a symbol of victory.
Those who wrote the story and those who first read it were members of church communities which were seen as houses of Jesus/ houses of God. The story is therefore not just about what Jesus did, but what he continues to do through the house assemblies of his disciples. It is a model for the church. Where there is true forgiveness and access to the healing goodness of God, people will break down the doors, if not the roofs, to get in.