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Reflections on Mark 2:1-12 Part 4


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"They were all amazed and glorified God" (Mark 2:12)

REFLECTIONS ON MARK 2:1-12 Part 4
THE GOSPEL OF LIFE, LOVE AND FREEDOM


The whole sacrificial system of the Jewish faith existed for obtaining the forgiveness of sins. Here Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb, had come to die for the forgiveness of sins and break down the barrier between God and man. In one fell swoop Jesus bypasses the Jewish sacrificial system for forgiveness of sins for which there were intricate rules and regulations that needed to be fulfilled.

These words are also an anticipation of the cross and the supreme sacrifice of Jesus which made all other animal sacrifices in the temple redundant. It was only God who could forgive sins once the necessary sacrifices had been made. Jesus does here what only God can do. Release from the power of sin is now here, in the person of Jesus, the Son of God. It is this release from sin that makes man whole just as the paralytic was made whole. This is the vital message that comes across and is continued today in the sacrament of reconciliation that churches dating back to the apostles cherish. Nothing said or done by Jesus could have been more shocking or more revolutionary. He showed that he had the authority of God himself and it was this that took the Scribes by surprise. It was this that set in motion the hostility of the religious leaders related in the rest of the Gospel of Mark.

The healing of the sick, and in particular of this paralytic, was not only an authentication of the identity of Jesus as the long awaited Messiah and of his divine nature but also a manifestation of the mercy and compassion of the Father because Jesus and the Father are One:
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. ... Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. (John 14:8-11)
Indeed Jesus was the perfect image of the Father, he radiated the glory and compassion of the Father “He is the image of the invisible God” (Hebrews 1:15). Everything he did and said pointed to the Father:
Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. (Matthew 15: 30, 31)
It is drawing near to Jesus and trusting in him that we have access to the Father, it is only through him that reconciliation with God can ever become a reality:
No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him. (John 14:6)]
This is the importance of the cross, the full meaning of which is seen here in action. In this episode we have a foretaste of our standing in Christ. Faith in Christ brings reconciliation and union with the Father, because he and the Father are One.

The reaction of the Scribes is understandable. However, they miss the point to which everything in this episode is moving: Jesus is God, the Word of God in the flesh, the creator of all things:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... All things came into being through him ... And the Word became flesh and lived among us (John 1: 1, 3, 14)
Yes, he is either God or a blasphemer, there are no grey areas, he is either one or the other and each one of us has to make up his mind on this issue. Jesus himself shows us where the truth lies not by discussion but by healing the paralytic physically not just spiritually, thus confirming his authority and divinity.

It is interesting to note that their thoughts and objections are not audible; they remain “in their hearts” 1 and Jesus discerns or ‘perceives’ ‘in his spirit’ what is not audible. This is yet another indication of the true divine nature of Jesus who knows what is in the heart of man.
It would, of course, be easier to say ‘your sins are forgiven’ than to cure him physically as there is nothing to prove that forgiveness actually takes place, hence the need for tangible proof. The dramatic tension and interest continue. The authority of Jesus is confirmed and reinforced by yet another revelation that impacts on the Scribes in the use of the expression ‘Son of Man’, a clear reference to the Old Testament Book of Daniel. 2

The authority of Jesus is clearly manifest in the authoritative and solemn ‘I say to you’ and the treble command: ‘stand up’, ‘take’, and ‘go’. The climax, expressed in such simple unadorned language, renders the miracle and accompanying words so much more incisive. All go home ‘amazed’ recalling a similar reaction in Mark 1:27. That the crowd was more interested in the spectacular event of healing is clear in their last words ‘We have never seen anything like this!’. It would have been more to the point if they had said ‘We have never seen anyone like this!’.

While recognising the supernatural origin of the miracle the Scribes, the experts in Scripture, are far from convinced of the real identity of Jesus. In fact we find in Mark 3:22 that they attribute his power to Beelzebub. The crowd enjoy the spectacle and go slightly beyond curiosity itself as they are “amazed and glorified God”. They seem to have made some progress. The Scribes see a blasphemer and therefore interpret the miracle later, in chapter three of the same Gospel, as a manifestation of the evil one (Mark 3:22). Paradoxically although they are seated nearest to Jesus it is they who are furthest from he who is the truth (“I am the way, the truth and the life” John 14:6). They are the true spiritual paralytics, the spiritually disabled! The paralytic and his friends most probably were the only ones to go beyond all of this to experience and discover the true identity of Jesus.

What renders the whole episode so dramatic is its swift pace, the rapid succession of actions, the omission of any sort of embellishment and the very simplicity of the vocabulary and language patterns. All of this renders everything so linear, condensed and strikingly effective. Towards the end this simplicity reaches its climax linguistically in the use of incremental repetition in the form of a rapid succession of imperatives: ‘Stand up’, ‘take your mat’, ‘walk’, (v. 9), ‘stand up’, ‘take your mat’, ‘go home’, (v. 11), ‘he stood up’, ‘took the mat’, ‘went out’ (v. 12). The episode is unbeatable for its dramatic quality.



NOTES

1 The word ‘heart’ in the New Testament is considered both the seat of the intellect and of the emotions hence their questioning ‘in their hearts’.
2 See Daniel 7:13-14 for the expression ‘Son of Man’.


Robert Walsh



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