When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. 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!”
I can hear the seventies Hippie preacher in his tie-dye T-shirt, bell bottom hipsters and Jesus sandals, “Hey man this story of Jesus is way cool, can you DIG it?” (Ahem. Sorry I just couldn’t resist.)
It is as well known a gospel story as any can be, and the subject of a thousand Sunday school lessons.
The challenging question now is, “What can it possibly say today?”
As I take a fresh look at the passage, with what my Zen friends refer to as “Beginner’s mind”, three aspects of the story dig their way through the ceiling of my thoughts that want to say, “Oh I know what this story is about.”
I am struck firstly by the insight of those determined friends who know instinctively, that health is related to proximity to Jesus.
Please don’t hear me saying the manipulative nonsense of the televangelist, “Come to Jesus and you will be healed”. That, we all know, cannot be guaranteed.
Following Jesus is not a formulary of positive outcomes. No.
I am suggesting however, that the health and well being of humans; physical, emotional, and spiritual; is affected by proximity to Jesus. I suppose it has to do with orientation and focus. Being close to Jesus is not stress free. (God knows the route passes through Golgotha!) Yet, being close to Jesus does orient me to a compassionate, open-hearted, generous, non-aquisitive, joyful, lightness of being with regard to life, in all it’s material forms. I tend to lose that when I get too far away from him and his gospel values. Human health is enhanced in proximity to Jesus.
Linked to the first insight, the story of the burrowing friends of Jesus also reveals that despite all our Christian iconography, there are times when we discover that Jesus is below us and not above.
Those who visit The Listening Hermit regularly will know that I am greatly helped by the insights of Jungian depth psychology, which I believe, gives us a range of metaphors for third millennial communication of the Jesus message.
“Depth Psychology“. That really is my whole point.
In our heady and lofty intellectual culture, it is all too easy to assume that Jesus, the incarnate God is wafting above us. Yet, in-carnation, is a visceral, meaty notion, that sometimes requires digging rather than flying, when a spade is of more use than Red Bull wings.
A friend of mine is a worm farmer. There is something mesmeric about watching these primitive life forms still going about their million year old lifestyles of recycling crap into fecund soil. The miracle of the Capernaum roof diggers is a story of depth and dirt, and not a lofty ideological mind flight.
Sometimes Jesus is not above us, but below.
The final insight my beginner’s mind was lowered into as I descended through that old roof, wasn’t really an insight as much as a jogging of my memory. As the bed hit the dirt floor in front of Jesus and I heard him say, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”, I suddenly remembered that Paul Tillich had the insight that in that moment Jesus wasn’t forgiving the sins of the paralysed one, he was proclaiming that in the sight of God the man was sinless.
A quick history detour may be in order.
In Jesus day, (and more subtly in ours), religion proclaimed that human suffering was the consequence of human failure. Sufferers had done something very wrong to slight God or at least upset the balance of the rules of prosperity. To be sick or invalid was to have broken the rules.
This gospel story underlines that Jesus didn’t have to forgive sins. He simply had to point out that God wasn’t offended by humanity. (Another way of understanding “Your sins are forgiven“)
Grasping that, “Digging that” I am not an offense to God neither am I an offender, was such a liberation that often the perceived penalty would disappear as the perceived offence was annulled. Healing happened.
The idea that we as humans have somehow deeply offended our Loving parent is the really offensive notion that has held the Church, and Christians, captive and paralysed for millenia.
Isn’t it time we blew the roof off that lie and walked out of the prisons of our fearful dogma?
Let the Pharisees mutter about protocol and precedent, Jesus has seen our trust in liberating truth.
Do you know, I would dig through the roof of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome if I could get this truth to Wikileaks?