“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.’” (Mark 2:8-11)
I’ve heard wonderful sermons on this familiar passage where four men lowered a paralyzed man on a mat through the roof of a house just so the man could be healed by Jesus. I particularly like the idea that you could have such loving friends that they put aside their cares and needs and instead lift up someone else who needs healing. Fr. Tim Taylor at St. George’s often says, “Some days we are the man on the mat who needs the help of friends, and other days it is us that is lowering the ropes for someone else.”
I heard a different aspect of the story when Brother Nicholas preached on January 16 at the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, MA. Br. Nicholas told us that great theologians have debated the meaning of the phrase, “Son of Man.”
Is it a reference to Jesus becoming fully human? Or, could it be a reference to the Messiah especially in the role of suffering and dying to save us? But we don’t have to pick a definition; we can learn three ways of seeing God’s mercy and forgiveness.
First, in Jesus’ role as the dying Messiah, all the work has been done and all we have to do is have faith in him.
Second, in Jesus’ role as an ordinary human being, he shares his power with us and the ultimate power of forgiveness rests in us.
Third, God doesn’t choose to forgive as much as it is just part of God’s nature. Br. Nicholas reminded us of the story of one who seeks the cool shade of the tree, only to realize that the shade has been there all along; it is us who is standing just outside of it.
If we combine both interpretations that Jesus’ is both the Messiah and human, we live in union with God. There is no such thing as punishment or forgiveness; there is no between.
But the real question is, “How can we know our sins are forgiven?” Either Jesus has done all the work already, God’s forgiveness is always available like the shade of a tree, or we realize that there is no need for forgiveness because the separation between God and us is an illusion.
The only thing we need to do to experience God’s love, mercy and compassion is to surrender to Jesus with the truth of Christ in our hearts.
The proof, if anyone asks, is in the feeling of being restored in closeness, trust and intimacy with the Holy One.
I pray that you will find renewal as you rest in the Lord.
Blessings, my friend,