Friday, September 24, 2010

Living Mark 2:1-3:6 Part One

In the next part of the story, beginning in 2:1, we read that Jesus becomes embroiled in a number of controversies. The aim of the narrator, at this stage, is to give readers a deeper glimpse into who Jesus is, how his actions manifest the arrival of God’s kingdom, and why these dimensions of his identity and mission create conflict that will inevitably threaten his life.

So far in the story we have read that Jesus is God’s son with whom he is pleased, that Jesus proclaims something new is happening – the time has come, that he went about proclaiming the gospel, that he invited people to follow him and that he taught, healed, and cast out unclean spirits.

We left off last time with the specific healing of the man with a skin disease in 1:40-45. Notice the result of this cleansing is that Jesus could not openly enter towns as the news about him was spreading – He is forced outside of daily life – away from people, yet in spite of this they came to him. After Jesus’ strong warning to the healed man to not tell anyone – but go show the priest and offer sacrifices – was ignored, at least to some extent, the narrator prepares us for the rising conflicts that will follow.

Some time later, Jesus returns from outside places, to Capernaum, seemingly without detection. Much of the excitement about his teaching and manifestations of power may have subsided in the outside places and it is time to re-inaugurate the mission in Capernaum.

Jesus was heard and heard to be in the house, most likely of Simon and Andrew. Interest in Jesus again flourished. He is portrayed, as we might imagine in a one room chalet situated on a small road with hordes of people inside a three to five meter space, and outside cluttering around the door and flowing out into the narrow street. Jesus was speaking the word to the crowd, mostly likely in this context, the good news of the KOG being near – the time of God’s rule had arrived in a radically new way.

Just then, arriving on the scene are a group of men carrying a paralytic on a mat. All the people crowding around made it difficult for the group to get through and bring this person to Jesus. As excavations of Capernaum show, many houses had outside stairs leading up to flat roofs. These men, as it were, took the roof off – imagine again that small chalet and some people on the roof taking off tiles to be able to lower someone down to Jesus. Obviously, this group knew what they were doing on the thatched and mud sealed roof in Capernaum. They dug through, who knows what Jesus and the crowd thought of all this, much less the owner – were they looking up wondering about the roof caving in, or had Jesus just continued speaking the word? Such curious details are of no interest to the narrator. What happens next is why the story is told and slotted in at this point of the story.

When Jesus, from the narrator’s perspective, sees their faith, as expressed on the narrative level through their actions of taking the roof off, he responds. Manifestations of Jesus healing power had already been in evidence and these people clearly have faith that he will heal again. Jesus pronouncement – “child, your sins are forgiven,” may seem slightly or even awfully strange to us. Original hearers no doubt would have been less perplexed. In both OT and NT contexts, physical healing is sometimes connected to the forgiveness of sin. However, this is not always the case throughout biblical literature. In our context, the forgiveness proclaimed by Jesus raised issues for the scribes who quietly question his right prerogative to perform such an act.

The questions posed here are probably to be understood as a silent accusation of blasphemy. To claim to do forgiveness or to do forgiveness for God would have carried the charge of desecrating the oneness of YHWH. Who does Jesus think he is? 

To be continued next Friday.


Living Spiritual Rhythms For Today