Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Back to Capernaum

 A few days later Jesus went back to Capernaum, and the news spread that he was at home. So many people came together that there was no room left, not even out in front of the door. Jesus was preaching the message to them when four men arrived, carrying a paralyzed man to Jesus. 

Mark 2:1-3 (GNT)

He had returned to Capernaum and we were glad to have him back among us.  We were hearing of all the wonderful things he had accomplished.  There were stories, claiming he had cast out evil spirits and even healed a leper.

Like most men we had to see this for ourselves.

There was a paralyzed man in town.  His name was Eli.  He had been that way since his birth.  Now there were those who said he was paying for his parents sins and the sins of their parents.  Whether or not that is true is for the scribes and Pharisees to discuss and argue about.  We were fishermen, with worries of our own.  We were friends of Simon, Andrew and the two sons of Zebedee.  Our profession came with concerns beyond rituals and dogmas.

The idea belonged to my friend Barnabas.  Benjamin, Jonas and I agreed.  We would take the paralytic to Jesus and see for ourselves if everything conjured up by the rumor mill was true.  We grabbed the old man's mat and lifted him from the ground.  A large crowd was gathering at the house where Jesus was staying.  If we did not hurry we would have no chance of getting inside.

"Looks like everyone in town has come to listen to Jesus," Benjamin said.

And he was correct.  The crowd was blocking the door.  Some onlookers were trying to push through the crowd.  We set our burden down in the street to ponder our options.

"Bring me back," Eli said.

I considered the fact that I did not know this man well enough to call him friend.  I knew what others called him.  But to us he was the old man paralyzed, the paralytic, a beggar, nothing more.  What did any of us know, of real value, about him?  Had we ever sat at his bedside and conversed?  He asked others to fulfill his needs, some did, the four of us did not.

"Maybe we should go back," Barnabas suggested. "We are never going to get through that crowd."

"It is possible that none of the stories we are hearing are true," Benjamin added, "it might all be magic, a trick, and I do not think our friend here wants to be brought in there anyway."

That's when I saw it, a way up onto the roof.  I motioned to my friends.  They all nodded in agreement.  The paralytic just lay on his mat in a fetal position.

"Take me home," he whimpered with a dry voice.

We ignored him and with much effort hoisted him onto the roof of the home where Jesus spoke.  The crowd watched us, murmuring approvals and disapproval.  Someone yelled "They're tearing down my house".

We lowered the old man and his mat.  Jesus looked up toward us with eyes that knew without asking.  Everyone was out to test this teacher, this prophet.  Suddenly, just by looking in his eyes, I believed that this man could heal.  I had no doubt that the old man, Eli, would no longer bear the weight of his burden.  I believed the rumors about Jesus.  I prayed that when he looked at me he saw my faith, weak as it was.

Jesus squatted, beside the paralyzed old man... our friend and said, "Your sins are forgiven."

Now the crowd in the house became vocal at that statement.  There were those who observed the law with an unrelenting strictness.  They called the statement "blasphemy" and asked how anyone could dare to speak those words.

"Only God can forgive sins," someone shouted with anger.

Jesus rose and looked at the crowd.  I wonder what he saw in their faces.  Were some torn between the law of their religion and the words of this man.

"Why do you think such things?" Jesus asked. "What is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or, 'Get up and walk?  The son of man has the authority to forgive sin." He looked down once again to the paralytic and said, "Get up, pick up your mat and go home."

We all watched as Eli stretched his limbs and slowly rose to his feet.  He stepped around in a circle, experiencing the movement of every muscle, before turning to Jesus with gratitude.  I will never forget the embrace between Jesus and Eli.  A tear ran down my cheek.  The crowd was in awe, even those whose only purpose was to find fault.  Never before had we seen anything like this.

"How could anyone ever doubt that this Jesus is sent from God," I said. "We have been witnesses to the works of his hands.  He looked at us and saw our desire to believe."

With smiles the four of us climbed down from the roof and joined Eli in celebration.

"Praise our God who has done a wonderful thing for his people," Eli shouted and we all sang along in chorus.

copyright 2017 - Donald P James Jr

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