Sunday, October 26, 2003 9:18 PM CST
By: Gary DeVaul
Looking at pictures of the green truck one realizes that the only way to pull Mark from the wreckage was through the sunroof. It must have been like lifting him from the grave. The scene is reminiscent of the wonderful story of the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12. Only in the gospel account the problem was reversed. They couldn't get the man in to see Jesus, so they lowered him down through the roof!
Can you imagine? The word is out that Jesus is at home resting. He's back in Capernaum. He's hopefully taking a break. Rarely is Jesus spoken of as having a home. And we know little of the details regarding this one. We don't know who was on the deed, or, if there is one. But we do know Mark's gospel refers to it as home and we do know how the homes were built in Capernaum. Because many of them still exist today.
The houses were made of stone and mud and usually had packed dirt floors. The rafters stretched across the span of the house. The space between the rafters was filled with rushes and mud and anything they could find. Grass grew abundantly on the roof!
Well, it doesn't sound like Jesus got much rest at home. The place was filled with people. There were undoubtedly sick people, wounded people, and paralyzed, and blind people. And then there were the Scribes, the media of the day, always ready to give Jesus bad press; not exactly a day to kick back and watch the game.
We forget sometimes that Jesus was known as a Rabbi, or teacher. And that's exactly what he was doing that day at home in Capernaum. He was teaching, when all of sudden some yahoo started digging through the ceiling. Can you imagine what Jesus and his disciples were thinking? All this grass and dirt is falling into the room! Not a Good Housekeeping day you say? Well, there was lots more going on than meets the eye. And you can count on Jesus' sense of awareness to capture the moment.
There is a man outside on a pallet. He's a paralytic and he can't move. He wants to see and hear Jesus teach, but he's frozen to his pallet. He can't get to the Rabbi himself and so he enlists four friends to help him. They're the angels that do the heavy lifting. Now they get this guy on the roof and start digging a hole in the grass on top of the house. Forget the commotion this must be causing below. Picture the house and see the imagery.
The grass roof represents the place of burial. The hole in the roof is the grave. Paralyzed and helpless as if dead, the man is being lowered down into the pit. And whom does he find waiting for him in the place of death? The Author of Life.
The symbolism is powerful, and Jesus Himself confirms it. If this were just about healing, the man would have been healed first. But it's not. The physical healing is secondary; the paralysis is a symptom of a spiritual problem. Spiritual life verses spiritual death is at issue here and Jesus goes to the heart of the matter and forgives the man his sins. When the spirit is healed, life is restored and the tomb becomes the womb.
Now, the skeptical Scribes in the room with Jesus didn't get it. They got hung up on the fact that Jesus was forgiving sins. They failed to see the relationship between life, death, and the resurrection that pertains to spirit. The Scribes were sure that Jesus was trying to claim some kind of Divine authority that was not rightly His in their mind. They thought, well, now we've got him, it's heresy! Well, they were wrong. He was not. He purposefully referred to himself as the Son of Man. Interestingly enough; this is the only time in Mark's gospel that Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man in relationship to the forgiveness of sins. He purposely did it in order to derail the Scribes' attempt to capture Him in a theological conundrum and get them back on track. He's saying, hey, guys, let's not play games here. The man's spirit is at the heart of the issue.
Well, the Scribes missed the point. The media often does, because they usually have their own agenda. So Jesus says, listen up! The Spirit has transformed. The man is forgiven. Life is restored. Now the pallet loses its power and the man is healed. You want proof of that? You there! Get up! Pick up your pallet and go home. The man does just that, and of course they were all amazed.
In Mark's gospel story, the pallet and paralysis are symbolic of the spiritual nature of the problem. The paralysis, sickness, or whatever ails, becomes symptomatic. Jesus does not tell the man to just rise and go home. He does not tell the man to rise and clean up the mess he made in his living room. He tells him to get up, take that which had bore him and bare it! Now that he is spiritually fit, he can master the problem and carry the pallet.
By telling him to take it home, Jesus is instructing the man to make his problem his own. Jesus knew that the pallet would give birth to possibilities and become the springboard to something greater. This is how tombs become wombs! Thallander will tell you it is true. He's seen the tomb. And because you've helped do the heavy lifting, the loss of his arm will, through it's identification with the Spirit, become a blessing rather than curse.
Last week Mark scheduled time at a local church to play the organ. He wasn't exactly sure how it would work, with one hand and two feet, but it was his problem and he was going to master it. He prayed and worked, rearranged, and practiced. At the end of his time at the organ he met a woman who was cleaning the sanctuary. She had been praying for him every day, helping to lift him onto the roof.
She feared he would never play again and was worried about how he would handle the loss of his vocation, as well as his arm. At the end of his practice time she greeted him. It was an emotional moment. She said she would never have thought it possible. She couldn't tell the difference in his playing.
Looking through the ragged hole in the top of the green truck, mingled with dirt, and blood, and grass, He found him bleeding to death, strapped in the seat, his own grave. One hand was gone; yet another appeared through the roof. There was a scar on its palm. "Come on Mark." The kind voice said. "Don't cry. No, No, we'll not mix tears with blood tonight for I have shed enough for both of us. I know my own Spirit when I see it. Take My hand and we're out of here. We have music to make. Your left hand is no phantom, it is Mine."
They left together that night in the dark, through the wind and the rain. If you look with your heart, you will see them both. Mark carried off through the tall wet grass in the arms of Jesus. If you listen with your soul, you will hear the fastidious Thallander say, "Oh Wow... I sure made a mess back there." And then His voice, "Don't worry about it buddy, remember, I'm a carpenter! I'll fix the roof and we'll get those four angles to do the heavy lifting and clean up the mess in the living room."
And you will won't you? Clean up the mess, I mean?