When I read the Gospel of Mark, I am struck by how quickly certain people left everything to follow Jesus. Peter, Andrew, James and John immediately left their fishing nets to follow Jesus (Mark 1:18). Levi left his tax booth and followed him (Mark 2:14). I think to myself, “I could never make such a radical, instantaneous decision like them.” The text helps me examine the depth of my conviction to follow Jesus.
Today I was reading the story of the paralytic in Mark 2. Four friends stopped at nothing to place the paralytic in the sight of Jesus. Their plan was that he would be healed. But Jesus’ home was so filled that they could not enter. They still made a way. Jesus then made the controversial move of saying, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” The religious hierarchy had a fit because they did think Jesus had the authority to forgive sins. Jesus could see their skeptical thoughts so he said something even more troublesome, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk?’”
That is a question that continues to challenge all who read it. Which would you say is easier to say?
Jesus continued, “I will now demonstrate that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” He turned to the paralytic, “Stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” Those last words caught my attention. I expected Jesus to say, “And follow me.” After all, here is an ideal candidate to follow Jesus. The healed paralytic could bear witness to what Jesus had done for him. He could be living proof of Jesus authority and healing power.
But Jesus sent him home.
I don’t know why Jesus would call fisherman and tax collectors to follow him, and not the healed paralytic. (It could have something to do with whether miraculous healing was to be the primary focus of his ministry.) Still, there are at least two lessons that we need to hear.
First, our sins are forgiven. Our broken relationship with God is restored by Jesus’ authority.
Second, we need to listen carefully as to where and how we serve. Not all of us are called to serve Jesus in the same way, to walk the same path. Yet I think we all are called to listen to his voice, a voice that speaks forgiveness and direction.
Lord Jesus, open my heart, mind and will to hear your promise and command.