Lectionary Year B
February 20, 2000
Mark 2:1-12

Step V: Hermeneutical Bridge


      Initially I was concerned about the missing voices in the story (i.e., the house owner whose house was destroyed). I was also curious about the explanation of whom the "four" were and who the "they" of faith were. I think the difficulty results from the tone of the story. It is about the dispute between Jesus and the scribes as much as anything else. The miracle is important but the conflict between the scribes may be the central unit. The questions about "blaspheme" has been carried out by looking at various texts and outside sources. The critical lesson learned is that according to Jewish law and practice Jesus was guilty of blasphemy. That is, unless he is the Son of God as well as the Son of Man. The seeming confusion of the scene may be a result of the scene itself being secondary to the dialogue. We are being returned to the issue of what Gospel is.


1 And again entering into Capernaum, after some days, it was going around that, "he's in a house here". 2 And so many gathered, while he was speaking the word to them, that things were not moving even toward the door. 3 And they came, bringing with them a paralytic borne by four. 4 And because of the crowd they removed the roof, where Jesus (he) was speaking! And then they let down the stretcher upon which the paralytic was lying 5 and Jesus having seen their faith said to the paralytic, "Child, your sins are forgiven." 6 And some of the scribes were there. Sitting and arguing, as always (paraphrasis), in their hearts, 7 "Why does this one speak like this? He blasphemes! Who is able to forgive sins except the one God?" 8 And immediately Jesus was understanding in his spirit that they argue within themselves. He said to them, "Why argue in your hearts regarding these things? 9 Which trouble is better? To say to the paralytic, ‘your sins are forgiven' or to say ‘Get up, take your stretcher and walk'? 10 And in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on the earth." (Pause) He says to the paralytic, 11 "To you I say, Rise! Take the stretcher! And go away to your home!" 12 And he rose, and having taken up the stretcher, he immediately went out before all the people, so that all were amazed and glorified God saying, "I never saw that before."


      To my ear the book of Mark sounds like a small child telling a story. I say this because there is a forcefulness in the method of delivery. The feelings are conveyed without an orderly telling of the details of the event. A child conveys a story by conveying the emotions and the events that captured their attention. A child can see an entire movie and sum it up by talking about one dramatic scene. The whole memory is based upon this one event. Mark is concerned with action. Like a child talking there is a force to the telling and emotions are at the root of the events. I have a picture of a neighborhood boy of five standing in front of me. His hands are on his hips. He's looking up at me through his toussled bangs with his hands on his hips. He's not going anywhere until I get the story straight and I answer some questions or at least agree with the oddness of events. And this controversy dialogue pops out in the middle of his story.

      In this story the event is placed around the controversy dialogue with the scribes. It tells like the story of a child because it doesn't tell you exactly what's going on. What was really dramatic to this story teller was the tension that occurred when the ones who "always argued among themselves" encountered Jesus. In context our story is preceded by a healing story. That ground has been covered but the teller adds a twist. As much as the child wants to be amazed by the healing he could not help but be confounded by the controversy. Mark chooses not to tell us why the adults are fighting and the story leaves an almost invisible question mark in the air. If a child were telling this story, there would certainly be a very visible question mark. Why are those men arguing? Why would they not want the sick man healed? Why do they dislike him? Can't they see everyone is happy? Why are they frowning? Why are they missing it?

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