The Naked Man – pt. 20

Hole-in-the-Roof“Wherever Jesus went, he was surrounded by a crowd,” continued Mark. “And that crowd was predominantly made up of the poor, the uneducated, those ignorant of the Law.” “‘Am ha’aretz?” called out Yiftach. “Yes,” answered Mark, “‘Am ha’aretz. The people of the land. Those the rabbis instruct the righteous to avoid, not to share a meal with or to travel with.” Yiftach snorted. “You don’t have to tell us that.” He stroked his beard thoughtfully. “Yet Jesus welcomed them, you say?” He gestured to his friends. “People like us?” Mark smiled and nodded. “Yes, my friend, people like you.” Yiftach’s face split into a wide grin. Mark turned to the wider group. “Jesus returned to Kefer Nahum several days later, and word got out that he was home. Many gathered together: so many that there was no longer room, even near the door; and he was speaking the word to them.”

“As he taught, Jesus noticed people brushing something from their heads, and turning to look up. As he followed their gaze, he saw a small hole in the ceiling of his home, a hole that was beginning to grow wider. Four men had brought a paralyzed friend, hoping to see Jesus. And being unable to get to him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘My son, your sins are this moment forgiven.’”

Someone called out from the far side of the courtyard. “I think I would have preferred to hear, ‘My son, you are healed’!” There was some gentle, almost nervous laughter at this. Miryam laid a hand on Mark’s arm, indicating that she wished to respond. “Indeed,” she said, “but again, the healing so many of us need is more than merely physical. This man’s lack of bodily wholeness – which the scribes would have attributed to his sin – denied him his place among his people. Whatever debt the scribes believed he owed God for his sin, Jesus declared had in that moment been released.” “Which,” said Mark, “explains why the scribes who were present that day were incensed, and were reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but G_d alone?’”

“Blasphemy,” said Simeon. “That was the charge for which Jesus would be condemned to death. It was not so much that the scribes were concerned about the sovereignty of G_d: they were concerned about their own social power, for it is they who determine whose debt has been released – who has been forgiven – and who can fully participate in the life of our people. They were the ones divinely sanctioned to do so – not this young rabbi in a one-room house in Galilee, far from the temple in Jerusalem. And certainly not a rabbi who taught the people of the land.”

“Jesus knew in his spirit what they were thinking,” said Mark. “He said to them, ‘Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to this man, “Your sins are forgiven”; or to say, “Arise, and take up your pallet and walk”?’” Mark paused, and people leaned in, eager to hear what happened next. Mark’s voice rang out across the courtyard, “But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.’ And the man rose and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of all those present; so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’”

As Mark’s voice echoed around the courtyard, a hush descended on those gathered. It was broken by a high-pitched voice. “Who’s the ‘son of man’?” Mark turned to look into the face of the questioner, Benyamin’s oldest granddaughter. “Isn’t everyone a son of a man? Well, all boys are, I guess.” Mark laughed. “You are right, Deborah. All boys are sons of a man. But the ‘Son of Man’ is a title. The prophet Daniel…” She interrupted her great-uncle. “Grandfather won’t let us talk about Daniel.” Mark heard Miryam’s sharp intake of breath, and suddenly felt her sadness at the estrangement of his brothers, her sons. He spoke gently to Deborah. “Not your grandfather’s – and my – brother, Daniel. Another Daniel, the prophet who lived a long, long time ago. G_d gave that Daniel a vision, a vision of one like a Son of Man, to whom G_d gave authority over all peoples of the earth and an everlasting kingdom. Jesus spoke of himself as being the Son of Man, and he claimed that one’s authority for himself.” Mark turned to address the ecclesia. “The hole in his roof that day was nothing compared to the hole Jesus was driving through our entire way of life. He was wresting authority from the scribes and from the priests.”

“And they killed him for it,” said Yiftach.

“Yes,” Mark replied, “they killed him for it. But not that day. On that day, they were all amazed and glorified God, for indeed, they had never seen anything like this…”

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