A big chunk of text today, so let’s get down to it. Mark 2: 1-12.
Interesting note for verse one, that Jesus was considered “at home” in Capernaum, despite being Jesus of Nazareth. I wonder where he actually lived?
“So many gathered.” If we reference earlier verses, we can see that the whole town was able to gather, previously, approximately 1500 people without mention of the number, so I guess the neighbouring towns were also there.
One can get a sense of what “near the door” means, as well as how these individuals could have gotten to and through the roof from this image of a first-century Palestinian dwelling. It seems likely that the numbers are exaggerated in that maybe 50 people could fit in this sort of dwelling. Even in Capernaum, as shown in this rendering, maybe 100 people could have fit in and around a home. It is entirely plausible that the numbers they suggest were in town to see Jesus, but a fraction of those would have been able to hear him.
It could be interesting to note that Jesus teaching “the word” here is likely the same teachings he was giving to the synagogues from the previous chapter. Talking about the Old Testament and his understanding of the law and prophets. The first chapter established that Jesus had the authority to teach without reference even to those in the Synagogue, which seems to justify his authority to teach the masses.
I wonder how they lowered the paralytic. Maybe by ropes? Did they bring the ropes in anticipation of needing to do so? Did they find ropes? Perhaps the faith Jesus speaks of is not their faith that he could heal their friend, but faith that the friend would not fall and die while lowering him.
Verse five is one of my favourites because it stands as a testament to my understanding of God and Jesus: “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Not, your sins will be forgiven, but they are forgiven. I also want to note that the specific passive language used in the text makes it clear that God is doing the forgiving, not Jesus. That is, Jesus is speaking the words on God’s behalf.
It is here that we return to the message of Mark from the previous chapter: the authority of Jesus. Once again, Jesus said something that he should not be able to say, because he is not a priest, and does not speak for God in Jewish culture. What Jesus was doing simply didn’t make sense to these Jews, because they had rituals and rights which they felt must be performed in order for such things to occur, very similar to Jesus’ exorcisms and healings. This is why they say, “This doesn’t make sense!” and Jesus responds with, “Why doesn’t it?”
He then explains himself. I have the authority on earth to forgive sins, so it makes sense that I can simply tell this man that his sins are forgiven. Surely it’s easier to tell a person their sins are forgiven than to make them put on a show as a sign of authority, but since you insist, that is what I will do.
What this does is once again prove that Jesus can act with the authority of God as defined in Jewish culture, on earth. Once again, in their culture, other people could heal/resurrect/exorcise but did so using exhaustive ritualistic methods, not just a few words. It should also be noted here that using the authority of God, in this case, did not cause the Jews to worship Jesus or think he was God himself. As can be seen in verse 12 when the Jews glorified God, not Jesus.
The final thing I want to talk about is Jesus’ use of the term “Son of Man,” which in Aramaic, Jesus’ language, means “some person” or “me”. Our modern equivalent would be “average joe” or “Mr Smith.” Jesus understood that because he was just a normal human, the people gathered would not trust him to have the authority of God, and so he obliged in giving them a sign. This is something we should remember later under similar circumstances.
Interestingly enough, in the Greek language the authors used in writing the New Testament, Son of Man references pictorial descriptions of Daniel 7:13, also referencing a human being, but one who comes on a cloud which only God does. Thus, when Jesus speaks in his native language, there is no divine reference, but the translation into Greek later added a hint of divinity and reference once again to Old Testament “prophecy.” Also something worth noting for later.
In the next blog, I want to discuss how I see Jesus’ words about forgiveness in this story, as well as my understanding of his good news. It will help you understand where I’m coming from, and where I’m going as we continue our reading through scripture.
Grace and Peace to you all.