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Homilies from Nola Crewe
19th February 2006

Mark 2:1-12

May my lips and heart and words be ever in Thy service.                                                                             AMEN.

Most of us have heard of how the apostle Thomas doubted Christ’s resurrection until he touched the wounds inflicted on the risen lord.  And ever since then he has been known as “Doubting Thomas”.   

One of the earliest American presidents appropriately shared his name:   the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, rewrote the whole Bible because of his doubts. 

And do you know what he did?  He took out all the miracles.  Jefferson removed the virgin birth, the healings, the water turned into wine, walking on water, feeding the multitudes, driving demonic spirits out of people, raising the dead, and most importantly, he even erased the Resurrection of Christ after the Crucifixion.

Jefferson preferred to see Jesus as a philosopher, rather than the Son of God.  He was suspicious of anything he couldn’t prove himself.  And he couldn’t prove miracles.    Jefferson believed in the world around him and how people live in it – simply because he didn’t believe in the next world. 

In fact Jefferson believed that most people simply claimed the faith of Christ because of their fear of death and the Christian promise of eternal salvation after death.  But, on the other hand,  most of them did not  practice the teachings of Jesus while living in this world.

Jefferson’s version of the Bible was written only two hundred years ago, but we have just heard in Mark’s Gospel that learned men two thousand years ago questioned not merely Christ’s ability to work miracles, but particularly his ability to grant the greatest of His miracles:  His ability to forgive sins!   Jefferson and these ancient Hebrew scribes were in complete agreement on that.

At the time of Mark’s story, Christ was living in Capernum.  And what he did every day that He lived there, was to preach to the crowds who came to hear Him.  They even came to His home to learn more and to be near  Him.  His house was so crowded, as Mark relates, that friends of a man who was totally paralyzed and unable to approach Jesus, took part of the roof of the house off, so that they could lower him and his bed down into the room below – and into the presence of Jesus.

This positive action and the faith of these people touched Christ and He turned to the paralytic and said, “My son your sins are forgiven . . . “   

These words infuriated the scribes who were there to debate and learn more of what Christ’s was preaching.  In their hearts they were muttering about His blasphemy, to dare to speak as if He had such power.  As far as they were concerned, it was one thing to be able to cure people:  after all, that was a gift prophets had possessed in the past.   BUT to forgive sins:  that was intruding upon the turf of Yahweh:  the domain of God.  To them, that was intolerable.

Jesus responded to their unspoken outrage.  He said,    “Why do you question what I am doing in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk?’ ”    That confused them:  what is the difference between miracles of healing and forgiving?  That was Christ’s challenge to them . . . and they had no answer, nothing except ancient notions and prejudices.

So, to demonstrate his authority, his ability to heal and forgive . . . Jesus Christ, this Son of God . . .  turned to the paralytic and said, ‘ I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.’   And that is exactly what happened.

The man did as he was told and departed, without so much as stopping to say thank-you:  probably the most amazed person at the gathering.  Moments earlier his earnest friends had been carving a hole through the roof and dropping him at Jesus’ feet; then the debate between the learned men and now he was walking, on his own feet,.  With his bed tucked under his arm, the paralytic stepped forth whole and healthy walked as he had never walked before. 

Everyone was amazed and praised God because they had never seen anything like this before.

They had been able to see:  and that led them to believe.  They heard the words of Jesus the Son of God.  They had faith in their own eyes and ears, so had faith in Jesus, the Messiah.

But we no longer walk with the flesh and blood Jesus.  We no longer see the miracles or accompany Him on His teaching tours of the Gallilean countryside or gather on the hillside to eat the food Jesus has provided or crowd into the local synagogue or into His Capernaum home to be with Jesus and see and weigh the arguments of those ancient scribes who challenged Him.

But in 2006 we still can have our sins forgiven.  We can still have our souls healed.  We can still follow in the footsteps of our Saviour.  We still can still the voices of the skeptics and those who scorn His saving grace:  we can bear witness to the God of Love in our lives and in our homes and in our hearts. 

Jesus was able to make the crippled walk, the deaf hear and the blind see.  He could even raise the dead to life.  But the great miracle he brought to us was the healing of souls, the repairing of what is not seen, the promise of life everlasting that gives meaning and joy and true love.  

He says to each of us, ‘Cast aside all that is between you and me.  My heart is open to your fears and dreams.  I know your sins and your doubts.  Come to me and I will free you from the crippling shackles of sin, free you to walk strong and proud in My footsteps.’ 

Two thousand years ago scribes were offended by Christ’s miracle of forgiveness.  Two hundred years ago Jefferson discarded the miracles he could not believe in.  Even Christ’s own apostle, Thomas doubted whether it was truly Christ who lived again.   Both  men with their worries and doubts probably raised a chuckle to the lips of Christ:  for Christ believed in both of those Thomases, just as He believes and loves each of us – despite all our doubts and our sins and our cares. 


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