I don’t know what to think. My name is Samuel and I am a scribe. Fortunate to be born into a family of scribes, I learned the art of writing. Our family goes back to the time of King Solomon who expanded the scribal schools. Because I copy the holy writings so often, I know them by heart. Living in Galilee, I now serve as an advisor to the Pharisees who are so committed to bringing revival to our land by getting all Israel to obey Torah. One wants to be exceedingly precise in understanding and obeying God’s holy commands.
Recently I was called, along with some fellow scribes, to investigate a young Jew from Nazareth called Jesus who was causing a stir in and around Capernaum. Rome is so oppressive, the Herods are so corrupt, and the people are so gullible. The nation will welcome every wild-eyed radical who comes out of the wilderness claiming to be a messiah. The word on the street was this Jesus was doing unexplainable wonders and speaking with unusual authority. Healings and exorcisms in the hundreds and announcements of the arrival of God’s kingdom. We were told to check him out.
We located the house where Jesus was teaching. With some leading Pharisees, we pressed through the growing crowd and stood with those crammed into the room. I could see Jesus clearly and hear his words. He said things like he was anointed with God’s Spirit to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecies. He said that his works demonstrate that he is the promised Coming One. He said the kingdom was now, among us. All Israel needs to repent and follow him and his way. He seemed to be a reasonable man sincerely dedicated to Israel’s future. Then it happened.
Some dirt chunks and straw drifted down from the roof. What is going on? I have never seen anything like this. A hole appeared and got bigger as eight hands worked quickly. A cloth bed was lowered by ropes and a paralyzed man settled at Jesus’ feet. People will do anything to get to Jesus. Jesus smiled at the four men looking through the hole. Will Jesus heal this man? I was hoping to see one of this man’s miracles. Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”
What?! The paralytic didn’t move. We have got him. Jesus is a blasphemer and a fraud. I looked at the other scribes and the Pharisees. Without saying a word, we all nodded agreement: “This fellow blasphemes. Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Jesus steadily gazed at us and said, “What? You’re thinking in your heart that I have blasphemed.” How did he know? “You think that I’ve crossed the line; a mere man claiming the prerogatives of God. Tell me. Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven, or to say, ‘Arise, take your mat and go home’? But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” Jesus then turned to the paralytic and said, “Get up. Take your bed and go home.” The paralytic was instantly healed. The crowd, including me, was stunned. So were my friends and the Pharisees. No Temple, no sacrifices, no priests, no ritual cleansing, nothing. There, on the spot, we were to conclude that the man’s sins were gone as the he walked away. That was Jesus’ point.
I don’t know what to think. Who is this man who so freely speaks not only for God, but as God?
I heard Jesus’ words; I saw the paralytic healed. Did the physical healing truly signal an inward forgiveness of sin? This Jesus, a man, speaks and heals and the people shout, “Glory to God!” How did he know what was in my heart? I don’t know what to think. God’s kingdom, maybe?
[Imagining Mark 2:1-12.]