Brokenness and Restoration: Reading from Mark 2:1-12
If I were to tell you that Jesus does not heal people what would your reaction be? If I told you that he does not heal people but restores them spiritually what would be more or less significant to you?
One of Jesus’ most popular healings is the disabled man who’s friends was so desperate to get him to Jesus that they opened up the roof to the house to let this disabled man into Jesus’ presence. What has however for a long time dumbfounded me was that Jesus’ original response to the faith of these friends was not to heal the man, but simply to say to him: “Child/Friend, your sins have been forgiven.” I have thought about it, but most of the time I have skipped to end to have my feel good story ending where the man walks out healed. Yet there is something hidden in these words that is so much more powerful than a just another healing at the hands of Jesus.
The self-identity of the disabled man
To understand what is really happening here we first have to understand something of how ancient culture looked at this man and how this man would most probably have viewed himself.
In ancient Capernaum being disabled was generally perceived as a judgement from God on one’s sins. Either your parents were sinners or you were a sinner. You are disabled due to your sins. You were unholy and not worthy of anything. You are not welcome in the presence of other people and much less welcome in the presence of God. God has turned his back on you and wants nothing to do with you.
Much worse though is that this man probably believed these people, or at least wondered if they are maybe right, because it is obvious from his physical condition that God is against him. God does not love me, He does not see me. Why else would I be disabled? This man was broken due to his own perception of his standing before God and others support of this theory of illness and disability. It didn’t matter whether this was a correct view of God’s providence or not. This would have been this man’s identity, accepted by himself, believed by others.
This was a broken man, not just physically, but also spiritually.
Child (τέκνον/teknon), your sins are forgiven
The key verse in this whole drama is in Mark 2:5. Jesus uses the Greek word τέκνον, literally translated as child. In this case it does not refer to a child of blood relations, since we know that this was an adult man. τέκνον/teknon is often used as a term of endearment.
By using this term of endearment Jesus says to this man, I see you, I know you, you are not invisible to me. And I want to tell you, your sins are forgiven.
What powerful words to a man whose whole identity was that of a sinner on whom God has turned His back. Was this not the reason why his friends brought him to Jesus? Not so much to receive physical healing, but to see this man restored in the eyes of God and men. Make no mistake, they were hoping for physical healing, but not for the reasons we often think. It had nothing to do with suddenly being independent and having the freedom of getting everywhere on your own two legs. It had everything to do with people being able to see that you are OK, pure, restored. If people saw this miracle they would not be able to do anything else than acknowledge that God sees you and blesses you. If God has changed His view, then so must they as people.
But even before Jesus heals this man, he gives him what he and his friends were looking for: Spiritual restoration in the eyes of God.
It is only when the spiritual leaders proclaim their disdain and outright disgust with these words of Jesus that Jesus sets out to let them know that this man is indeed restored and without sin before God. He heals this man to show that what he has said has already happened in those few simple words. He also challenges those readers to how simple it is to forgive someone (even though this man was no sinner in the sense that the people had in mind) and to restore them, rather than breaking them down.
Restored physically and spiritually
Jesus is on the side of those broken by people and circumstances, and anything else.
So in the end of the day Jesus has healed this man, but He has done much more than just a healing, he has restored a man spiritually. This is what Jesus is so good at, restoring people, not simply healing them.
But what is more significant to you?
- If you had to choose would you want to heal people, or restore people?
- Can we restore people to God even when there is no miraculous healing to confirm this?
- Are we willing to look beyond our prejudices of sinful people and see the brokenness of another human being, even if their lifestyles are not what God desires? Read John 8:1-11.
- How do we break down people today? How do we restore people today?
- Listen to “Does anybody hear her” by Casting Crowns (Lifesong).