Mark 2:1-22

(sermon note: 01-14 sermon note)

When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and take your mat and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic— ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’ And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’

Jesus went out again beside the lake; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax-collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax-collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard this, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, ‘Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?’ Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding-guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.

‘No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.’

This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a DEA officer who stopped at a ranch in Texas one day and talked with an old rancher. He told the rancher, “I need to inspect your ranch for illegally grown drugs.” The rancher said, “Okay, but don’t go in that field over there…..”, as he pointed at the location. The DEA officer verbally exploded saying, “Mister, I have the authority of the Federal Government with me!” Reaching into his rear pants pocket, the arrogant officer removed his badge and proudly displayed it to the rancher. “See this badge?! This badge means I am allowed to go wherever I wish…on any land! No questions asked or answers given!! Have I made myself clear…do you understand?!” The rancher nodded politely, apologized, and went about his chores. A short time later, the old rancher heard loud screams, looked up, and saw the DEA officer running for his life, being chased by the rancher’s bull. With every step, the bull was gaining ground on the officer and it seemed likely that the officer would sure enough get gored before he reached safety. The officer was clearly terrified. The rancher threw down his tools, ran to the fence and yelled at the top of his lungs…”Your badge, show him your BADGE!!”

Clearly some people let the authority of their position in life go to their head! That officer should have listened to that rancher’s warning without allowing his position to make assumptions about what that rancher had in that field. Assumptions and prejudices have gotten many an officer into trouble over time and it’s a good thing that the public has begun to hold them accountable in recent years. We all know what we make when we “assume” (an ass out of you and me) and yet we’re all susceptible to doing it. It’s human nature to assume things about those around us if only to make sense of it all. We’re all stumbling through this life, trying to navigate the joys and challenges of this life, and sometimes it’s more efficient when we assume. Heck, if my job was to find drugs being grown and a rancher told me not to check a certain field on his property, then I’d probably make the same assumption that drugs were definitely being grown in that field! But I’d be just as wrong as that officer and in need of correction if not help from a rampaging bull. We have to be careful when we assume, especially when we’re in positions of authority. Which is to say that there are blessings and curses associated with all authority. Having authority can be both good and bad.

Just look at what authority did for Jesus. It enabled him to cast out demons and heal the sick but that meant he had to go to where the demons and sick were hiding out. He had to go to the synagogue where the man with the unclean spirit was hiding out as we heard in last week’s lesson. He had to go to Andrew’s mother-in-law’s house to heal her. He had to go to the leper colonies where the lepers had been constricted. He had to go to crowded homes to heal the sick as we heard in today’s lesson. Having authority has both its blessings and its curses. It enables a person to do some amazing things, but it also expects him/her to make some pretty dangerous sacrifices to do them. We often ignore the sacrifices and focus instead on using the abilities that come with authority. We often forget that in order to help others we have to actually go to where they are and put ourselves at risk. Helping others can be risky business at times, especially when there is high potential for personal harm. Jesus could have easily contracted any of the diseases that he himself around. He could have easily been mobbed by the crowds around him. He could have easily been dissuaded by the judgments of those around him. But we know that Jesus is made of toughness and fortitude. On the one hand, we say, “Well, he had the Father on his side, always protecting him from danger. He wasn’t ever in real danger.” Which is true, he did have the Father with him wherever he went. But so do you and I! The Father is with each of us, guiding us and protecting us along the way as well. We have to have faith and trust in his direction and protection. Jesus’ toughness and fortitude came from his absolute faith and trust in the Father! We can have the same toughness and fortitude. We can be just as protected as Jesus if we have the same faith and trust.

Unlike that officer, Jesus never allows his authority to go to his head. And he never allows assumptions to guide his behavior. Jesus knows what he can and cannot do and if he can do something then he will likely do it. Recall the leper from last week…”if you but choose to make me well”…”I do choose, you have been made well!” In the closing verses of Matthew’s account, we hear Jesus proclaim, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” Jesus has ALL authority to do whatever he wants in this world and in heaven. And yet he chooses to only do what’s right and good, only what’s beneficial for you and me, only what brings healing and wholeness. Many people don’t believe this. They think he acts on his own behalf or acts in ways that inadvertently harm others. But that isn’t who you and I know and believe he is. We trust in him and his love for us. We know he loves us! And he does!

Just because he has authority in this world and the next, he eagerly gives us authority to us as well. Recall in Luke, when “Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases.” (9:1) He invited them, and US, into the same ministry of healing as he has! And a little later in Luke we hear him say, “See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.” (10:19) Friends, those words are meant for us just as they were for those who initially heard them! We have authority to heal too! Today, we again celebrate Jesus’ authority and ability to heal but we also give thanks for that authority and ability entrusted to us as well. Let us go where healing is needed and graciously share with those who need it. And let us give thanks for such authority. Thanks be to God!

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.