Place yourself in first century Palestine. No cell phones. No Internet. And, blessedly, no social media.
You’re a good Jew. You attend synagogue. You celebrate all of the feasts and fasts. Every year, you go to Jerusalem for the Passover. You try to adhere to all of the rules and regulations but you know you won’t ever be as perfect as a Pharisee. In your deepest heart, there is a hunger. A sense that, no matter how many sacrifices made or rules obeyed or feasts observed, it isn’t enough. You have a longing you can’t fully name. The closest it comes to fulfillment is when you stand in the Temple in prayer.
Through the grapevine comes news of a prophet. Prophets are as common as fleas on a camel’s back, and just as useful, so you aren’t impressed at first. Not until friends begin to expound, in breathless wonder, on the miracles. The blind see and the lame walk, they say. Demons are driven out with a mere word. Rumor has it he even made water into wine at a wedding banquet a few towns away. And what’s more? This prophet is coming to Capernaum.
“What’s his name?” you ask. “Where is he from? Which tribe is he?”
“Jesus of Nazareth. They say he’s of the line of David.”
Because you’re a good Jew, you know your prophecies. You suddenly realize why the phrase “the blind see and the lame walk” sounds so familiar. You ask, heart in throat, “Could he be the Messiah?”
Your friend merely shrugs but hope shines in his eyes.
When news comes that Jesus has arrived and is preaching in a house, you drop what you’re doing. You walk quickly at first but your pace quickens until you’re at a run, finally slowing when you reach your destination. You elbow your way through the growing crowd until you gain entrance into the house. Your back is against the wall and you can’t really move. But, it’s worth it just to hear him teach.
And how he teaches! Such authority! Such courage! He calls out the Pharisees in a way no one else would. You hang onto every word. That emptiness in your deepest heart begins to fill.
That is, until there’s a noise overhead. The crunching sound of footsteps. Several people are moving around on the flat roof of the house. You frown, wondering who could be so rude. The sounds stop, allowing you to listen more.
A scraping sound. Light begins to spill through the ceiling. You gasp. People are removing the roof tiles!
Jesus stops talking. A knowing smile fills his face as he tilts his head back to look up at the people now peering down through the hole they’ve made. You wait for Jesus to reprimand these men. You wait for him to tell them they have to fix the damage and apologize to the homeowner.
Instead, Jesus moves aside as a litter is slowly lowered through the hole. A man with withered legs lays on the pallet. You recognize him as a beggar from the town gates. He hasn’t walked in years. You crane your head, trying to see over everyone else as Jesus looks down at him. The joy on Jesus’ face is like its own sun. You are caught in wonder.
Jesus says, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
You rock back on your heels. He forgave his sins? But who can forgive sins except God alone?
“Why do you question thus in your hearts?”
You suck in a breath, shocked to hear your innermost thought questioned. But Jesus isn’t looking at you. He’s looking at the scribes and Pharisees seated in the front of the crowd.
Jesus continues, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He looked back down at the paralyzed man. “I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.”
A cry of wonder goes up as the man stands, his legs no longer withered but strong and straight. He totters for a moment, as unsteady as a newborn lamb. Jesus catches him by the arm. The healed man smiles at him for a moment before reaching down and gathering up his pallet.
The crowd parts for him as he walks away. Later, you won’t remember what else Jesus said before the people left. You’ll go home, as the shadows lengthen and dusk gathers along the rooftops, and your heart will be full. So full, it feels as if it will bursts. You feel whole. But, at the same time, you feel a hunger. A hunger to know more. A hunger to build on the faith that began to sprout in that small house. Nothing is the same now. Everything is different.
What will you do next?