Questioning hearts and healing

TEXTS: Isaiah 43:18-25, Psalm 41 , 2 Corinthians 1:18-22, Mark 2:1-12

Jesus as Healer and Our Struggle with Healing

The prophet Isaiah proclaims “I am about to do a new thing…” (43:19).
In the gospel God’s “new thing” is taking place as God ‘s reign manifested in Jesus Christ. For several Sundays we have followed Jesus in baptism and beginning ministry.
Jesus is promptly engaged in calling disciples and confronting the powers.
Jesus is quickly immersed in teaching and preaching.
Jesus is also immediately healing the sick and exorcising demons.
People flock to Jesus for healing.
Jesus’ teaching and preaching we accept. Jesus’ confronting the powers we welcome. But Jesus’ healing is another matter. Yet we cannot ignore the healing touch of Jesus.
Three thoughts came to me in my encounter with Jesus the healer this past week.
First, we have doubts and discomfort with healing, including Jesus’ healing.
Second, we all are in need of healing. Someplace in our being we need healing.
It may be our body, mind, heart, psyche, spirit, or soul in need of healing.
Third, there are personal and communal even political dimensions for healing.
The gospel today confronts us with our discomfort with healing, our need for healing,
and many dimensions of healing. Let us encounter Jesus in this gospel in two parts.

Encountering Jesus the Healer

When Jesus 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.
Jesus was speaking the word to them.
Then some people came, bringing to Jesus a paralyzed person, carried by four of them.
And when they could not bring their friend to Jesus because of the crowd,
they removed the roof above Jesus;
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, ‘Child, your sin is forgiven.’
Mark 2:1-5


What do see in this encounter with Jesus the healer?
It is a simple straightforward story.
A paralyzed person is brought to Jesus and is lowered through the roof.
Jesus miraculously heals the paralysis, after first forgiving sin.

How is this person’s paralysis healed?
Why does Jesus first forgive sin?
If Jesus heals and forgives sin why aren’t we doing more of both?

Can’t you see it here in our sanctuary?
Some people bring a friend who is paralyzed but the sanctuary is full and flowing out the door.
So they go up tear a hole in the roof and lower their friend to be healed.
What would we say or do?
It’s just another Sunday at Seattle Mennonite – holes in the roof and healing people.

Two things about Jesus stand out in this healing of the paralytic.
The gospel doesn’t say that Jesus saw a paralyzed person and zapped the person well.
What does the gospel tell us?
“When Jesus saw their faith” we are told, he acted. Whose faith did Jesus see?
The faith of the friends who brought the paralyzed person to Jesus.
We aren’t told that the paralytic had faith.
We aren’t even told that the paralytic came for healing.
But Jesus saw their faith and acted.
What did Jesus do?
Jesus saw their faith and spoke to the person who was paralyzed.
What did Jesus say? “Be healed.”
No, Jesus said, “My child, your sin is forgiven.”

I don’t think that this is Jesus’ attempt to spiritualize the situation.
In the ancient middle east of Jesus’ time, sickness was attributed to sin, even the sin of others.
Jesus cuts to the chase of a construction of reality attributing sickness to sin; yours or theirs.
Jesus recognizes the communal companioning dimension of healing in the faith of friends.

In Greek, the word for heal (sozo) includes the meaning of “to rescue from danger.”
Our Healing Prayer Team rightfully understands Christian healing as “becoming aware of the depth of God’s love for us and for others, and bringing that love to another’s place of need.”

Jesus is certainly doing that here. But it begins with people who recognize their need for healing. In this gospel it includes the love of friends who bring their friend to Jesus.

Questioning Hearts and Healing

The story isn’t finished. There is a second encounter with Jesus in this gospel.

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 sensed in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and Jesus 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 Human One 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 the one who had been paralyzed 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!’                               Mark 2:6-12


The scribes question Jesus. They are questioning in their hearts.
Their questioning comes as condemnation for Jesus:
Why does Jesus speak that way – forgiving sin?
That is blasphemy – contempt for God – only God can forgive sin.

What is really going on in their questioning hearts?
They are disturbed because Jesus disturbs their peace and power.
They are good religious leaders dependent on a predictable religious and social-political scene.
Jesus is upsetting that scene.
Jesus sees right through them to their questioning hearts.
Jesus sees their “illness” and challenges them to be healed.

Questioning hearts is a good thing.
In the presence of Jesus our hearts better be questioning.
The question is: What questions are our hearts holding?
The question of the Scribes’ hearts was about accused Jesus of blasphemy – violating God.
‘Why does this fellow speak in this way? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’

We choose to hold those questions in our heart – questions that accuse the other.
They are questions that do not invite healing; if anything they inflict harm.
Or we choose to hold deep questions in search of healing.

Let me pose three questions to hold in our hearts from this encounter with Jesus:
What is our paralysis? Personal paralysis? Communal paralysis? Political paralysis?
How are we friends companioning each other for healing from our paralysis?
What is the roof that is constructed to contain Jesus or our paralysis that needs dismantling?
These good questions of our hearts hold a crescendo of personal, communal, and political.

You see we never fully comprehend and never control Jesus.
We never even fully comprehend or control our desire for Jesus.
And we surely never fully comprehend or control how we embody Jesus – become Christ.
Nevertheless, we come to Jesus for healing – each of us with our own need for healing.
We come to Jesus for communal healing.
We come knowing there are political dimensions and consequences in our healing.
We come as companions bearing one another in need of healing.
We come to be Jesus’ healing community of faithful friends.

Since we are in this place of worship in this neighborhood, let me illustrate in this context.
The community ministry that God has set before us is a healing ministry.
But it is about our healing as much as healing of community friends.
This is not just personal healing; corporate and political healing is needed as well.
We are people in need of healing.
We are a neighborhood in need of healing.
We are a city in need of healing.
We are a church in need of healing.
We are a country in need of healing.
We are a world in need of healing.
We are God’s healing agents in Jesus Christ the great healer.
Healing is happening in many other ways known and unknown among us.

Let me close with our Mennonite Church USA mantra, which Jonathan shared last Sunday.
Vision Healing and Hope:
God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ
and, by the power of the Holy Spirit,
to grow as communities of grace, joy, and peace,
so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world.

Introduce service of prayer and anointing

For our response to receiving healing and being healing with Jesus,
Malcolm will sing the well-known prayer of healing: “There is a Balm in Gilead.”

After hearing that song as our prayer we offer a place of prayer and anointing for healing.
We want to offer prayer and anointing for whatever you desire for healing.
It may be for yourself or for another. This can be your way of carrying another to Jesus.
It may be for some other place or situation in the world.

There will be 4 prayer teams available:
one here in the front,
one at the bottom of the ramp,
one at the back by the organ,
and one in the fellowship hall.

Please turn in Sing the Journey to #47 “Oh, Lord have mercy” and have it ready to sing.
When the prayer teams are in place, you are welcome to come to any of the four for anointing.
During this time you may join in singing “Oh, Lord have mercy.”
After the song Maxine will continue playing music during the anointing prayer.

May we come to Jesus for healing
and become instruments of healing with and for each other in Christ.

Anointing Healing Prayer

I anoint you with oil for healing
in the name of God the Creator, Jesus the Great Healer, and the Holy Spirit Comforter.
May the healing hand and heart of God bring healing to you in body, mind, spirit, and soul.