MIRACLE by Seamus Heaney
Not the one who takes up his bed and walks
But the ones who have known him all along
And carry him in –
Their shoulders numb, the ache and stoop deeplocked
In their backs, the stretcher handles
Slippery with sweat. And no let up
Until he’s strapped on tight, made tiltable
And raised to the tiled roof, then lowered for healing.
Be mindful of them as they stand and wait
For the burn of the paid out ropes to cool,
Their slight lightheadedness and incredulity
To pass, those ones who had known him all along.
Mark 2 v 1-12 Amplified Bible
AND JESUS having returned to Capernaum, after some days it was rumoured about that He was in the house [probably Peter’s]. And so many people gathered together there that there was no longer room [for them], not even around the door; and He was discussing the Word.
Then they came, bringing a paralytic to Him, who had been picked up and was being carried by four men. And when they could not get him to a place in front of Jesus because of the throng, they dug through the roof above Him; and when they had scooped out an opening, they let down the thickly padded quilt or mat upon which the paralyzed man lay. And when Jesus saw their faith [their confidence in God through Him], He said to the paralyzed man, Son, your sins are forgiven [you] and put away [that is, the penalty is remitted, the sense of guilt removed, and you are made upright and in right standing with God].
Now some of the scribes were sitting there, holding a dialogue with themselves as they questioned in their hearts, Why does this Man talk like this? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins [remove guilt, remit the penalty, and bestow righteousness instead] except God alone?
And at once Jesus, becoming fully aware in His spirit that they thus debated within themselves, said to them, Why do you argue (debate, reason) about all this in your hearts? Which is easier: to say to the paralyzed man, Your sins are forgiven and put away, or to say, Rise, take up your sleeping pad or mat, and start walking about [and keep on walking]?
But that you may know positively and beyond a doubt that the Son of Man has right and authority and power on earth to forgive sins… He said to the paralyzed man, I say to you, arise, pick up and carry your sleeping pad or mat, and be going on home. And he arose at once and picked up the sleeping pad or mat and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and recognized and praised and thanked God, saying, We have never seen anything like this before!
I hardly need to say anything about these two quotations – the Gospel-writer’s story and Heaney’s amazing poem about it give enough food for thought. Well might we as a family identify with those who physically and emotionally carried the paralytic to Jesus, the ones with the faith that Jesus could help their friend. Well do we know the cost of that – the effort and exhaustion and trembling hope, the determination and perseverance required: in different ways his mother, father and sister are each paying the price of Sam’s journey.
Jesus knew the key to this man’s healing: he went to the heart of the matter straight away. It was the “confidence in God through Him” of those who boldly ripped open the roof, rather than that of the shrunken man tied onto the makeshift stretcher, that touched His heart and moved His hand. What a sight it must have been in that crowded room, heat and dust and a sudden hole in the ceiling, the burden being lowered onto people’s heads! Even in the chaos, Jesus was alert and attuned to what was really happening: he heard the scribes mutterings in His spirit.
Jesus knows what is going on in our family. He knows the cost and He knows the heart of all four individuals on this journey – what the different issues are and what we really need from Him. He knows our equivalent of ‘numb shoulders, the ache and stoop deeplocked in our backs, the stretcher handles slippery with sweat. And no let up…’ He sees our confidence in God through Him.
What this will mean in the end, whether the miracle we see will be the ‘picking up his padded mat and walking out and keeping on walking’ I do not know… Only please Lord, let Your word of authority speak into the heart of the matter to put right everything internal and unseen – then there can be an outward display of healing, energy and life. Then the burden can finally be lifted, dependancy end and new life begin.
Meanwhile not only are we carriers, but we are carried. Thank you to all who help to carry us as a family, walk alongside, hold up our arms and share our journey: we are also dependant on your faith and we can’t break through the ceiling without you.