Reading: Mark 2:1-12
I have the feeling that absolution today is one of those artsy words. Like Deliverance or Atonement. They sound great. They still carry the frightening weight of The Story, and 2000 years of reflection. They shimmer in an intellectual’s mind and are then dismissed as ghosts. This man says in his heart there is no deliverance or atonement or absolution. Oh, he wants them to be true, but stumbles over the form of their revelation. He retreats back to safe formulas that offer no solace, to needs he knows he has, like sleep and food and sex, and away from those dangerous deep needs, like atonement and absolution.
Jesus confronts this in the reading. A man is in need of healing. A deeper need than sleep, but still of the physical realm. Christ gives him absolution – “My son, your sins are forgiven.” We are not told of the four men who dug through a roof or the paralytic’s reaction. We are told of the Pharisees. The very people who are in a position to know. They make the correct leap, “Only God can forgive sins.” And they retreat, “this is blasphemy.” We’ve been waiting for the messiah so long. Why has God gone silent? Even the prophets stopped being sent. Can this really be him? No, too dangerous to think about. But Jesus confronts them.
What is easier forgiving sins or healing? A maddening question – especially when you don’t really believe in either. But this man and his friends believe – they dug through the roof! And Jesus knows. That you may believe the son of man has authority over the greater need, to forgive sins, to give absolution, He heals the lesser need of physical healing.
We are all left with that dangerous proof. Do we accept the absolution and the conclusion it requires – This one is my God and my Lord. Or, do we retreat to safe formulas – like sin is just a cultural understanding, or that is not my understanding of who God is. Do we retreat because the form of absolution is abhorant?