Mark Chapter 2 opens with something that bothers me just a little bit.
There’s this paralyzed man who can’t get to Jesus, so his friends make a hole in the roof and lower him down to be healed. And Jesus takes one look at him – his withered legs, his scared and hopeful eyes, the pieces of plaster and thatch in his hair and clothes from his undignified entrance – and He says the most un-obvious thing.
“Your sins are forgiven.”
Hold the phone!!! What???
What I forget – and maybe we all do? – is that our most urgent need is forgiveness, our deepest problem is never our circumstances, but rather our sinfulness.
I get lost in the whirlwind of heartbreak that clogs my newsfeed on social media, and the needs that flood my inbox. I find my list more urgent than my children, the (sometimes overwhelming) work of running a household easier by far than delving into emotional accessibility.
And I think – maybe I’m just not cut out for “holy” work. I can do far better than disciple. Contrastingly, there are those who can dream the day away, delve deeply into everyone’s emotions, write poetry that would make angels weep…but don’t lift a finger to handle the overflowing laundry hamper, the work deadlines, the empty refrigerator. But isn’t Jesus-living something of both? After His startling statement of forgiveness, Jesus heals the man’s legs, too. The former paraplegic walks out of that house with strong legs and a clean soul.
Healing a broken body is undoubtedly sanctified work, but healing a soul is even more precious. You can fix a finite body for a few decades, but the real work is eternal. Jesus never lost sight of that. So often, I forget to blend the two – practical help with eternal significance. We see it here in Mark 2: It’s possible to work holy and worship practically – to live a life that encompasses the temporal and the spiritual. To take a messy interruption like the roof falling in and broken lives landing in the middle of a beautiful sermon…and turn it into opportunity.
The most important work is not necessarily curing world hunger or creating the next vaccine (although, if God gifts you to fight those battles, YES! Go do it!). The most important work is the stuff in front of us, but not just the obvious needs. It’s doing the glaringly obvious things, but first…peeling back the layers to the hidden needs, the soul wounds, and bringing the healing of Christ in every way we can.
Sin is always the most painful part of anyone’s narrative.
We tend to forget this. Because we get snagged on the obvious – the crippling paralysis of ugly factors leads us to think that if we could just fix this ONE thing…that life would be bearable again. Mark 2 is a clear reminder that temporal problems are always secondary. Always? Yes, always.
You can see this principle echoed throughout Scripture as we are reminded that because of Jesus, we can always rejoice. Yes, our current situation might be utterly bleak, but the blackest of our problems is taken care of forever. Circumstances can blind us to the reality that God’s deepest act of love is His rescue mission to each of us – and that we should never take lightly the truth of justification by grace. When you’re staring heartbreak in the face, no matter the cause…don’t forget that all your sins, every one is forgiven by God.
This is helpful to remember, not just about our own lives, but also about others’. When we see people within the Biblical frame of reference – eternal souls housed in a temporal body – it places into perspective the ways that they have already been helped by God, and emphasizes the importance of our call to help them on both levels.
There is a world of hurt, and broken, and messy people. And there’s plenty we can do to help, both physically and spiritually. The most Christ-like work is always a blend of the two: tending to souls and meeting temporal needs.