Faith of a Mustard Seed

Barbara Woods-Washington 2014

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

“On one of those days, as he was teaching, there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they sought to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying,

“Who is this that speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?” When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” –he said to the man who was paralyzed–“I say to you, rise, take up your bed and go home. And immediately he rose before them, and took up that on which he lay, and went home, glorifying God.” (Luke 5:17-25)

Seeing the faith of the friends’ of the paralytic who ‘move a tile roof’, Luke records Jesus saying to the paralytic, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” These words, alone, now cause an immediate change of events. Looking closer, the Pharisees and scribes, who had come from “every village in Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem” to see a ‘miracle worker’, ‘healer’, ‘teacher’ now question, “who is this who is speaking blasphemies?”

To begin with ‘blasphemias’ stands alone in translation and can be found in it’s original form, even without root variations in most languages. It is used to denote ‘abusive speech’; ‘word of evil sound’; and came to be known as ‘the strongest form of personal mockery and calumniation’. It always refers finally to god.

It takes on the sense of ‘mistaking the true nature of god’; ‘violating god’ and ‘doubting the power of god’. In the Old Testament it has the sense of ‘disputing God’s saving power’; ‘desecrating His name’. The Rabbis, the scribes and the Pharisees were informed by the Leviticus 24:13ff text: “He who blashphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him; the sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death”. Israel was even warned of blaspheming the gods of the other nations, lest the foreigner disregard the power of Yahweh. Isaiah recounts Hezekiah’s distress as he ‘rent his clothes and covered himself with a sack cloth and went into the temple, saying, “This day is a day of trouble and of blasphemy; children have come to birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth.” When Jesus said to the paralytic, “Man, your sins are forgiven you”, the scribes and Pharisees asked “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies?”

I am reminded of how quickly the Family Reunion, the Family Holiday Dinner and various other purposeful Family gatherings take a change of events. Members are gathered in a kindred spirit of love, fellowship, renewal.. and one person, (drunk or otherwise) will turn it around, upside down.. turn it out! Same person. Every time! (My sister is gon’ think I’m talking about her but I haven’t named any names! To protect the innocent!).

The Pharisees and scribes, who had come from “every village in Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem”, surely came the distance to share in a very purposeful gathering of kindred spirits to see, to hear, to be touched by this ‘miracle worker’, ‘healer’, ‘teacher’. He very simply said to the paralytic, (on a note that was so very personal in Luke— wasn’t even talking to THEM), “Man, your sins are forgiven YOU.” A ‘change of events’! A capital crime! Punishable by death! The response of those present— “We have seen strange things today”.

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