Skylights are quite fashionable so I’m told; they flood spaces with natural light, 5 times the amount of light than from a normal window of the same size. The natural light enhances the mood and ambience of a space; they can turn dark and dingy rooms and houses into bright lively and inviting homes. With the right glazing they can be very energy efficient. Well that’s according to some design tips I got off the website of an award winning architect and interior designer. It may be the kind of advice that the owner of the house from our passage in Luke this morning would have to consider, now, because of the faith of a few men, there is a hole in the roof.
“Windows of grace” is a way that people talk about things and spiritual disciplines that help us to connect with the truth, presence and love of God; prayer, bible reading, preaching and teaching, worship, sacraments, fellowship these are some of those windows, these are some of the ways God can speak and minister into our lives by the Holy Spirit. They are windows through which God can shine his light into our lives. But in the narrative we are looking at today grace comes not through a window but a hole in the roof…. A hole that Jesus called faith.
We are following Jesus footsteps: Looking at the orderly account of the ministry of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. Today that journey leads us to a hole in the roof… for some that hole in the roof is an act of faith, being determined in the face of obstacles to see their friend receive a healing encounter with Jesus. For one man that hole in the roof leads to wholeness: forgiveness, healing and restoration. For others that hole in the roof is a problem, it is an opening for them to critique Jesus, to sit in judgment on what he says and does. For Luke, that hole in the roof is something through which we can know more about Jesus, in this encounter, in this healing, through Jesus words and deeds, through the start of conflict with the religious people of his day, to know that the son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins… Let’s have a look at the hole in the roof
There is a hole in the roof. They had put it there. They were his friends and they cared about the man. All we know about him is that he is paralysed. It’s the medical term, it reflects Luke’s background as a doctor, elsewhere people would simply have said cripple. All they knew was that they hoped Jesus could do something to change all that. They had heard that Jesus cared for the outcast, the hurt the broken, he talked of God’s outrageous revolution of grace and showed it through deeds of healing and release. They’d come with their friend.
The house where Jesus was teaching was full and there was no way in. It wasn’t just the growing crowd around Jesus, but today the Pharisees and scribes of the law had come from all over, not only from all over Galilee, but from Judea and even from Jerusalem. A normal crowd may have made way willingly for the man to get to Jesus. But these people were part of a religious group, that believed if they kept God’s law, if they kept themselves separate from sin and those that just might be sinners that God would move and restore Israel as a nation. They had come to sit and hear Jesus. The way they came to sit and hear Jesus, gave the feeling that they had come to sit in judgment, to critique and check out if this new prophet was like them, believed what they believed or was he a false prophet. They were not going to move for the paralysed man and his friends… they were there on serious business… and while they might not say it out loud they were suspicious of a person who was paralysed, maybe they had done something wrong and this was God’s judgement.
But his friends were not put off. The power of God was with Jesus to heal those who were ill. They climbed up the side of the house to the flat roof, where people would sit under thatched reed shades on hot days to take advantage of any cooling breeze there was. They had found tools and scraped a hole in the roof and got rope and lowered their friend down to Jesus feet.
There is a hole in the roof… Jesus looks up and watches as the man is lowered down through it. You can see in his eyes in his face that he sees and understands what is going on here. He sees the compassion they have for their friend. He sees the faith they have, that Jesus can heal and make whole… This is the kind of response Jesus has been looking for… Not just amazement or even the beginnings of belief but a breakthrough faith… trust put into action; Diligent trust, going to great lengths to seek Jesus presence.
Jesus responds to that faith ‘‘friend, your sins are forgiven.” There is debate whether the man’s paralysis was a result of some sin in the past, we are not told. Jesus looks and sees the deeper need, the need to hear words of forgiveness to be put right with God, to be restored to his community, for them to see that he is put right with God. He may be crippled on the inside with feeling s of unworthiness, or guilt, or have carried with himself that look from others that he had obvious done something wrong. But now Jesus is bringing healing from the inside out, from the core of his being to his withered extremities.
There is a hole in the roof. It causes a problem. Jesus words are almost what the Pharisees and scribes of the law have been waiting for. They had listened to his teaching, now what he says to this man causes them concern… he’d dug a hole for himself… Only God has the prerogative the power the authority to forgive sins. Then it was through the rites and sacrifices and sacred rituals at the temple. The things they knew, the things they as a religious group knew and practised so well. Who does Jesus think he is? Isn’t this blasphemy?
Jesus knows what they are thinking, he can tell by their disease and the looks on their faces and just as Simon had said back when Jesus was presented at the temple as a child, that the thoughts of many hearts would be revealed… So Jesus asks them… which is easier to say ‘your sins are forgiven’ or get up and walk?... It’s a challenging question isn’t it,? It’s the kind of perplexing question that the Pharisees know the answer to, but they also know that if they say well the command to heal is more difficult and Jesus heals that it shows he does have authority to forgive…
Jesus continues ‘But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth.’ We might have missed this reference to the Son of Man, we are so used to it, but it’s the first time Jesus uses it in this gospel. The Pharisees and the scribes of the law knew their scripture, and they would not have missed it...they were right that Jesus was claiming the authority that only God had to forgive sins and know he uses a title from the Old Testament to refer to himself…the Son of Man … It wasn’t as loaded with meaning as messiah … In Ezekiel it was simply used to refer to the prophet as a human being’ son of man’… but in Daniel amidst the beasts coming up from the sea, each one more hideous than the last, each representing the rise and fall of empires on the world stage, one like the Son of Man is bought before God, and all authority was given to him, his kingdom is established and God says it will last forever… Jesus uses that title for himself… and here we see that Jesus is claiming that authority to forgive sin… The kingdom of the son of man is come near… It is a kingdom that will be different than the Pharisees hope for, it will be about forgiveness and wholeness and invitation to all to come back and dwell in God’s presence, more than political freedom, more than keeping law to please God enough to act.
So he says to the man ‘get up, pick up your mat and go home.’ And the man feeling his legs strengthened and made new just as his inner being had been made new by Jesus words of forgiveness. He is made whole, he can go home: he is restored physically he is reconciled with his family and community, so he get up goes back to them praising God…Knowing that through a hole in the roof he has encountered God grace in Jesus. He is forgiven and made whole. Everyone else is filled with awe and amazed, even the Pharisees seem to be silenced, at least for now…
There is a hole in the roof and through this miracle story, this interaction with the Pharisees we are shown more of who Jesus is… We see more of his revolution of grace. In the gospel miracles are called signs and wonders… they point us to a deeper understanding, they act as signposts that point us to the truth about Jesus… The Pharisees have it right, Jesus is claiming the prerogative of God to forgive, authority in using the title son of man that was given to him by God… It is not blasphemy when we come to know who Jesus is.
It points us to the central mission of Jesus to break the power of sin, to bring about healing of that central relationship between man and God…it points us to the cross…. It’s not that we can be good enough for God’s favour as the Pharisees taught, but that God is good and extends that to us in grace and mercy. In Jesus sin and its consequences in our lives will be dealt with… forgiveness, restoration of community, wholeness and healing are found in him.
You can’t call Jesus a faith healer, but we see that faith brings people to Jesus diligently trusting that Jesus is able and willing to move and release and restore… on a personal level, on a community level on a systemic level. It is a faith that calls us to risk and face opposition and obstacle, to go round and break through barriers to seek Jesus presence. It’s not passive, it’s not vain hope, it’s active, as John Wimber says it is spelt R*I*S*K. carrying loads, taking steps and making holes trusting in Jesus.
There is a hole in the roof… How do you respond to that today?
|The spire/skylight at St Peter's|
There is a hole in the roof… and sometimes we find ourselves being the reason the hole needs to be there. We can crowd around Jesus and just maybe we become unaware of those needing wanting to know his healing and forgiving touch. We can get in the way, we’ve got Jesus boxed in . Even in our worship our gatherings together our meetings, we don’t leave space for Jesus to speak and to act. Maybe we find ourselves sitting in judgement of Jesus; we want to fit Jesus into our little religious party. We’ve built this whole structure around Jesus intellectually and physically… That needs a hole in the roof for people and for us to get past that to encounter Jesus in a way that brings forgiveness, healing and wholeness. That perplexing question that Jesus asked still challenges us… Which is easier to say ‘your sins are forgiven’ or ‘get up and walk’? We believe Jesus can forgive but can he heal? We need a hole in the roof an open heaven.
There is a hole in the roof… Do you need it today to know Jesus presence… his healing and forgiving words in your life …That can be scary for us… I wonder how safe the man felt as he was man handled up the stairs to the roof, and was lowered down to Jesus feet. But Jesus meet him and spoke wholeness into his life. Maybe you need to open up this morning allow yourself to be lowered to Jesus presence.
There is a hole in the roof…. I hope it is an inspiration for you? An encouragement, as you befriend, as you care for, as you carry others, as you face issues and problems that would hold people captive and cripple. That it is encouragement to keep going, to be determined, to be creative to not let obstacles get in the way of seeking Jesus presence, to bring friends to Jesus, and seeing Jesus minister to them and to keep on following in his footsteps...