The Challenge of Living in Right Relationship

Jesus Heals the Paralytic

Jesus Heals the Paralytic

by Jen Owens

This week’s readings present a picture of Jesus that is less than simple, one that challenges us to shed the scales from our eyes to see our relationship with God, with the Trinity really, in a new light. The journey ahead is heartening at some points and frightening at others, but throughout these readings, we are constantly assured that we are always accompanied by a Creator, a Savior, and a Spirit, if we have the faith and confidence to invite them in.

In the First Reading, God calls out to the Israelites, “See, I am doing something new!” (Isaiah 43:19). Here, God is announcing a new way of being in right relationship with God’s people. And in the Second Reading, this theme of right relationship continues. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy offer a resounding “yes” to the challenges that come along with leading a Christian life by committing themselves and the community at Corinth to a relationship with the Son of God in Jesus. Paul even goes on to explain a bit about what this relationship will look like. This “yes” leads to the “seal” that God puts on us, and the Holy Spirit is sent into our hearts (2 Corinthians 1:22). In this way, we are marked out for God-and our lives should reflect this.

If the Gospel is any indication of what we can look forward to in living in right relationship with the members of the Trinity mentioned in the first two readings, a complicated picture emerges. First, we see a Savior who offers forgiveness to the man suffering from paralysis because Jesus is moved by his faith and that of his companions. This is the compassionate Jesus with whom many of us are familiar-the one who comforts the afflicted in times of trouble. However, he shows himself to be more than simply that. The Jesus of this particular Gospel reading refuses to ignore those who begin to challenge his authority and his authenticity. Instead, he meets their challenges with a challenge of his own. He confronts those who opposed him, saying, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk?'” and goes on to heal the paralyzed man.

This fiery Jesus doesn’t let the doubtful off easy-he meets them where they are and challenges them to have faith in a God who defies convention and, at times, comprehension.

As one who has her doubts, both images of Jesus-the one who is compassionate and the one who challenges me to grow-are hardly incompatible. If anything, they are a comfort in the way that they reinforce one another. In Jesus’ compassion for me, I see the way in which he can meet me where I am, encouraging me to do the thing I think I cannot do. He sees through the armor I wear to protect myself against the danger of honest spiritual seeking for what it is. And in his compassion, he dares me to strip it off, to go forth, with him, and delve into the thing that scares me the most.

Preparing to enter the season of Lent, what are the new things that God is doing in our lives that God is appealing to us to see? What are the challenges that God is encouraging us to face? What does it mean for us to rise, to pick up our mats, and walk this day?

Image from Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Jen Owens is an MDiv candidate at Harvard Divinity School, where her favorite class this semester is in Christian preaching.


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