What is a crowd?
The facilitator of our Visioning Retreat last weekend delivered a message in the opening worship service based on the text of the healing of the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12. His message pointed out interpretations of the scripture which I had never seen before, but which were so "true," if that makes sense.
If you remember the story, Jesus is at home. People come to hear him speak, crowding into the house. A paralytic is brought to Jesus by four of his friends. The friends,who can't get the paralytic to Jesus, refuse to give up. They carry him up to the roof, dig their way to Jesus, and lower the man down through the hole.
Verse 2: So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them.
Verse 4: And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.
Bill pointed out that we often think of the house as being physically SO crowded that no one else could enter. That's an image that many of us hope for our church --that it would be so vital, that there would be standing room only. But what if, instead of being physically crowded, our churches are gathered so closely around Jesus, that we are blocking the way of anyone else entering. What if what we do, what we say, who we are is a hindrance to people reaching Jesus? It throws the story into a whole different light for our churches.
Do we crowd around Jesus, hording him, "protecting" him (or ourselves) so that no one can reach him? When our purpose should be to share Christ with others, do we instead keep them from him?
And when verse 5 says, "When Jesus saw their faith...", referring to the men dropping through his roof, could he have known that the faith of those crowded around was much more weak than the faith of those climbing or being carried up to the roof? Does he say to us that our faith is so much weaker than those we would keep from God by our insistence those who approach God through our church look like us, think like us, and believe exactly like us?
More on this tomorrow....