When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 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. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. 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. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and take your mat and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic—’I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’ And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’
Then some people came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them.
Not so many days ago we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany. During that celebration the Church recalled the coming of the Magi, the Wise Men. Not only did those wise men travel hundreds of miles to offer their precious gifts to the infant Jesus, but they also avoided the political machinations and deceptions of Herod. Having followed the star for so long and for so many, many miles, they knelt down and paid him homage before returning to their own country by another road.
For the Church, it is this journey home by another road that represents the moment when the truth of the Incarnation of the Christ was revealed to the wider world. Jesus, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, came to earth for all. Symbolically, his presence was revealed first to the Jewish nation as the angels heralded his birth to the shepherds in the fields below Bethlehem. But, the Good News of Jesus Christ was not for Jews alone, it was a message of hope and love from God to the whole of his creation.
In Psalm 72, the psalm most closely associated with the Feast of the Epiphany, we read of kings from far lands rendering him tribute. We also read that all nations give him service, and the prayer: Blessed be his glorious name for ever; may his glory fill the whole earth. Centuries before the actual birth of Jesus, that birth was foretold. The different journeys of the wise men were part of God’s plan for humanity.
So, how does this recollection of the coming and going of the wise men connect with today’s reading? To begin with we can see that the journey of the Magi had achieved its aim. The word had spread beyond the Jewish community. Many journeyed to Jesus. So many made that journey that no earthly home could contain them. We also see that God’s healing love, as made manifest in Jesus Christ, was already highly valued. It was also a love that people felt the need to share, rather than keep to themselves. Even those who could not make the journey themselves, such as the paralysed man, were brought in hope and love.
This short passage from Mark’s gospel tells us of a miraculous healing and yet another moment when the Jewish religious leaders were affronted by Jesus’ challenge to their self-serving authority. There is also one other detail that is easily missed. Mark tells us that the paralysed man was carried by four of them. There is a sign from this of the ancient prophecies being fulfilled in this reading. It was prophesied that they would come from all corners of the earth, from north, south, east and west, to render him homage.
The wise men, after worshipping the baby, journeyed by another road. That other road led to the sharing of the Good News far beyond the little town of Bethlehem. Their journey started a tide of ripples that continue their journey to this day. Let us play our part in worshipping God and spreading the Good News. Let us join the four of them by helping others to journey by that other road which will bring them nearer to God.