And after getting into a boat Jesus crossed the water and came to his own town.
And just then some people were carrying a paralysed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’ Then some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ – he then said to the paralytic – ‘Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.’ And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.
Jesus said to the scribes: Why do you think evil in your hearts?
The scribes knew the religious laws very well, in fact they were experts on the subject. They knew the words of the Torah (the books of the law at the beginning of our Old Testament) and they were zealous in living out that law in their everyday lives. However, like all people, they found that living out every detail of a code of laws could, at times, be inconvenient. We know this situation very well indeed. There are so many things we do that we know, in our hearts, that we should not do. If I were to list just some of those things I would soon find myself extending this reflection to many pages. The scribes knew the law but Jesus found evil in their hearts.
In today’s reading Jesus heals a paralyzed man. Some people had brought the paralyzed man into Jesus’ presence in the hope that Jesus would heal him. We do not know whether those who carried the paralyzed man were family, friends or just some who had pity for the poor man’s plight. Of course, this detail does not really impact on the message of today’s reading. The fact is that Jesus saw faith in the hearts of those who carried that disabled man, and in the heart of the man himself. It was because of that faith, which may only have been as tiny as a mustard seed, that Jesus was able to bring healing and renewal into that damaged life.
In contrast to the faith of the paralyzed man and his bearers, Jesus saw something very different in the hearts of the religious experts, the scribes. They were not moved with compassion at the sorry state of the paralyzed man; they did not see a moment of hope for him. Instead they sought a way of twisting Jesus’ power to bring about yet another miraculous healing into a cause for criticism. What is more it was not just some mild rebuke, rather it was an accusation of blasphemy, acting in direct opposition to God’s teaching and God’s will. When viewed in this way we should not be surprised that Jesus described what he saw in the hearts of the scribes as ‘evil’.
In our journeys of faith we are called to ‘practise what we preach’. We are called to not only know the law and the will of God but to commit ourselves to that law and that will with all our hearts. We are not called to put on a show of piety, but to live the holy life. We are called to seek the strength that will result in Jesus finding faith rather than evil in our hearts.
Let us pray that that may always be so.
First issued in 2021