Today the Jacob Wetterling family weighs heavy on my heart. Certainly I don’t need to include here the horrifying details of his disappearance and murder. This week’s readings on forgiveness sit uneasily within me in light of the murderer’s confession earlier this week.
The story of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic is a complex blending of forgiveness and healing. When the man’s friends come seeking healing, Jesus offers forgiveness first. Those listening couldn’t believe their ears – who has the audacity to forgive sins, for only God can forgive. But Jesus knew better. Jesus knew it was for every one of us to forgive sins – the ones we want amended, and the ones that will never be amended. To prove how easy forgiveness can be, Jesus heals the man as well as forgiving his sins.
The man who took Jacob – he is in need of both healing and forgiveness. The challenge is, of course, that healing of mental illness is a challenging and difficult thing. And, of course, forgiveness is to our sensibilities, quite offensive. I personally do not want to forgive this man. I want him to rot in prison until his untimely demise. Anyone following this case for the past 30 years might feel the same.
But then… Jesus. His words. His actions. His relentless pursuit of justice, peace, and love. Justice dictates the offender serve his time in prison. Peace requires we wish him no harm. Love asks that we forgive. I’m not there yet. I doubt the Wetterlings are there yet. Maybe one day.
When he 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 paralyzed 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!”