April 30, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Mark 2:11 (NIV)
“I tell you, get up, take up your mat and go home.”
It is almost inevitable that at some point in life there will be circumstances that will cause paralysis in our lives. Fear, disruption, and even accomplishment can all cause a seemingly endless pause. But for a believer, the Gospel offers the soul-nourishing and life-moving assurances that we are forgiven and that it is possible to get up from paralysis and move into what God has made us to do.
As a kid I had this recurring dream that my parents and I were leaving my godmother’s house and making our way home. I would enter the house and see the silhouette of a figure hanging out of a bedroom with a bat aimed at me. Startled, I would awake to a silent house and the uncanny repetitive thump, thump, thump in my ears. I had an imaginary vision of impending doom. I would lay there scared, frightened and unable to move.
We tend to take our mobility for granted. But, in Mark 2, four friends realize they are “immobile” when it comes to healing paralysis. So they decide to use their faculties to bring a friend to Jesus. They believe that Jesus is sufficient for souls and for legs. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be lowered through a ceiling, or what it would feel like to have a cloud of witnesses looking at my paralysis as if they had no paralysis in their own life. Especially I can’t imagine how the Pharisees could watch the kingdom pull back reality like a curtain and see a miracle walk through the room, yet still meet that moment with criticism. But I do know—we all know, really—what it is like to be paralyzed; not physically, perhaps, but emotionally, mentally, spiritually.
What we gain from Mark’s fast-moving Gospel is a good reminder about paralysis. When life shakes us—and it will shake us—we have a propensity to remain so very, very still. We anticipate an impending doom. We shudder at the paralyzed eyes of others never thinking about how similar they are to our own. We hear doom in our ears and see doom in our eyes. When I was a kid, that repetitive beat I heard was doom; some person with a bat aimed at me. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized the doom in my ears was my own heartbeat in my neck.
After dealing with sin and the Pharisees, the four, the onlookers, and probably the homeowner’s roof and the good-hands insurance adjuster, Jesus turns to the once-paralyzed man and tells him what every disciple needs to hear in life: “Get up, take up your mat and go home.” There can be many experiences that can betide you: a new or old job, a new position with old opposition, new sickness, an accident, economic shuffling, great achievement beyond expectation, or the whole room (or world) has their eyes on you. At best all of it is only temporary for the forgiven ones in the Kingdom. God will take care of you. Paralysis is temporary; you will walk again. That shadow of death hanging around the corner may be real but it is only temporary. That pounding of “doom” you hear in your ears may actually be the beat of the way and truth and life telling you to “get up” and get back to the things you were made to do.
It would have been nice for Mark to tie up the story with a nice bow. I want to say: “Mark, tell us that the four who walked with him while he was paralyzed now walked home with him. Or tell us that the Pharisees picked up their paralyzed thoughts about Jesus and the objectified disabled person and praised God like the crowd did. Tell us the crowd saw their own paralyzed logs in their eyes while looking at a few splintered legs.” Unfortunately, Mark doesn’t supply what we’d like to hear. We are only told that Jesus has authority to forgive and to send people on their way. When you are startled, shook, or paralyzed, remember that believers are qualified to walk in light. Remember, if all you have is a mat, you’re still not walking alone. Jesus is walking with you.
So, by his grace, hear the good news: Get up, take up your mat and be on your way.
What keeps (or has kept) you awake at night? What makes you shudder in your soul beneath the Christian rhetoric?
What is the work that could be artwork if you weren’t paralyzed?
Can you move your toes? Go read the lyrics to God Will Take Care of You and consider both you and the paralysis you see around you. If you are “under his wings of love” what does his protection mean? If you know, if you really know, that His wings are wider than any opposition, how would you move for him?
“Oh, for grace to trust you more,” is indeed sweet. It is so sweet to trust in you, God. But I remember that I too at times am paralyzed and I dwell amongst a paralyzed people. If those around me become paralyzed, remind me to help them move until they walk again. And when I stop too long, remind me that just perhaps Jesus spoke out loud to remind me that his wings of love are wide enough for the room. Thank you, God, for making us able to get up and walk again for you. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Paralytic Man (Mark 2:1-12)
DeLano J. Sheffield is the Business Resource Specialist for Goodwill of MoKan where he connects to people on the fringes, training them to reach their full potential through learning and the power of work; he also is on the frontlines of the advances of the fourth industrial revolution and coaches leaders on diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. He began his career as an architectural engineer then went on to attend seminary. In every part of his life he finds ways to infuse theology into vocation, and strengthen practical connections of faith and daily activity. DeLano lives in Kansas City, Missouri.