Sunday, 22 February 2009

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Shaftesbury

Mk 2:1-12
As Christians, we acknowledge that Jesus Christ is God, and was always God. I want to say a few words about HOW Jesus claimed to be God.
It is not a normal thing to claim to be God, and if I stood here today and I claimed to you that I am God, you would rightly conclude that I am mad.

It follows, that when Jesus wanted to tell people that He was God, He had to tell people gradually, and He had to tell people in such a way that they would realise that His claim to be God made sense, and was not just a sign that He was mad Himself.

In today's gospel passage we see one of many clear examples in the Gospels of how Jesus claimed to be God.
Jesus claimed to be God as a part of what He taught and what He did. He taught what only God was allowed to teach, and He did what only God was allowed to do, and what only God was able to do.

Jesus came to earth that we might be forgiven for our sins. In order to do that, He Himself, as God, came to earth to forgive us. And in order that people might know that they can be forgiven, they needed to know that HE can forgive our sins.
As we just heard, He claimed the authority to forgive sins: “My child, your sins are forgiven you”.
Now, those who heard him understood that this was a claim to be God, because it was a claim to do what only God is allowed to do. That's why he's here is accused him of blasphemy: “Who can forgive sins but God?”, they rightly said.

The response that Jesus made to this accusation is highly significant:
He did not say that sins can be forgiven by someone other than God,
rather, He made a further claim for Himself, He claimed that He had the power to heal. And He then proved that He had the power by working the miracle.
But He only did this in order to prove His other claim, namely, that He was God, and that He thus had the authority of God Himself to forgive sin.
“ to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on to forgive sin ...”

It is worth noting, that even at this stage, Jesus only made this claim gradually. His claim to be God only became fully believable in the context of His death and resurrection. That is why it is only AFTER the resurrection that Thomas finally knelt before Him and proclaimed, “My Lord and my God”.
Before the resurrection, we read the repeated pattern that Jesus would heal people, but then tell them to keep what He had done private: He wanted to only be fully understood in the light of what He finally displayed in the resurrection.

This week, we start Lent, and we turn our thoughts to those final events of His life, those final events where His gradual claim to be God was finally brought into focus. But as we do so, it is important to remember that His claim to have the power to save us, His claim to be God, was something He had been gradually doing and revealing in the many miracles and teachings that He worked the three public years of His life.

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