In the second chapter of the Gospel according to Mark, we discover Jesus teaching and meeting with the crowds at Capernaum. His popularity grows so much that his house is surrounded by a mob of people straining to hear what he has to say.
On the fringe of the crowd, there were four men carrying their sick friend on his mat, desiring for him to be healed. Since they could not walk through the front door, they dig a hole through the roof of the house.
They dig a hole … through the roof! I can only imagine that some in the crowd thought, “How could they!? Such an act of vandalism! Why could they not wait their turn?” Yet, they persisted, dig the hole, and their desperation pays off with a friend healed and Jesus demonstrates a new revelation of God’s forgiveness and mercy.
While many focus on Jesus confronting the scribes concerning the question of who has the power to forgive, it is the audacity of the friends that intrigues me the most. Their faith in this new teacher, to heal their friend, compels them to take dramatic steps to ensure he is at least given the chance. They give their voiceless friend a voice – the very definition of protest.
If you are passionate about something, would you not protest for your cause to be heard? For most of us, that answer would probably be “no.” Many believe that their voice is too small or insignificant. Many believe protesting is just wrong or impolite. However, for others who say “yes,” see the healing and forgiving power of uniting individual voices to confront injustice.
Rosa Parks, tired and worn, finally said to herself, I will not go back!
Martin Luther King Jr., threatened and under great pressure to back down, finally said to himself, I will not go back!
Civil and gay rights activists, brutalized and marginalized, finally said, We will not go back!
The Me Too movement, fearful and reluctant, finally said to themselves, We will not go back!
The protests we hear today are shouts for healing, justice, equality, and mercy. They protest in dramatic ways, digging holes in the status quo and giving voice to the voiceless. They don’t want to wait their turn, go back to “how it used to be,” or settle for the scraps of others. They take up their mats and march in the streets, seeking change in our world that would bring us together, reconcile the world, and establish the Kingdom. Their cries make us uncomfortable, question our biases, and begin the transformation of our hands, feet, eyes and ears into the digging tools which will bring healing and forgiveness.
It takes great courage to speak out, even in a time where others seemingly want others to simply speak their mind. There is risk in using our voice for others. We leave ourselves open to social vulnerabilities. We might lose friends. We might not say it clearly or correctly. We might get arrested. We might invite violence into our lives.
I raise my voice and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, and I experience some of those things. Yet, it is pale in comparison to what our LGBTQ+ community suffers on a daily basis. I don’t have to hide who I am. I don’t have to worry if I will be denied a job, housing, or other social services. I still maintain my privileges. I have the tools to dig a hole.
I raise my voice and advocate for women’s health rights, mental health rights and children’s rights, and I experience the fiery feedback of others. Yet, it is pale in comparison to what women, those suffering from mental illness, and children suffer when they are told that they are the problem.
I don’t worry about or make the same decisions they do on a daily basis. I have the resources to still do and be who I want to be. I have the educational opportunities to develop my potential and understanding. I have the love and support of a good family without the worries of poverty, divorce, and health. I have the tools to dig that hole.
This, to me, is what this short chapter is all about. To care for our friends and neighbors so deeply, that we would be willing to dig a hole through the roofs of our institutions, traditions, and religion to get to the loving power and forgiveness of God. Mark signals to Christ-followers, there are times when we or others just can’t wait for a turn, that it is time to help the helpless, give voice to the voiceless, and to challenge the mobs that say, “No! Not for you!”
For I know this to be true, Jesus lost some friends, did not always say things clearly, was arrested and crucified. Jesus did not do this for his own personal fame or poll ratings. Jesus did this for us, you and me, the ones who say no and yes, the ones who argue and debate right and wrong, the ones who get it and don’t – the old and the new, the broken and the mended.
Yes, there is a time to dig. I humbly think it is now.
First, you must dig!