Sunday’s sermon: Tearing the Roof Off

hole in the roof

Text used – Mark 2:1-22





  • “Would you like green eggs and ham?” “I do not like them, Sam-I-Am. I do not like green eggs and ham.” “Would you like them here or there?” “I would not like them here or there. I would not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.” “Would you like them in a house? Would like them with a mouse?” “I do not like them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.”[1] → “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.” Probably one of the most recognizable protestations in all of literature, don’t you think? The poor main character of Doctor Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham (who, you may have noticed, never actually gets a name himself) spends page after page trying to rebuff Sam-I-Am’s doggedly persistent attempts to get him to try green eggs and ham.
    • Sam-I-Am asks → main character refuses
    • Sam-I-Am asks in a different location → main character refuses
    • Sam-I-Am asks with a different dining partner → main character refuses
    • Sam-I-Am asks in various forms of transportation → main character still refuses
    • Sam-I-Am asks so persistently so many times that the main character is finally worn down and responds the way many of us probably would. “Fine! If I try your blasted green eggs and ham, will you finally leave me alone?!”
    • Main character finally tries this new and crazy thing – these green eggs and ham – and he finds them … delicious! → He spent all this energy trying to avoid this new and frankly slightly disturbing thing (I mean, really … green eggs … and green ham? UGH!), and yet, when he finally gives the new things a chance, his whole perspective changes.
      • “Say! I like green eggs and ham! I do! I like them, Sam-I-Am! And I would eat them in a boat. And I would eat them with a goat. And I will eat them in the rain. And in the dark. And on a train. And in a car. And in a tree. They are so good, so good, you see! So I will eat them in a box. And I will eat them with a fox. And I will eat them in a house. And I will eat them with a mouse. And I will eat them here and there. Say! I will eat them anywhere! I do so like green eggs and ham! Thank you! Thank you, Sam I Am.”[2]
    • How many parents have used these words to urge their children to try new things, I wonder. How many grandparents, teachers, daycare providers, and others who care for little kids have tried to use Seuss’ words to coax and cajole, encourage and inspire kids to step out into the unknown? To try something new? And an even better question: how many of you have used these words on yourself – to try to get yourself to try new things? Because really, let’s be honest … it’s not just kids who are hesitant to try new things, is it?
      • “New” is the theme that threads our three micro-parables from Mark’s gospel together this morning, too → Jesus has a lot to say about “the new”
  • It was a lot to read this morning, so let’s take these micro-parables one by one. → start with the story about Jesus healing the man who was paralyzed
    • Basically, at this point in Mark’s gospel, word is starting to get out about this Jesus guy and the amazing things that he’s doing … which is why, in today’s text, Jesus finds his home suddenly engulfed by this crowd.
      • In that crowd = paralyzed man and his four buddies → buddies want to help him be healed but because there are so many people packed around Jesus’ home, they can’t get their paralyzed friend anywhere near the door
    • Friends decide to take matters into their own hands … literally! – text: They couldn’t carry him through the crowd, so they tore off part of the roof above where Jesus was. When they had made an opening, they lowered the mat on which the paralyzed man was lying.[3] → “They tore off part of the roof above where Jesus was. They tore off part of the roof.
      • Closer look: This is not one of those ambiguous Gr. words fraught with obscure meanings and multiple layers and contextual depth. – Gr. = very specific word with only one meaning (and only used in this one place in the entire Bible): “unroofed” → literally “removed the roof”
    • Change (Almost) Everything conference back in Nov. – preacher for worship was Rev. Kelly Chatman (senior pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church and director of Redeemer’s non-profit, Redeemer Center for Life, also serves as advisor to Bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA) and preached on this text: pointed out that those friends who lowered the paralyzed man down into Jesus’ presence were bold enough to alter the structure of the actual house → Y’all, these are the kinds of friends we all need, right?! This man’s friends will literally stop at nothing to get their friend the healing he needs. They didn’t just awkwardly squeeze their way through the crowd. They didn’t go knock on the back door or slip through an open window. They didn’t wait around for the crowds to disperse so they could catch Jesus at a better, more convenient time. They literally unroofed the house … Jesus’ house! They altered the physical structure of the building! As Rev. Chatman pointed out, that is not an “almost” faith. This paralyzed man’s friends unroofed Jesus’ house in order to get their friend to the one man they believed could help him … the one man they believed could help him … and that made all the difference.
      • Text: When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven!” → also a new thing: This is not the first time Jesus has healed someone in Mark’s gospel, but it is the first time he’s connected physical healing with spiritual healing … with the forgiveness of sins.
    • Pharisees in the crowd pick up on this immediately – text: Some legal experts were sitting there, muttering among themselves, “Why does he speak this way? He’s insulting God. Only the one God can forgive sins.”[4] → We said that each of these micro-parables include the theme of newness, but they all share another element as well: the Pharisees and legal experts asking a very pointed “Why” question. → Pharisees/religious authorities knee-jerk reaction to that new = BAD
      • Reveals their discomfort
      • Reveals their suspicion
      • Reveals their flat-out resistance to anything new when it comes to their culture and their faith
    • Jesus, being Jesus, never fails to call them on it, either – text: Jesus immediately recognized what [the Pharisees] were discussing, and he said to them, “Why do you fill your minds with these questions? Which is easier – to say to a paralyzed person, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk’? But so you will know that the Human One has authority on earth to forgive sins” – he said to the man who was paralyzed, “Get up, take your mat, and go home.” Jesus raised him up, and right away he picked up his man and walked out in front of everybody.[5] → I love Mark’s Jesus because he’s a very straightforward, no-time-wasted, no-words-minced, to-the-point version of Jesus.
      • REMINDER: all the gospels were written with different purposes and different audiences in mind → Mark’s gospel = gospel of immediacy
        • Shortest
        • Uses Gr. “immediately” more than 40 times (which is more than half the times it shows up in the entire NT)
      • So if this new thing that Jesus is doing here – this forgiveness of sins – isn’t amazing enough for the doubting, nitpicking Pharisees, he says, “Which is harder, saying your sins are forgiven or physically healing this man? Well, let me do both.” Mark’s Jesus is a bit of a “mic drop Jesus.” Boom. Done. God is amazing, and you don’t get it.
  • 2nd micro-parable of newness = Jesus calling another disciple
    • Idea of disciples is not new (Jesus has already called Simon, Andrew, James, and John) BUT this disciple is new not because of who he will be to Jesus but because of who he is. – text: [Jesus] saw Levi, Alphaeus’ son, sitting at a kiosk for collecting taxes. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Levi got up and followed him.
      • REMINDER: tax collectors were despised
        • Jews employed by the Roman empire (the conquerors/oppressors) à made them traitors to their people
        • Very often corrupt à took more money than the taxes actually were and pocketed some for themselves
      • And yet here Jesus is … calling one of Those People.
    • But because he’s Jesus, he doesn’t even stop there! – text: Jesus sat down to eat at Levi’s house. Many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Jesus and his disciples. Indeed, many of them had become his followers.[6] → So not only is Jesus accepting these scorned people as his followers, he’s actually going to their houses. He’s eating with them. He’s accepting their hospitality.
    • Pharisees’ “why” in this portion = straight and to the point – text: [The Pharisees] asked his disciples, “Why is he eating with sinners and tax collectors?”[7]
      • Jesus response speaks to a new idea as well – text: When Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners.” → This idea of the Human One (the Messiah, the Son of God, the Christ … all basically interchangeable titles) coming not for the righteous but for the unrighteous is huge.
        • Jewish idea of the Messiah at the time = warrior who would come and deliver them from the oppression of their conquerors once and for all → And clearly, such a rebellion would have to be made up of righteous people … not those despicable, two-faced, imperfect tax collectors and sinners. And yet that’s exactly who Jesus tells the Pharisees he came for: not the people who think they don’t need him but the people who know they do. Jesus makes it clear that these people are not just an afterthought but the reason for his coming in the first place.
  • 3rd newness micro-parable = probably the most complicated
    • Flips the established pattern and begins with the Pharisees’ “why” – text: “Why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees’ disciples fast, but yours don’t?”[8] → This is sort of a valid question. Fasting is an important part of many religious rituals around the world and across different faith, and Judaism is no exception. Fasting was supposed to be an act of spiritual submission and repentance. And here’s Jesus, this budding religious leader and teacher, and his disciples aren’t fasting? What gives?
    • Jesus’ response is a bit cryptic, especially for those of us so far removed from his 1st context → response comes in 3 parts
      • Metaphor of the bridegroom
      • Metaphor of the piece of new, unshrunk cloth on the old cloak
      • Metaphor of the new wine in old wineskins
      • Basically, Jesus is speaking about things coming in their own time and place. When the bridegroom is present for the wedding feast, that’s not the time to fast. When you try to add a piece of new, unshrunk cloth to an old cloak, the new piece will shrink and tear away from the old cloth. When you try to put new wine in old wineskins, the new wine wants to expand as it ferments but the old wineskins have long since lost their ability to expand. This is probably Jesus’ most profound statement on new because it makes space for the old.
        • Angela Dienhart Hancock (Assoc. Professor of Homiletics and Worship at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary): Notice: the little parables about the holey cloak and the seasoned wineskin do not make value judgments. They do not suggest that old things are bad and new things are good, and that the bad old things … ought to be scrapped in favor of the shiny new things.[9] → In using these illustrations, Jesus speaks to the ultimate purpose and intention of all this newness. He hasn’t come to do a new thing just for the heck of it. He hasn’t come to shake things up just because God was feeling bored with the world. Jesus has come to show the people a new way – a way that is broad and wide and open to so many more than the established religious leaders had ever imagined. Yes, he’s doing all these new things because they’re important. They have value and worth and significance. But they are not meant to entirely usurp the place of the old things – the old customs, the old practices, the old beliefs. They are meant to work with them … through them.
          • Harkens to Jesus’ words in Matthew’s gospel: Don’t even begin to think that I have come to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I haven’t come to do away with them but to fulfill them.”[10]
  • Friends, we find ourselves in this “new” time of year. There is newness all around us – a new year to remember to write on our checks and documents, new model years rolling out on car lots, new resolutions, new habits we want to adopt … you know, that whole idea of “a new year, a new you.” And anything that makes you healthier – in body, in mind, in spirit – is certainly worthwhile. Some of it might even be powerful enough to change the whole structure of your being – to tear the roof off your old habits and patterns! And of course, we cannot move forward without some “new,” right? As a culture, as a church, as individuals. But in the midst of all that newness, don’t forget to give thanks for what has been. To honor it. To make space for it. To be thankful for it. Because we cannot tear the roof of if it was never built in the first place. Amen.



May all that is unlived in you blossom into a future graced with love.
– Irish poet John O’Donohue


[1] Doctor Seuss. Green Eggs and Ham. (New York, NY: Random House Publishing), 1960.

[2] Seuss (emphasis added).

[3] Mk 2:4.

[4] Mk 2:6-7.

[5] Mk 2:8-12a.

[6] Mk 2:15 (emphasis added).

[7] Mk 2:16.

[8] Mk 2:18.

[9] Angela Dienhart Hancock. “Commentary on Mark 2:1-22” from Working Preacher, Accessed Jan. 12, 2020.

[10] Mt 5:17.

One response to “Sunday’s sermon: Tearing the Roof Off

  1. Enjoyed your take on the text. I wrote a chapter on it in one of my books and did a blog post “The litmus Test of a True Friend.” Thank you so much for this word. God Bless.

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