And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
The picture most Western Christians have of Jesus today, if they think about it for a moment, was delivered to them largely by the current stage and cinema some forty years ago. Where believers prior to the late 1960s had a beatific image of a European Christ, wearing a flowing robe and sitting on a rock blessing children. This image was exemplified by the studies done by German painter Heinrich Hofmann (1824-1911) that are now at Riverside Church in New York City. For more on images of Christ through the years, take a look at http://www.jesuswalk.com/luke/jesus_portraits.htm. Conspicuously missing from the list on that site is Rembrandt’s Raising of the Cross (1633), a work anyone interested in the subject must not miss.
Our contemporary western Jesus is a hippie and a vagabond. He doesn’t have any money, in fact, he stands opposed to “the man” and all that capitalism stands for. He seems to traipse around Israel with his band of merry men (images of Robin Hood?). The point of all this nomadic walking seems to be largely to give him venues for teaching and healing. He is a Jesus of some social concern, identifying with the poor because he is poor himself. Being a hippie, he can’t really earn a living. This image of Christ was delivered to us whole cloth by the likes of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and partly by Stephen Schwartz. This Jesus can be dated to the period of social unrest in the late ‘60s, and is himself a reaction against the Hofmann Jesus his parents’ generation grew up with.
But in Mark 2:1-12 we discover, much to our surprise, that Jesus had a home! Whether rented or owned (I prefer to think he owned the place), there is no question that Jesus wasn’t merely passing through Capernaum. He had settled there sometime between his upbringing in Nazareth and his first miracle at Cana, some 20 miles away. We say that we have no idea what Jesus was doing in those silent years, but it is easy enough to surmise: he was raised in the home of a carpenter and showed early promise as a student (the one scene we have of Jesus at age 12 teaching in the temple at Jerusalem confirms this). That means that he was undoubtedly tapped by a local rabbi and trained to be a rabbi himself. In provincial Judaism of the time, Jesus was probably the best of the best of the best, and is recognized by all from the moment we have record of his public ministry as a rabbi. This is most likely how he was supporting himself in those unrecorded years.
Please realize that I am not speaking out of any particular scholarship here. I am merely suggesting something that fills in some of the blanks. If anyone knows of any really scholarly works on this, I’d love to read them.
Having said that, Mark 1:9 says that Jesus came from Nazareth, and Mark 1:14 says that after John the Baptist was arrested Jesus came into Galilee. I think these are trajectories rather than ends in themselves. That Jesus came from Nazareth is clear. But you could apply the same thinking and say that I am Jon from Greenwich, even though I lived longer in New Britain and Berlin, CT.
In all of this musing I find myself thinking as a homeowner would. If I had been Jesus, and that was MY home, I’d have been pretty ticked when they damaged the roof in order to lower the paralytic into my living room. But Jesus isn’t ticked. He understands their sense of urgency. They want to see what the real Jesus can really do! They are not satisfied with an image. They’ve heard a lot of stories about this particular rabbi, and now they want to put him to the ultimate test. What can he do with a twisted, weak, frail body?
Come to think of it, what can the real Jesus do with you?