Getting Dirt in Jesus’ Eyes

You are probably familiar with Mark 2:1-12, because it is hard to forget a story about a guy getting lowered through a roof.

But maybe you haven’t thought about the story from Jesus’ perspective.  He’s the one preaching to a full house when he starts to feel a few pieces of dirt brush his shoulder.  Presumably he ignores it and resumes his task of sharing the good news of the kingdom of God.  But when the first small stick brushes against his outstretched arm, he perhaps pauses and looks up to see four guys digging (and “digging” is the actual word in Greek, because the roof is composed of wooden beams and layers of dried mud and such) through the roof.


At this point, we might have expected his reaction to be something along the lines of, “People!  I am trying to work here! Important work!  Stop digging through the roof–you are distracting everyone from my sermon!”


Or maybe:  “You’re destroying the roof!  Roofs cost a lot of money!”


Or maybe:  “What do you people think you are doing?  There are people down here who are going to get hurt! Ouch!  Was that a ROCK?”


But that’s not what Mark records.  Mark tells us that Jesus saw their faith.  That’s a funny way of putting things–we don’t normally think of faith as something you can see.  But in this case, their actions–destructive and disruptive as they were–constituted evidence of their faith.


But let’s pause for a moment here and think about the utter unnecessary-ness of what they are doing.  He’s Jesus, for heaven’s sake!  He is perfectly capable of healing someone who isn’t in the room (See Mark 7).  There is no reason whatsoever for these people to be lowering the poor dude through the roof.  The most sensible objection for Jesus to make is that what they are doing is entirely unnecessary and based on a (false) understanding of the limitations of his powers.  Their act might be evidence of faith, but it is also evidence of lack of faith–in Jesus’ ability to know that this guy needs healing and to heal him from a distance.  Jesus should probably say something like, “Oh ye of little faith, why did you think you had to drag that poor guy through a roof?  Didn’t you realize I could heal him from afar?”


But he doesn’t make that objection, either.  He chooses to see their faith.  He could have chosen to focus on something else, on the very obvious negatives, but he did not.  I could perhaps make a connection here between what we choose to focus on when we have a choice (especially in light of the continuing issue, exemplified in today’s NY Times article, about modern faith struggles), but I want to say something else.


I love Jesus in this story.  I love that he’s not yelling at me for getting dirt in his eye in my entirely unnecessary effort, an effort rooted in my lack of appreciation for how powerful he is, an effort that is distracting people from his work and destroying someone else’s house.  He has chosen to focus on my faith instead.  Thank you, Jesus.

14 comments for “Getting Dirt in Jesus’ Eyes

  1. I’ve never thought about that story like this before. Makes me wonder when/why Jesus focuses on the lack of faith, like Peter on the water

  2. A great perspective and lesson on how to to interact with one another. Too often, I find myself criticizing (to myself or, worse, out loud) the approach someone else takes in a church calling. “Why did they do it like THAT?” or “They should have . . .” Taking a page from Jesus’ book, I should be quicker to recognize and appreciate the honest (though imperfect) effort of someone willing to serve.

  3. There are only a few cases in the Gospels where Jesus is genuinely surprised. (His amazement at the centurion’s faith was one, but I forget the others.) The habit of simply observing and reacting with patience and focus is one of the most appealing characteristics of a great teacher.

  4. Thank you, Julie, for sharing this insight into the story. It was comforting to read your thoughts right after I arrived at church, particularly since my reading was followed immediately by the opening hymn, “Come, Follow Me,” and a richly spiritual meeting centered around the calm ritual of the sacrament.

    “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

  5. I’m going to try to remember this as I spend the rest of the summer at home with my children. Be patient, and look at the good they are trying to do, rather than the messes they make and the squabbles they squall.

  6. As usual, I love the unexpected light you throw on this story, Julie! Thank you!

    It reminds me a little bit of the way God rebukes Adam and Eve in the Garden for noticing their nakedness (which shows they’ve eaten the forbidden fruit), but then gives them clothing to cover themselves. His patient love is amazing.

  7. This was wonderful Julie.

    My initial reaction was almost a sense of relief: God can see my faith even though my narcissistic focus often results in unnecessarily destroying others’ houses! I think, however, that an important point is not merely relief, but rather a recognition that our attempts to get to Christ frequently interrupt others. And we ought to recognize that the disruptions in our lives often come from others with the same motivations. Learning to see with the eyes of faith, as you allude, means in part being able to see others’ faith in actions we find inconvenient.

  8. I love it.

    Question, was their act entirely unnecessary? From God’s viewpoint, I would say yes. He did not require this. From their viewpoint … I don’t know. I wonder if such struggles (inefficient, unproductive, and sometimes in my case pathetic) are absolutely necessary for me. It reminds me of the Brother of Jared whose comments about making the 16 small stones seem to reflect his view that he was a complete and utter failure, but then God touched them. Does Faith sometimes grow in our failures?

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