Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (5:18-20 NIV).
Friendship. Brotherly love. This is the way that God wants people to live. It’s what we all need to share. Yet often it can be hard to find, especially when friendship becomes costly. Like when someone has a severe disability or illness. As time passes, the visits from people assumed to be our friends diminish. Their lives move on, and the ill or disabled person is not able to move with them. It’s hard to find people that can and are willing to invest their time, compassion, and other resources to help those that are very weak.
Here we read of four men (Mark 2:3) who were able and willing to help a paralyzed friend. We are not told the whole story. We do not know how much time and work they had already invested in helping their disabled, helpless friend. But on an important day, these four men of faith chose to act mercifully to take their friend to Jesus.
The Lord Jesus was already well-known in Israel as a healer. When he entered a town, many were healed from their disabilities and cured from many kinds of illnesses, including those that no physician had ever cured. And on this day, Jesus the Healer was in their town. Could he heal their friend of his paralysis? It seemed impossible. But they believed that Jesus was able, and so they started out.
Regardless of the distance of the journey, transporting their friend would require hard work and time. It is not easy to carry anyone, and they were doing it under the hot near eastern sun. There would be many stops to rest their muscles, coupled with changing arms and so sides of the stretcher. They would also have used emotional energy, taking care that they did not tip the stretcher and drop their helpless friend to the ground.
Finally, they reached the place where Jesus was. He wasn’t outside like many times, but inside a house, and the house was packed and there were crowds of people surrounding the house. Now, if you think that the crowds would have made way for the men to carry the paralyzed man into the house, you have not been around people, especially people who want their own needs met. Jesus experienced crowds of people pushing and shoving to get near him throughout his earthly ministry. Think of the grace of Jesus. He put up with self-centered people so that he could end their self-centeredness and bring them to God.
The four men of faith surveyed the scene and considered what they could do. They could not find a way through the crowds. But it was relatively common for houses to have flat roofs that people could go on to catch a breeze. I have been on one such rooftop in Mali, and in the high heat, it was cooler. So, they came up with a plan to carry the paralyzed man up to the roof. They would go above the crowds. That involved a bit of a risk as you can imagine if you think of yourself being on that stretcher.
Then came the big risk of their plan, a risk that would make them work hard, cost them money, and perhaps bring them into legal problems. But their compassion and their faith led them to do it. As Mark says in the Greek text, they unroofed the roof (Mark 2:4)! Imagine the scene, as they pulled up the tiles and debris began to fall into the house in front of Jesus. To do this would take more than a couple minutes. Did anyone try to stop them? It all was a huge risk. But they took it to get their friend to the Lord and Savior. What would Jesus do?
Before we continue, ask yourself, “Would I take a risk like that to get a friend to Jesus? What risks have I taken to spread the good news of Christ? Or am I content to let others suffer and perish because I overvalue my own safety and comfort?”
Grace and peace,