The first parable recorded in Mark 2 could have many titles far better than the one we know.
The healing we see reflected in the title (added by scholars), “Jesus Heals a Paralytic” was one of the minor sub-plots here, and were another title on offer, my vote would be for, “Four Men’s Faith”.
As we read these short verses we gain a spectacular insight into the work of both faith and forgiveness – and indeed friendship – in a powerful way.
…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. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” – Mark 2:3-5 ESV
I think we often see our faith as all about our own personal connection to God. This simple story however expands the definition and understanding of faith in transforming the world around us.
Take a look at the passage from Mark again. “And when Jesus saw their faith.”
Who’s faith? The friends! Get that in your head! The four men who loved their friend enough to bring him to Jesus were the ones that Jesus the Lord of Creation responds to! When Jesus saw THEIR faith. Jesus doesn’t call out and respond to the paralysed man’s faith here or even the crowd’s eager anticipation. No. This paralysed man had no means of coming to the presence of Jesus. He was broken beyond hope (ever felt that way?) But his friends. Oh, they had faith.
These friends arrived at a scene full of people. Crowded around, facing in, blocking off, looking and listening to Jesus. Getting their friend to Jesus was going to be difficult. (Too many people getting in the way of Jesus – hmm)
These friends however did not take lightly the impact Jesus can have. They didn’t shrug and say ‘oh well’, ‘we tried’. They didn’t falter at the speed bump of inconvenience. They would not have been bothered by the service time, the demographic, the weather, the coffee, their following week’s plans. No. This was about their friend – and Jesus. A rendezvous that could, and would, change everything, if they could just get him there.
They were even prepared to damage property to get their broken fellow into healing Jesus’ presence! This was their faith.
I have to ask the question, is this the faith that we have for our brothers? Because let me tell you, as a Christian, there are times when I know I am weak, broken, paralysed. There are times when I need a brother to look at me and say “I have faith, let me take you to Jesus.”
What are we prepared to do to bring a broken brother to Jesus?
There might be times (like me) when we might be caught in addiction, hurting, depressed, lonely, confused, angry… All of these are things that can keep us from Him who heals. Jesus can feel far away, blocked off, or even we may simply not believe he ‘can’.
Discover then, the broad and powerful reach of faith. Let me ask you men, will we:
- Stop at nothing – absolutely nothing – to get our brother and friends into the presence of Jesus.
- Bring them into Jesus’ presence through prayer as well as words.
- Will Jesus look at our faith – and respond because of it? Btw, as with the paralytic, we may well be the only carriage our friend has.
In that society friends were to a paralysed man gold of the purest form. These were most likely some of his only friends. Even family often disowned a paralytic – yet these men stepped forward. Confident in Jesus. Loving to their friend. We might well be to our friends as these men were to the paralytic. Let’s not take for granted Who we know, His power, and what He can do.
I pray also also that we are not one of the crowd – back to the world in a holy huddle, curious at this Distant Man of power. Ever fascinated but never seizing upon the dynamic faith that provokes action. Faith that believes – not just for ourselves but for the man by our side.
As we look to our left and right, and maybe even down – fail not to discover faith for our friends this year men.
To my VINE boys – I have faith for you. I believe in Jesus. May I be insatiable in my efforts to bring you to Him as I too am thankful for how you carry me when I’m weak. I hope I can bring you to Jesus and too hear him say those words. Wherever you may be hurting, broken, unable to summon that courage for yourself. That’s what we’re here for.
Bring on the crowd, bring on the roof. You’re getting to Jesus.