YOU, NOT ME; By Sarah Anderson
Mark 2: 1-12
And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 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. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 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. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed andglorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (ESV)
Something about just hearing the word “friendship” makes me feel good. I immediately start thinking about long phone conversations, inside jokes, road trips, a good meal together, a good cup of coffee and a lot of laughs. When I think about friendship, a lot of great things come to mind. But the truth is a friendship made up of only the great stuff isn’t really a friendship at all. It’s a fantasy. Because anyone who has been friends with someone for a long time can tell you that as much fun as solid quality friendship can be, it can be a lot of hard work too. It isn’t always convenient and it definitely isn’t always easy.
At one point in His ministry, Jesus encountered some guys in Capernaum who had learned firsthand the sometimes inopportune and awkward demands of being a friend. When Jesus had entered the city, He went to a house to begin preaching His message. Word had spread about Him and what He was able to do—His reputation proceeded His arrival so that once He got in town, not only were people ready to hear Him, they crowded the house He was in, gathered outside the doors and windows, and were willing to do just about anything to get a closer look at this rumored Messiah. There was talk that He was a healer, a miracle worker and that in a seemingly effortless way, He could restore sight to the blind, movement to the lame and hope to the desperate.
With that much hype surrounding Jesus’ arrival, it was no surprise that the crowds took to Him immediately, surrounding every square inch of space available around Him. And the guys this story is about were no different than the rest of the town—they were five guys whose curiosity was piqued and whose interest was stirred. They too wanted to hear what Jesus had to say. Only one problem. One of the five was a paralytic. As in totally paralyzed. As in living his life on the space of a 3×6 foot mat. Every day. Day in. Day out.
Let’s get honest here. Let’s say what everyone else is thinking. When it came to getting to hear Jesus, this paralyzed guy was kind of slowing the rest of them down. I mean it took all four of his friends to carry him, and if they wanted any chance of getting to the action, then they had to leave this friend behind. Surely he would understand. Surely he would see that he was more a hindrance than a help. Surely he wouldn’t mind if they promised to bring him around next time Jesus made a public appearance.
But these four guys weren’t about to leave their friend—the one who needed the touch of Jesus more than anyone else—behind. They weren’t about to put their interests, their desires, their expectations before the wants of their paralyzed friend. So, the book of Mark says, the four friends carried the fifth guy. They each took a corner of his mat, and they lifted him, shouldered him, somehow moved him to the house where Jesus was, only to find the crowds more than they could handle. They couldn’t get close enough. They could hardly hear a thing from the outside. Their plan was interrupted. So they gave up? Nope. So, they cut their losses and said maybe next time? So they left their friend on the mat and bumped and pushed their way closer to hear what Jesus had to say themselves? No. They got creative. They climbed on the roof. And then they made an opening there. As in, they damaged private property. And then somehow they got their paralyzed friend on the roof, and with whatever strength they had left, they lowered him, slowly, carefully, but probably not quietly, into the room where Jesus was teaching.
And while the people there may have been a little put out, a little frustrated by the disturbance, Jesus wasn’t at all. In fact, Jesus takes note. Not just of the man on the mat coming from the roof, but of the four men who worked to get him there. The book of Mark says that when Jesus saw their faith—not the paralyzed man’s faith, but their faith, the faith of all five men and not just the one—He did more than what everyone expected. He invited the paralyzed man to pick up his mat and walk.
Jesus stopped what He was doing when He saw the faith of five friends. It silenced Him. He noticed it. He made an example out of five guys who saw the bigger picture of friendship than just convenience, ease and a benefit to themselves. What these guys understood was that friendship very rarely has to do with only the good stuff and the easy stuff. That oftentimes the friendships that go the distance, the friendships that people take note of, the friendships that end up silencing the people around you are the ones that are marked by selflessness, the ability to drop personal needs for the sake of someone else’s. The friendships that get our attention are the ones where someone is willing to get a little uncomfortable for the sake of the one who needs him or her.
How far are you willing to go when it comes to being inconvenienced for the sake of a friend? Are you willing to carry the mat? Are you willing to put yourself aside and risk some embarrassment, just so you can get that friend to the feet of Jesus? What lengths are you willing to go to?
Who around you could use some help carrying their mat? Who could use some extra strength, some additional care, some added encouragement? Who needs you to be the kind of friend you have the potential to be? And what will it take for you to start acting like this friend they need? Yes, it can be hard. Sure, it may be uncomfortable. But you have more than just the world’s attention when you live this way. You have the eye of Jesus on you. You have the attention of the very One whose love you are modeling. He notices love, service and friendship of this magnitude. And where He is involved, anything can happen.