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. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” – Mark 2:1-5
If you can imagine this old town outside of Jerusalem, with just narrow streets, and small houses that are all crammed together. Masses of people have come to hear this teacher, Jesus, and as you get closer, there’s just no way to get through to the house where he is teaching. The way that the houses were built in that town was to provide a place on the roof that could be used as living space, and so the roofs were flat. They were mainly comprised of some beams, that were then covered with branches, that were then covered with maybe rocks and dirt and mud that was all packed together, and sometimes with tiles placed on top, so that you could climb up the stairs on the outside of the house and you could have a picnic on the roof if you wanted to.
And one of the guys had this idea. “Well, since we can’t get through the crowd to get to Jesus, let’s make a way.” I love the very simple reality that these four guys were undeterred. I think that so often we sense the potential for God to do something, but then the moment we hit an adversary or an obstacle, we think, “Oh, it’s a closed door. If God wants it to happen then He’ll open the door.” While it’s true that God opens and closes doors, I’ve seen some pretty amazing miracles on the other side of a door that was not opened – it was kicked in.
This act of faith would not have been a simple process; it would’ve required some effort for them to get through the tile, get through the dirt, get through the branches, and to get to the place where they would have space to lower their man, their friend, down into the center of the crowd. Think about this scenario for a minute. You’re sitting around listening to Jesus, and all of a sudden, it kind of gets dusty in the room. And you’re thinking, “That’s strange – what’s going on up there?” And then light begins to peek through from outside.
It begins to become more obvious what’s happening as the space becomes cleared, and then down comes this man, being lowered on a stretcher and laid at the feet of Jesus. There’s a lesson here. In verse 20, when the man is set before Jesus, it says that He saw their faith. I think that one of the things that we need to draw from the story is that these men brought their friend to Jesus, and Jesus observed their faith. But how did Jesus observe their faith?
I think too often we think about faith as an internal feeling we have which makes us feel confident about something. You’ve heard it said, “I’ve got faith for this.” But I think – and the book of James tells us this over and over again- that faith without action is dead. I think we need to remember that the faith that Jesus saw was not just the existential reality of their belief that Jesus could heal. But the faith that Jesus saw was the sweat on their brow, and the blood on their hands, from digging through the roof. And as we look at the world around us today, all of us have people in our lives that in some way – spiritually, emotionally, physically – are paralytic in their own right, and they’ll never get to Jesus of their own accord.
And as we look at a world filled with people just like this man, the question I want to challenge you with is: would you have the same kind of faith that these guys had, to bring those that are spiritually paralyzed all around us and get them to Jesus? One of the images we have of ourselves as followers of Jesus that needs to be changed, in relationship to the people around us who are far from God, we see ourselves as waiters and waitresses. We wait on them to identify a need, and then we’ll go and we’ll fill up their glass of water, or we’ll answer a question. I think we need to begin to change the paradigm, and see ourselves more like firefighters and paramedics.
And here’s the point: you will hear over and over and over again from preachers and pastors and evangelists that we need to win the world. We need to love people like Jesus loved us. We need to go and save people. But if you’re living in the same world that I’m living in, when I look at the people around me, I’m thinking some of those people are really hard to love. I’m sure you have some people that are hard to love in your life. I’m not just talking about distant people. I’m talking about the people sometimes that we live with; I mean spouses, or ex-spouses, or children, or parents.
We know that there are things in their life that only Jesus can heal, but loving them is like hugging a porcupine. We miss the reality that the thing that ought to motivate us to love others is not a religious obligation; it’s a revelation of God’s love for me. So when I have a revelation of the greatness of God’s love towards me through Christ Jesus, it is out of the overflow of that revelation that I can then love others.
What I believe we need is to have a greater revelation of God’s love for us, and I pray that today, as we would identify those people, that we would be inspired to love then beyond our own capacity to love. If following Jesus is about loving like he loved, and going where he would go, all of a sudden, following Jesus is calling me to live beyond where I’m comfortable. Beyond where I’ve got the capacity to generate it in and of myself; but the beautiful thing about following Jesus is that his miraculous abundance of love and grace and power shows up on the other side of when you run out of you.