The Expository Files

 They Bore Their Friend To Jesus

 Mark 2:1-12

One of the most vivid and memorable gospel stories is in Mark 2:1-12. Remember the hole being torn in the roof and the shocked scribes looking up in unbelief as the ceiling opens up, dust and debris fall, and down comes a sick man on a pallet? Then, to the further astonishment of the scribes, Jesus forgives him of his sin without him asking, pronounces him healed, and the man walking out the front door.

The Paralyzed. Think of the paralyzed man that was carried to Jesus by his friends. His friends were powerless to help him. There was nothing that the doctors could do or they would have already carried him there. He couldn’t help himself, and if he could work at all it probably wasn’t much. He would certain have been a charity case, either for friends and family who loved him, or begging from strangers. He was most likely an outcast to some degree, and couldn’t go into the Temple, even if he could get to Jerusalem, since he wasn’t physically whole.

He was helpless and infirmed. Spiritually, lots of folks are that way due to sin (Rf. Rom. 7:15-20). We are so often paralyzed by our sin. We are trapped in evil and sinful habits. Too many of our patterns of behavior are learned from, and accustomed to, sin. We’re habituated to sin. We can’t quit sin anymore than the addict can quit his addition. And this is not the only trap that keeps us.

Fear, doubt, ignorance and uncertainty also bind us. These are things that we can’t get out of by wit or cleverness, by strength of will, or by gutting it out. Like the paralyzed man, we can’t beat it on our own. We can only be set free by Christ (Rom. 8:1,2).

The Friends That Bore Him. Think now of the friends of paralyzed man that had to carry him. Paul said to “Bear one another’s burden, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1). Sometimes the burdens are our friends’ troubles and problems, but at times, it seems like the burden is our friends themselves. It is our Christian duty to help. Sometimes we just need to lend a hand, help carry a load. Sometimes we need to be a crutch. Sometimes we need to fully carry them along. Sometimes, the load is great enough that we need others to share it with us. Here, four friends had to work together to carry the sick one. Sometimes kindness and encouragement are enough, but often it’s heavy lifting and toting, and like in this case, carrying upstairs.

Carrying their friend to Jesus through the front door would surely have been work enough, but these men had to get past and around many other people. Sometimes there are a lot of people between us and Jesus, between our friends and Jesus. People are serious obstacles. They can be uncaring or just taking up space and time. Some even actively hinder. Purposely or not, other people are often the greatest obstacle in getting our friends to Christ.

Ironically, the next step of getting their friend to Jesus required both climbing and digging since the only access they had to the house Jesus was in, was through its roof. They had already carried the sick man through the jostle of the crowd, but now it was time to climb. Climb — with the guy on wrapped in his bedding. Then when they got there, it was time to dig to get through the roof tiles and ceiling. These friends were not going to be denied. They were going to get their friend to Jesus. It was a real commitment to dig into some stranger’s roof and make a man-sized hole in it. Such was their love for their friend and confidence in Jesus’ power and willingness to help that they would interrupt His discussions with the local theologians by coming through the roof.

If they’re wrong, they will be the biggest laughingstocks in town, and small towns have long memories. If Jesus disapproves of this at all this, their paralyzed friend would be a helpless human pińata swinging in the living room of a stranger, surrounded by entire leadership of local religious community. Can we see their sweaty faces looking expectantly at Jesus?

The Savior Who Received Them. Think now of Jesus. As every eye of is on Him, waiting to see what He will do, He speaks of the one thing that matters: Faith! Verse 4 says that Jesus “saw their faith.” (Oh, that we all had a faith that could be seen!) Because of this show of faith Jesus grants forgiveness immediately.

The forgiveness that comes by faith is what is most needed. Of all the problems that beset us, spiritual ones are the most important and should be taken care of first. This is what the gospel is about. Not self-help, therapy, counseling, etc. but salvation. For the beginning of the gospel, the angel told us of His priority: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). And sadly, as would be evident all through the entire ministry of Jesus, the scribes complained about how Jesus was forgiving sins, rather than celebrate that one was forgiven.

Jesus did heal the man of his physical problems. This was necessary, but it was secondary. Jesus healed the man to prove that He had to power to forgive sins. The visible (healing) was the proof that the invisible (forgiveness) had actually happened. Isn’t that true today as well? How do we know one is saved today except that they act like it? The gospel solves so many of our personal and social problems. That’s a secondary effect of it, not its purpose, although the benefits are undeniable.

The Amazed Crowds. Finally, think of the crowds who had come to see and hear Jesus. Most of them didn’t get close enough to do much of either. But they would have seen the commotion on the roof, they might well of known the paralyzed man or one of his friends. From the street they could probably see the man lowed down, and they could definitely see him walk out. They rejoiced that through Jesus, the grace of God was shown like never before among them.

So in this story, we see the faith and the power of Christ, the patient forgiven and cured, the faithful friends’ efforts vindicated, the objectors were silenced, the crowd was amazed.

So now today:
Are we the paralyzed who needs to be carried to Jesus for forgiveness and healing?
Are we the faithful, creative, dedicated friends who will pick up, carry, go around, climb up and dig down to get others to Jesus?
Are we the heartless scribes who object Jesus’ extension of grace and healing?
Or are we just amazed bystanders as God and the faithful work around us?

By Jay Horsley
From Expository Files 19.10; October 2012