How’s this for a weird story:
It’s early in Jesus’s ministry. He’s generated some buzz on the local level. Movers and shakers are wanting to get in on hearing from this guy they keep hearing about. It ends up standing room only. The people spill out into the surrounding yard.
Into this scene wander four guys carrying a paralyzed friend on a stretcher. They realize that there is no way to bring their friend to see Jesus through the door. So they climb up on the roof, make a hole, and lower him down.
Jesus tells the man that his sins are forgiven, because of the faith of his friends. Some members of his audience are taken aback at this. Jesus follows his claim up by inviting the man to walk away. And he does.
Some of the most obvious examples of wierdness that is lurking around this story:
* These guys subvert Jesus teaching agenda, destroy somebody’s roof, and act as if there friend is more important than all the people who apparently showed up on time. And yet they are praised for it.
* The guy gets healed because of his friends faith?!?!? I can get the idea that I might be healed because of my own faith. But because of my friends? This seems a little scary… like reality is some sort of strange popularity contest where the people with the faith-filled friends will do o.k. but the people whose friends aren’t faith filled are out of luck.
The most obvious reading isn’t always the right one. Sometimes things aren’t quite as wierd as they look.
I had this realization about this whole story today.
Two thousand(ish) years ago, there were five friends. One of them was paralyzed. They all heard about Jesus. And they created a plan to see him. These five guys put aside whatever commitments and schedules they otherwise would have had. They trudged as far as they needed to go. They dealt with obstacles like a crowd full of people. They prioritized the possibility of this man’s healing over the property destruction and other inconveniences.
I think that Jesus could have used his cool God powers to look inside these guys hearts and measure whether or not these guys were full of faith. I think he could have in the sense that this was within his power.
But I don’t think that’s what happened. I don’t think that Jesus was referring to an intangible, abstract quality when he congratulated the men on their faith. I think the whole point of this episode is that the faith of these men manifested itself in a concrete manner. When Jesus said, “Because of their faith you are healed” he wasn’t saying, “If your friends had less faith I wouldn’t have used my cool Jesus-powers to heal you.” Jesus meant something quite literal. If they had not believed they would not have gotten him into that room.
It’s so easy for me to get talked out of my acts of faith. I get it into my head to do something kind, but at the first little wrinkle I back away. When my conscience rises up I tell myself that God didn’t really want my act of kindness to happen, or the road would have been smoother. The problem, of course, is that Jesus praised the faith of those men… And as they carried their friend down those dirt roads, through that crowded yard, up and over the house walls, and down through the cieling… I am sure that the road was not smooth for them.