Today, I simply want to offer a very short reflection on Mark 2:1-12. Here's the text:
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
The story of Jesus healing a paralytic contains a fascinating detail: “And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (v. 2). This man, who had been suffering this condition all these years, received not only healing but also forgiveness because of the faith his friends had in bringing him to Jesus. It’s amazing what our faith can do in the lives of those who are in deep suffering or enslaved by their sin!
Of course, this doesn’t mean that we aren’t responsible for our own sin, or that our personal faith is inconsequential. Jesus constantly calls each and every one of us to repentance and belief. But this passage is a demonstration of what James describes in his letter: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (5:16).
We should all pray that God would surround us with friends who have the kind of love and tenacity the paralyzed man's friends display here. They carried him on a stretcher all the way to the house where Jesus was preaching—this itself being no small feat, as they presumably couldn't drive down to the nearest medical supply store and pick up a pre-made stretcher. Once they jerry-rigged something that would work, they carried him all the way down there and were met with a wall of people barring their entrance to Jesus. But their devotion to their friend was so constant and fierce that they decided to dig, claw, and scratch their way through the roof so they could get this man in front of the Great Physician. Would you do that? Maybe you have the opportunity to do something like that for someone you love who needs, more than anything else, to be brought to Jesus.
Those of us whose hearts are burdened with the knowledge that people we love aren’t in right relationship with God need not despair. He has put us in their lives to bring them to him, both in the spiritual sense of prayer and in the physical sense of the community of his Body, the church. We can reach out our hands—his hands—to them in love, and we can lower them through the roof by lifting them up in prayer. Parents with wandering children, have faith. Those of us who have friends who aren’t Christians, have faith. Men and women whose spouses are suffering, have faith. And keep praying—because your prayer has great power.