Would you solicit three friends to help you carry another friend who was paralyzed to see a healer? And imagine if when you and your friends get to where the healer is, the place is packed, and crowds surround the outside of the venue. There is such a crush of people, you realize there is no way you can push through the crowds with this man you’re carrying and get in.
In church this morning, I thought about how Jesus was as popular back then as say, Dr. Oz, is today. And what if you and three other friends carried this guy all the way to where the doctor was speaking, and you found yourselves, perspiring, tired and thirsty, stranded outside the venue in the heat, no tickets left, no room to squeeze in to catch a glimpse of him, no way to hear what he was saying?
What would you do then? Would you put the mat down (because it was a mat and not even a stretcher), and turn to your buddies and say, “Well I don’t know about you, but I’m missing the end of a playoff game, and since there’s no chance of us even getting in…”
Would you turn to your friend on the mat and say, “Well, I’m sorry, friend, but it looks like this is the end of the road. We did everything we could.”
Both of those responses seem fairly reasonable under the circumstances, don’t they? But they weren’t that kind of friends. They were the kind that say, “Don’t worry, pal. We came here so you could see Jesus and we are not leaving until you do.”
And not only did they stick around. They sat down to figure out how they could get him in to see Jesus. Finally, one of them must have said, “If we can’t get in the doors, and we can’t get in the windows, the only thing left to try is the roof.”
And the Bible says that they got up on that roof, and they made a hole in it. They DUG a hole in the roof, that’s what it says. They didn’t argue about whether or not it was legal, or whether or not they would be sued, whether or not they had come prepared to climb up a building with a crippled guy on a mat, or to dig a hole in a roof. No.
They said, “We came here so you could see Jesus and we are not leaving here until you do.”
And then they lowered the man down, mat and all. And Jesus could have looked at them and said, “What in the world do you think you’re doing? You just wrecked the roof!”
But he didn’t. Jesus saw beyond that. He saw their determination, and their absolute faith in his power to heal their friend.
And so he healed him. And the man took up his bed and walked out to meet his friends. Walked home with them.
Now we have already talked about what great friends that man had. Friends who did not abandon him when he lost his ability to walk. When his life suddenly and drastically changed and he could no longer accompany them on their outings and in their businesses. Friends who helped him find a cure. Friends who carried him when he needed to be carried.
But have you thought about what a great friend the bed-ridden man must have been to them? Otherwise, their love for him would not have been so great. Their determination to have him healed would not have been so focused, and so creative.
In Unforgiving, I talk about growing up with Asperger’s and how being a Christian and a believer was helpful to me. And this morning in mass, this story about Jesus and the men who brought their friend to be healed, told me again what it is to be a friend.