Mark 2:1–12 NRSV
When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
When the Holy Spirit is at work, things will get messy. It’s so easy to look back on this story and see those four guys who brought their friend to Jesus as heroes. Try to put yourself in that room. Jesus was “speaking the word to them,” so the text says. All of a sudden, the roof starts caving in.
They made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it. This was a show stopper; a major disturbance. Imagine you are at your local church and Billy Graham is the guest preacher. He’s right in the middle of his mesmerizing message when four people burst through the doors carrying a handicapped derelict beggar, putting him down right in front of the pulpit where Dr. Graham is preaching. He can do nothing but stop his message and deal with the situation at hand. This would be maddening to everyone gathered. It would be an embarrassment to them.
What happened that day in Capernaum was a major disturbance of the gathering. Take it a step further and put yourself in the position of the guy who owned the house. He now needed a major roof repair. Think about the crowd gathered four people deep outside of the house, pressing to get in, tiptoeing to see the Son of God and craning their necks to hear what he was saying. These guys carrying the paralytic not only stopped the show inside the house, they cut in line—big time. They didn’t have a ticket or take a number. They skipped. That’s a foul. Did they not realize that other people could have brought their sick friends, too, had they known this was that kind of event?
This was not a warm, fuzzy devotional moment. Sure, everybody was amazed in the end—but at the time it had to be an unwelcome, big, fat, hot mess. When the Holy Spirit is at work, things can get pretty messy, even out of hand. Unplanned and unpredictable stuff happens. We have to learn to see through all that to the greater thing God may be doing.
Jesus saw straight through the fracas and spots the faith. He saw their faith. My hunch? There was only one person present that day who was glad for the mess being made by these four interlopers and their paralyzed friend—Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Sometimes our friends must have faith for us and sometimes that’s enough. Jesus didn’t see the faith of the paralyzed man. He saw the faith of his friends. There’s that word again for faith: πίστις “pistis.” Faith is not about our beliefs. It’s about our believing. Those friends were believing in Jesus on behalf of their friend in need. Can we have faith for someone else? Absolutely. Jesus loves it when that happens. That’s what love looks like.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Think back through your past. Can you remember anyone who had faith for you?
Who in your life right now are you having faith for? Are there friends you are conspiring with to get someone else to Jesus?
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