“And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.””
Mark 2:3-5 ESV
Through the Bible: Matthew 8, Mark 2
A detail that often gets overlooked in the famous story of the paralytic being lowered through the roof (Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-2, Luke 5:17-26) is the faith of the four friends that brought the paralytic to Jesus. Who convinced whom to go to Jesus in the first place? Was it the friends who convinced the paralytic, or was it the other way around? Was it one friend who convinced the other three to come along? Did all four of them know the paralytic, or were some of them friends of friends, similar to the guys who agree to help someone move into an apartment in exchange for pizza and beer? (For what it’s worth, none of the gospel accounts actually use the word “friend,” and only Mark puts the number at four.)
And then, once they got to the house and saw how packed it was, who was ready to give up, and who insisted they get the man to Jesus by any means possible, even if it meant dropping him through the ceiling? Did they just happen to have whatever tools they needed to get through the roof, or did they use their bare hands? Did someone have to run back home to get rope to lower him down with?
So many questions. But for me, the biggest question comes after seeing Jesus’ response to them. Look closely:
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’
Whose faith did Jesus see? I would have expected the text to say, “When Jesus saw his faith,” meaning, the paralytic. After all, don’t all the preachers on TV say that you have to have faith if you want to Jesus to make a change in your life? What difference does someone else’s faith make? Jesus doesn’t come into a person’s life because someone else is praying for that person… does He?
To be sure, salvation depends on a personal decision to follow Christ. It is a commitment an individual makes. But in this story, we aren’t talking about salvation. We are talking about healing. And there are several times throughout Scripture that Jesus healed someone who exhibited no faith in Him whatsoever. We will look at another one tomorrow, when we read the story of the healing at the Pool of Bethesda in John 5. And what about Lazarus (John 11)? No one in that story—not Mary, not Martha, not the disciples, not the mourners, and definitely not Lazarus himself (who was, after all, dead) believed that Jesus could raise Lazarus. And yet, Lazarus was raised.
So at best, the paralytic in this story was one of the people whose faith Jesus saw. But the faith of the friends—who overcame obstacles, who wouldn’t take no for an answer, who did whatever it took—it was the faith of the friends that seemed to move the heart of Jesus to heal this man.
So here are some questions for you, beloved: Is there someone in your life that you are trying to bring to Jesus? Have you asked your friends to help you? I can understand you not wanting to come across like you are “ganging up on someone,” but maybe a lunch with your lost friend and two others from your small group would make a difference. Maybe you have a friend who ultimately needs Jesus, but is expressing a desire for friends to do life with. Get your friends in on the conspiracy. Covenant with your Christian friends that, together, you will do what it takes to bring that one lost friends to Jesus. Go out for coffee. Arrange play dates if you all have kids the same age. Start a walking group if you are all trying to get more exercise. And gently, but intentionally and relentlessly, make sure the conversations turn to spiritual matters. I believe that when you do, Jesus will see your faith and introduce Himself to your friend.
Getting our friends to Jesus may be a team effort. Will you commit to doing whatever it takes?