Four men lowered their paralyzed friend through a hole in a roof in order to put him in the presence of Jesus. I imagine them saying to him, “You just gotta come and see this man who could heal you.” They went out of their way to do what needed to be done, and they determined not to let those gathered there stand in the way of their resolve. This is one of those stories where you gotta see it to believe it.
Use these as a guide to take your next step and commit to what you learned this week:
We’re starting a brand new series today called Come and See… because the story of Jesus is something you just gotta see for yourself.
In John chapter 1 Andrew meets Jesus and his world is turned upside-down.
The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. John 1:41-42
Philip meets Jesus and his world is turned upside-down.
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. John 1:45-46
Followers of Jesus for over 2,000 years have been bringing their friends and family members to a place where they can learn about Jesus — “Come and see, you just gotta come and see.”
And when they do amazing things happen.
Today I want to look at a story in the life of Jesus from Mark 2, starting at verse 1.
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!”
If you grew up going to church, you’ve probably heard this story before. If you went to Sunday School you may have heard this story told with a felt board.
For those of you who are under 40, a felt board was like Powerpoint in the 1970s.
For those of you who are under 20 Powerpoint is like Google Slides.
I want you to imagine for a moment what life must have been like for this man.
Imagine what it would mean to be a paralytic in the ancient world.
It meant his whole world was a mat… about four feet wide by six feet long.
It’s where he lived. It’s all he ever knew.
Someone else had to feed him, carry him, clothe him, move him to keep him from being covered with bedsores, clean him when he soiled himself.
That sense of independence that we prize so fiercely… he’d never know.
There was nothing that could be done medically for him — no surgeries, no rehab programs, no treatment centers… no hope as far as he knew.
There was no way for him to contribute to society.
Anyone in this man’s condition would have to go through life as a beggar.
He would have to be laid on his mat by the side of the road, day after day, month after month, year after year, dependent on whoever stops by and drops a few coins next to him.
That’s how he lived.
Maybe he would have dreams… and in his dreams he would have a healthy body.
He would be able to walk and run.
He would be able to do good work with his hands.
Maybe in some of his dreams, he would be married and play with his children.
Then he’d wake up and look at the ceiling of a room he could never walk out of.
Think about what this would be like.
His body held him prisoner day after day.
His mat was his whole world… he would never be free.
He had no money, no job, no influence.
He had what looked like not much of a future at all.
What did he have going for him? Anything?
He had one thing!
He had friends!
He had amazing friends. He’s in one of the most dynamic small groups of all time.
And in one sense, this whole story takes place because of his friends.
Think about it.
Without his friends, he never makes it to Jesus.
Without his friends, he never gets healed.
Without his friends, he never hears the word of forgiveness.
All of these things flow out of some very wise decisions he must have made at some point in his life — to have great friends… devoted, loyal, committed, deep, joy-giving, life-bringing friends.
So I want to walk through this story. And I want to ask you some questions about friendship.
And ultimately, I want to ask you to make a goal — that what was true in this man’s life would be true in your life as well. That you would devote yourself — with God’s help — to cultivating great, life-changing, heart-shaping, character-forming friends.
I’d like to ask you to do a kind of assessment, and if you’re lacking these friends in your life right now, I’d like to ask you to begin pursuing them… starting today.
And if you have friends like this, I’d like to ask you to look for ways to deepen those friendships.
We need to understand that for the man in this story, the development of these friendships would not have happened accidentally.
Because of his physical condition, the deck was stacked against friendship ever emerging for him at all.
Even in our day, people who wrestle with disabilities often say that the most difficult obstacles they face are the attitudes of so called “normal” people who are sometimes anxious about how to respond.
Sometimes they’re unkind.
Sometimes they look the other way and avoid.
Sometimes they’re uninterested in investing the time.
This is a fast-paced world. And it’s not a very gracious place for those who can’t run fast.
Parents of children with disabilities know the pain not just of seeing their children struggle with certain tasks, but the pain of their children being ignored or gawked at or mocked by other children or total strangers — the pain of being thought of as different or less than.
I want to note something here.
There was just something about Jesus. It wasn’t just his power, but something about his attitude, something about his heart, something about his spirit… that drew the hurting to him like a magnet.
It was because they knew this was a man who honored them.
Which was unusual in the ancient world. The ancient world was not an easy place for people with disabilities.
Historians generally believed the Greeks regularly disposed of newborn infants with physical challenges.
I’m sure you’ve heard of a philosopher named Aristotle. This is what Aristotle wrote: “Let there be a law that no deformed child shall be raised to adulthood.”
In Rome, in the fifth century, there was actually a statute on the books that read, “Quickly kill a deformed child.”
That was the world in which this man was born into.
In Israel, he would have suffered in another way as well.
There was a stigma… there was a common assumption in his day that if someone was suffering physically, they had brought it on themselves by their own sin… that God was punishing them, because they were more sinful than other “normal people.”
In John 9:1, we’re told about Jesus:
He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“This man is blind so there must be some sort of sin involved.”
And religious teachers actually taught that a fetus was capable of sin — that if a mother worshiped pagan gods, the fetus was guilty of sin.
That’s the kind of world this guy lived in.
But here’s this small group of men who refused to let his physical condition, or social stigma, keep them from being his friends.
They’re devoted to their friend.
And then, think about what this paralyzed man goes through in order to be friends with these other men.
He must have wrestled with the feelings of being utterly dependent on them… just having them see him in his neediness, day after day, week after week, month after month.
He must have wrestled with being jealous of their independence and their having a kind of freedom he would never have.
He must have wrestled with how they would always see him in his neediness.
It’s a very vulnerable thing to have someone else carry your mat.
When someone carries your mat, they see you in your weakness.
When someone carries your mat, you’re vulnerable to them.
When someone carries your mat, you might get hurt if they drop you.
There is this gift between them of trusting vulnerability and dependable faithfulness. That’s a beautiful picture of friendship.
Now, the first question I want to ask you today is:
Who do you let carry your mat for you sometimes… because you need someone to carry your mat for you sometimes?
Who do you allow to see you in your weakness and your struggles… because you need someone to see them?
Who do you ask to hold you up in prayer sometimes… because you need prayer support?
Who do you let see your brokenness… because someone needs to see it?
Because if you choose never to be vulnerable… you choose never to have friends.
You may have companions, or colleagues or associates… but not friends.
When you have a friend…
You let them carry you on the mat sometimes.
You let them see you in your weakness.
You open yourself to them.
And maybe you have never done this.
And you may wonder why you’re lonely.
You’re going to have to get vulnerable.
Now, you can’t do this all at once. You have to be wise about it.
If you decide to pursue this, you need to understand… you can’t just decide that you’re going to find a friend, come to Blue Oaks, sit next to a stranger and say, “Hi, my name is Matt. Let me tell you all about my gambling addiction. Will you pray for me? And can I borrow 20 bucks?”
You have to build trust over time. You start by making a small disclosure. And then you evaluate — you see…
How do they handle it?
Do they take it seriously?
Do they treat it with care?
Do they honor confidentiality?
Do they respond with wisdom?
And if they do, you go a little deeper.
And if they respond with a disclosure themselves, you can, together, go deeper.
If you’re a small group leader, I want to tell you that one of the most important things you can do is to model appropriate self-disclosure, at times, with your group.
As it’s appropriate — not every week, but as it’s appropriate.
If you’re a small group leader, don’t just go through the curriculum. Don’t just study the Bible.
Sometimes, share your struggle.
Share your temptation.
Build a community of openness and vulnerability.
Do you know how much the people in your group need to have deep relationships?
And you have the opportunity to open that door if you, as a leader, are willing to model this and let someone else carry the mat for you for a while.
If you want a deep friendship, you cannot always be the strong one.
And in our world, that could be kind of scary. If you want a deep friendship, you can’t always be the strong one.
If you want a deep friendship, you cannot live with deep secrets. You’re going to have to let someone else carry the mat sometimes.
Well, that’s what happens here with these friends in Mark 2.
This requires formidable character and intentionality on everyone’s part. They have trust and dependability and, against all odds, they form a little community, this group.
They become the carriers of the mat.
And one day, Jesus comes to their town… Jesus comes to Capernaum.
And these four guys find out that Jesus is in town and, naturally, they want to hear him.
One of them says, “We can’t just go ourselves. We’ve got to get our friend there, because this could really encourage him. And who knows, maybe the things they’re saying about Jesus are true. Who knows, maybe this Jesus really can heal. Wouldn’t that be something? But we’ve got to get our friend there. We’ve got to get the mat there.”
Now, that’s going to make it a lot harder for them, logistically, to get to him… but they’re not thinking about themselves. They’re thinking about their friend. Friends do that. Friends serve each other.
They tell their friend he’s going to see Jesus. They will pick him up at 9:00. He doesn’t have much choice, because when they pick him up… they pick him up.
And when they get to the home where Jesus is, it’s packed — standing room only.
In those days there was not a lot going on in the culture.
The people were not staying at home watching the top Netflix shows, or going to the gym, or going to the movies or anything like that. There wasn’t much going on.
And if something got going at someone’s house, word got around and people flooded there.
And generally homes were quite open. The door of a home would open in the morning and it would be open all through the day.
It was a very hospitable culture, so if someone wanted to stop in, they would just stop in.
If something was going on, everyone would want to find out what was happening. And this time… Jesus was happening. And the place was packed.
Mark goes to some length to describe this.
He talks about how there’s no room, not only in the house, there’s not even room outside the door. People crowded outside the door to hear what’s going on.
Now, imagine the frustration of these four guys. Jesus is so close, right there, but they can’t get through to him.
They had been so excited. Now, they’re shut out.
And they just stand a distance away and watch what’s going on for a while.
And then one of them says, “We’ve got to figure out how we can get our friend in to see Jesus. So let’s have a brainstorming session. Let’s brainstorm some alternatives. And remember, when you’re brainstorming… there’s no such thing as a bad idea.”
One of them gets an idea — probably the youngest guy. He’s an out-of-the-box thinker. He says, “Dude, what if we make a hole and lower him through the roof?”
“Alright, any other ideas?”
But there are no other ideas. The hole-in-the-roof idea is the only thing they can come up with.
And they realize it’s kind of an unorthodox way to get in the room, but they’re desperate to get to Jesus.
They’ve just decided they will not let anything get in their way. No obstacle is going to stand between them and Jesus.
So strong is their trust in Jesus, and so great is their love for their friend.
They resolve that no obstacle is going to get in their way… no barrier is going to stop them… it’s not acceptable.
So they go with the hole-in-the-roof idea.
Now, it was common in houses in Palestine in that day that they would have an outside staircase leading up to the roof. The roof, or at least parts of the roof were often used as kind of a patio for people, and this guy must have had one of those.
So they go up to the roof and start remodeling this guy’s house.
Now, imagine this for a moment. Put yourself inside the house for a moment.
Jesus is teaching. And all of a sudden, everyone looks up and there’s a hole in the ceiling… and it’s getting larger and four hands are rooting around, enlarging the hole.
Imagine being the guy who owned the house. You agree to host this meeting, and suddenly you’re having an unscheduled skylight installed.
And he calls the State Farm agent to see if this is covered. “Jesus is here. Could we call this an act of God?”
Now, those of you who are worried if this story is soft on vandalism, you ought to know that roofs in those days generally consisted of wooden cross beams that would support someone’s weight.
But then there would be kind of a matting of reeds and dry branches and so on in between.
So these guys didn’t need a jackhammer to do this. This is an easily repairable deal.
So they make this hole and they lower their friend.
I can imagine the paralytic saying to his friends, “Don’t drop me.”
And his friends are like, “Don’t worry. Jesus will heal you if we do.”
These guys are great friends. Their only thought is, “We’ve just got to get our friend close to Jesus.”
That’s what great friends do for each other — help each other get close to Jesus.
Look at verse 5 for a moment. It’s an unprecedented statement.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
“When Jesus saw,” whose faith? “Their faith.”
Almost always in healing stories, they will speak of Jesus seeing the faith of the one who’s asking for the healing — sometimes a parent for a child.
But here is the faith not primarily of the man, but of his friends.
Do you have any idea what the faith of one person can do for a friend?
It moved them to dig a hole through a roof.
So let me ask you another question.
When’s the last time you dug through a roof for a friend?
When’s the last time you performed an extraordinary act of servanthood for the well-being of a friend that you’re devoted to?
A friend is someone you commit to, not because of what they can do for you, not because they’re useful to you, but just because they’re your friend.
I think in our society we’ve confused friends with friendly people.
They’re not the same thing.
In the most recent flight I was on, the flight attendant was very friendly to me.
She brought me what I wanted to eat.
She brought me what I wanted to drink.
She asked if I wanted a blanket or a pillow.
Hardly anyone does that for me on a regular basis, but she did. She was devoted to serving me.
These were the friendly skies. She was my friend.
And then we got off the plane. I was walking down the hallway in the terminal and she was there. My luggage was pretty heavy. This was a long terminal.
You know where I’m going?
Imagine if I would have said, “My bag is heavy and my back is sore and I have a long way to go. It’s a long terminal. So could you carry my bag through this terminal?”
She was a friendly person… she wasn’t my friend.
You see, we live in a world of networking and social media where we have “friends” and followers and contacts.
But when the relationship isn’t strategic anymore… when the plane lands, the relationship is over.
That may be a colleague.
That may be a cordial, mutually beneficial acquaintance.
That may be someone you know a little bit about because you’re connected on social media.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not a friend.
A friend is not someone who is useful to you.
A friend is not someone who is strategic to your plan… or to your mission.
A friend is not someone who likes your photos and posts on social media.
There’s a big difference between being friendly to someone because they’re useful to you, and being someone’s friend.
So when’s the last time you dug a hole through the roof for a friend?
When’s the last time you listened — I mean really listened — when a friend needed you even though you were busy?
When’s the last time you spoke truth to a friend so they could grow… even though it took courage… even though it was hard?
When’s the last time you read through a book with a friend so you both could talk about it… so you both could grow?
Let me ask you to be real honest with yourself for a moment. Are you a friend… or are you just friendly to useful people?
Well, these guys dig a hole through the roof and lower their friend through it.
There is no record of them saying anything. It’s not what he hears from these friends that moves Jesus.
The text says, “He saw their faith.”
What did he see?
He saw a big hole in the ceiling with four faces in it — sweaty, dusty, hopeful faces, trusting somehow that Jesus has the kind of heart that will respond — thinking only of their friend.
All they can think about is their friend.
They don’t worry about the embarrassment.
They don’t worry about what’s going to happen next.
They don’t worry about what all the people are going to think.
They don’t worry about having to repair the roof afterwards.
They don’t worry about the interruption they cause.
They’re just thinking about their friend.
Jesus sees a little slice of what God intended when he made human beings. This is humanity at its finest.
He sees their faith, and he turns and he looks down at the twisted, motionless body lying on the mat before him.
He sees not only a broken body, but like in every one of us… he sees a broken, fallen soul.
And he speaks so tenderly, “Son… child… your sins are forgiven.”
This man has been mocked and shunned and judged by people who assumed that his damaged body was an indication that he was spiritually inferior to them — that he was judged by God.
This man is told by Jesus, “You are clean. You are forgiven. You are righteous. You are right with God.”
Can you imagine what that did in him?
Jesus listened. Jesus is filling the desires of this man’s friends deeper than they even realized.
Because when someone is your friend, your greatest desire for them — deeper than the external well-being of their bodies, deeper than their physical health — is that things are right between your friend and God.
If someone is really my friend, their deepest concern is the well-being of my soul.
That’s the deepest concern they have if they’re my friend.
These guys are this man’s friends. Their number-one goal is to get him closer to Jesus.
Do you have friends like that?
Are you a friend like that?
Well, there are other people present in the room. There are teachers of the law there, and you’ll notice, they had no friends to bring to Jesus.
They’re supposed to be the spiritual ones, but apparently they have no one in their lives who are hurting or confused or lost or wandering or needed Jesus — no one!
I want to pause here to ask: Who do you think was great in God’s eyes in that moment?
Was it these experts who knew so much about the Bible?
Who were filled with so much knowledge and information.
Who could quote so many passages of Scripture.
Who had so much doctrinal correctness.
Who followed the law so carefully…
But did not have a single person they cared for enough to bring them to Jesus.
Who was great in God’s eyes?
Was it these teachers of the law… or these four unsophisticated, etiquette-challenged roof crashers, that would do anything for their friend?
You know what I hope… I hope we are always a church of roof-crashers.
I hope we always remember that the greatest sign of a spiritually mature human being is not a head crammed with knowledge — that’s not a bad thing — but…
The greatest sign of spiritual maturity is a heart that desperately loves people and desperately loves Jesus and desperately wants to bring them together.
While all these guys in the peanut gallery are sitting, watching all this, they’re saying to each other, “How can this man claim to forgive sins? Only God can do this.”
And, of course, that’s Jesus’ point. Who could forgive sins but God alone?
He’s making a staggering claim here about his identity — that he has the right to forgive sins, which means he’s on par with God.
And then he says to them, “Just so you can see that I have authority and I’m not blowing smoke here,” he turns to the guy and he says to him, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”
And then there’s silence and everyone watches.
And obviously if this man had been paralyzed, all of his muscles, in all of those years of nonuse, would have atrophied.
So Jesus not only cures the paralysis, he throws in muscle tone as well.
And the guy stands up, picks his mat up off the ground, folds it up and he takes it with him.
He had spent his whole life on that mat. Now, he would never spend another moment on that thing.
In that moment, his world went from 4 feet by 6 feet to as far as the east is from the west… as far as he could travel.
And not just had his body been healed, but his heart and his soul, every sin, forgiven — physically, relationally, spiritually — he’s the healthiest guy in the room.
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!”
Well, all of this story happens because somewhere along the line, this very, very unlikely group of people decide, “We’re going to be friends.”
And I think at the end of this guy’s life, when he’s an old, old man and all of his other friends now are using canes and walkers… he’s still jumping around.
Because Jesus gave him new legs that have not been used for very long.
I think he would say, outside of the forgiveness of his sins and his destiny with God — humanly speaking — the greatest gift of his life are not his legs… they’re his friends.
There’s no gift like a friend.
So what do you have better to do than to pursue friendship like this?
Because I’ll tell you something, you get to the end of your life, it’s not going to make too much of a difference how big your house was.
You get to the end of your life, it’s not going to make too much of a difference how much money you collected or how fast your car could drive.
It’s not going to make a whole lot of difference how high you climbed up the corporate ladder.
But I’ll tell you what will make a difference.
The friends — the friends who you connected with on a deep level — the friends who laughed with you and cried with you and danced with you and moved you a little closer to Jesus.
That’s what will make a difference.
I would say this is a huge part of our mission as a church — to live in friendship with God and friendship with each other.
And if you’re not in that kind of friendship right now, you can’t make it happen… but you can open yourself up to it.
You can start pursuing it.
You can start praying.
You can ask God to guide you.
You can take a little relational risk with someone in your life.
You can start moving in that direction.
And if you have friends like that…
Take that friendship as deep as you can.
Alright, let’s pray as Michaela and the team come to lead us in a closing song.
Blue Oaks Church