Four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:3-5)
My phone rang several times yesterday, the conversations were somewhat the same. Hurt, depression, loneliness. These are men, warriors, wild at heart men who follow the teaching of our Father. I was busy, half listening and half working, basically dealing with my own stuff. I was not fully present and yet the time given was soaked up, appreciated, needed by another.
Four men carried the mat. No one man can carry another for any distance. The weight is too heavy. Carrying involves something more than providing an instruction manual to the sick; not words but action. It involves four men, different in stature and strength working together to help one. They did not pull the sick man off his mat; they picked him up where he was and carried him as they found him.
So they were trying to get this guy to Jesus but the conventional approach wasn’t working. What was that conversation like – discouragement and impatience with the sick one? The four men committed to get their sick friend to Jesus so they dug a hole. I think what I see here is that these men did not wait around until the way was clear, they took action. They were going to have to walk with the man, carry the man the hard way to Jesus.
The thing I understand about digging holes is you get dirty. Unless they foresaw this situation, they had no tools to make the work easier. They used their hands, they used their backs and they sweat and dug while the sick man lay on his mat. They exerted themselves while the man did nothing. When they were done digging a hole big enough for a man on a mat to go through, they lowered the man on his mat. They did not force the man off of his mat; they delivered him in the condition he was in.
Once delivered, as the God-Man saw the faith of four committed friends, he said to the sick man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” Wait, where is the healing? Where is the miracle? This is not a story of a picture perfect restoration of the body, mind and spirit. I read it as a story of the commitment of four friends committed to carry a sick man to Jesus. This is a picture of four men that will sweat, dig, lift and stay with it until the sick man is delivered. It is a story of faith; the faith of four.
This concept of living in Christian community is messy business. It feels a lot better when we spend time with healthy happy people. Perhaps it is the digging, grunting and sweating that, in fact, grows us into community – true community. There are people on mats all around us. They seem as though they may never get off of their mats. The question is, what do we do with these sick people? Do we help, ignore, avoid – or dig? This past Sunday people stood for prayer. Some could not stand, they just sat there. Some people acknowledged need and others had needs that they were too sick to even admit. I am challenged not by a call to prayer; I am challenged to take action. To risk speaking to a sick person, to get my hands dirty, to not hustle out of the building to lunch or talk to friends but to sit for a moment. This concept of Christian community lived out at GracePointe is messy business and I am grateful to be a part of the mess.