Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012
by Al Gray
How many truly great friends do you have? Folks who would go to nearly any extreme to give you comfort, aide, and assistance? One man in the bible had friends like that, friends who would not be denied in their quest to get help for him. He was paralyzed physically and with sin. Jesus forgave and healed, but first there was that marvelous team of friends.
Our story today comes from the 2nd chapter of Mark. We cite the New International Version for the story, courtesy of the Biblegateway.com.
1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 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. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 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? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 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!”
This miracle definitely made an impression on the disciples of Jesus, as this story appears in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, as well as here in Mark. Imagine the dedication they witnessed!
The paralyzed sinner was carried to the house where Jesus was on a pallet. To their dismay clamoring people had crowded the house and spilled outside. The most quick-thinking of them found a most daring of solutions and told the others. The stronger of the band of friends hoisted the ailing one onto the roof. The more industrious of them removed a section of roof. Together they gently lowered their beloved friend into the presence of Jesus.
First Jesus took away the sin to the murmurs of doubters of his powers. Then he took away the man’s physical disability, telling him to pick up his mat and go home. We don’t know whether the healed one hesitated. It certainly would have been human. We do know that forgiving the sin was the greater feat, one that Jesus repeated for us all, but one that was not an overt demonstration of his healing power. The sight of the healed man walking out with that mat did that.
We are left to use our imaginations for the rest of the story. How did the healed one thank his devout, strong, unfailing, and devoted friends? We can envision a huge celebration immediately after his miracle. We can conjure up a lifetime of returned dedication to each one of them.
Did this band of brothers remain close for the rest of their days? Unfettered by the shackles and chains we have in modernity that was a much easier task in that day. It was a necessity. It will become one again, probably the hallmark of our collective salvation, reform and recovery after the cataclysmic collapse of our universally corrupt society. That is coming.
Folks who can be a friend and have friends like the man in this story will survive. Those who try another course are very much doomed. Buying and hoarding gold won’t work. Fleeing America won’t help. Collecting guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition is foolish. Fortifying your home is illusory. In the end and before the end, we have each other. We should all strive to be as good a friend as possible to as many as possible on our way back to the future. The band of friends in this story is there to inspire us. Hate the sin and love the sinner, it is said. That is easier said than done. It is not impossible.
What do you think the healed man did with respect to sin in his life? One has to suspect that having felt the healing of Jesus, that this fellow lived as best he could for the rest of his days. We know not how many more days we have individually and as a people. The lesson of today is of friendship. Learn how to nurture it and you will pass the remainder of your days in happiness and peace.
Do this well enough and there will be people willing to walk through fire for you and even die for you. As one who, until recently, was perfectly content to live out his days, but suddenly chose another path in which new friends and intensely devoted ones now walk, you just have to feel the power there to believe it.
The second commandment is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It is the hardest of them all. When duty calls one to be critical to change another’s wayward behavior, he must always hold out the hand of friendship beyond the controversy. This writer tries that once a week, calling somebody who thinks there is unrequited animosity to tell them, there is tomorrow and tomorrow let’s work together. Most of the time they are stunned and sometimes this caller will hang up in tears himself.
I have to do better. We all do. Jesus commands it and it is our salvation, and soon, our survival.
Yes, we have to be very committed to changing our society back to comity, honesty, honor, and sacrifice and that means confrontation. Just keep in mind that tomorrow is another day, one in which a lot of wayward people will come home.
Let us close these thoughts with that wonderful song of the power of friendship, You Raise Me Up***
Brother Al Gray, High Reverend of The Church of What’s Happenin’ Now
Last Week’s Sermon: A Ruth-less World Falls Into a Grain Bin of Truth