His world was a 4- by 6-foot mat. He couldn't walk, swim, work or play. He was dependent on friends to feed him, carry him, clothe him, clean him and turn him over to prevent blisters and bedsores. As a paralytic in ancient Palestine, this man didn't have much going for him.
Moreover, the world in those days was especially hostile to people with handicaps. Historians tell us that the Greeks disposed of newborn infants with physical anomalies. The philosopher Aristotle wrote: "Let there be a law that no deformed child shall be raised to adulthood." In the fifth century B.C., there was a law in Rome that read, "Quickly kill a deformed child."*
This man had nothing going for him—except for one thing. He had great friends. These friends called him one morning and said, "We heard Jesus is in town. So we got to scheming and thought maybe He could heal you! It's worth a try, eh? We'll pick you up tonight at six." (When they said "pick you up" that's really what they meant.)
Mark 2:1–12 records the story of this paralytic with amazing friends. These friends had to get creative, so they designed a skylight in order to lower him into the crowd to reach Jesus. When they finally got this man to Jesus, he received a new life.
It makes me wonder: Am I that kind of a friend? How many roofs do I crash through for my friends? What does a roof-crasher look like today?
Recently a church member sent me a letter that hints at an answer to that last question. She's a single mom facing enormous challenges.
Here's a slice of that letter:
The roof on my house needed to be replaced. I knew my tax return would pay for the materials, but I just didn't have the money to pay someone to do the job. After praying and thinking and worrying, I came to the conclusion that I would have to do as much of the work myself as I could. And I knew nothing about roofing. (I put that in the past tense, because now I do know something about roofing!)
The day I got up on my roof for the first time to start tearing off shingles was my lowest point. As the cedar shakes fell to the ground, so did my tears. It seemed too big a task for me to accomplish. I kept praying for God to help me through it. No more than an hour went by when I heard a shout from down below. The teenage girls who lived next door were in my backyard with a few of their friends. They came up and helped me for a couple of hours and then came again the next day. They will never fully know what that unexpected grace meant to me.
So many people came and helped me. My older brother flew out and gave me some know-how, another friend came almost every night after work and gave me several full Sundays, another friend loaned us some tools, a co-worker and her husband showed up and helped, a few of my kid's friends helped with the tear-off, my mom fixed meals, while another friend cleaned and washed my dishes. Those were gifts I will never be able to fully repay.
Isn't that a great snapshot of true friends? It brings to mind Proverbs 17:17 (NIV): "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." Kind of makes you want to go rip off a roof for a friend, doesn't it? Well, then, let ‘er rip!
* John Ortberg, Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them, Grand Rapids, MI, 2003, p. 45.