For thirty years my dad was an antenna man. He was the guy you called when you were tired of that crappy rabbit ear reception and wanted a real TV antenna—on the roof. So we heard a lot about roofs: slate, shingles, shakes, metal, Spanish tile. Any kind of tile was the worst because it was slippery. Also, if he broke one it was expensive to replace.
So you can imagine my horror when my Sunday teacher read us the story of Jesus and the paralytic. Luke 5:18-19 “And behold, men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they sought to bring him in and lay him before Jesus;[c] 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus.”
Through the tiles!!!! My heart pounded, wondering if Dad knew this Bible story. As an adult, this story still amazes me. The things that stand out to me (besides the tiles) are faith, forgiveness and friends.
First there is the paralytic and his faith. Because if that guy didn’t have faith that Jesus could heal him, he wouldn’t agree to the whole adventure. If his friends didn’t have faith, they wouldn’t risk digging through someone’s roof. But before you have faith you have to have a vision of a different life.
Imagine, after lying on a mat for twenty years, you start hearing stories about a man who heals, who does miracles. So you start dreaming how different your life would be if you could walk! You could stop begging and could work, marry, have a family. The thought of walking and having a life was just too thrilling to ignore. He had a vision for his life and his faith grew out of that vision.
We don’t know what paralyzed this man. Was he born that way? Abused by a slave owner? A carpentry accident? We just know that he couldn’t get up from his mat. What were his “sins?” Well, we can’t know that either except that he was human which means he wasn’t perfect.
But Jesus knew and he looked him right in the eye and said, “Your sins are forgiven.” Just imagine Jesus looking in your eyes and saying, “Your sins are forgiven.” How humbling, how tender, how magnificent.
The paralyzed man also had to be forgiving. What about those people who didn’t help him, who blamed him for his paralysis? Maybe they kicked dirt in his face, spat upon him, refused to give him water.
I’m sure he had much to forgive but perhaps the power of his vision and his faith in Jesus filled him with mercy and forgiveness. Maybe his hurt and anger and resentment dissolved with the love he felt for and received from his friends.
Hardest of all is forgiving ourselves. Doesn’t it get our attention when someone starts out, “I’ll never forgive myself for_________.”
Well, wait a minute. We ask God to forgive us, we ask one another for forgiveness and we can’t forgive ourselves? Wha-a-a-a-t? That’s just another way of remaining a victim. Hopefully we will have people around us who will call us out on that. Which brings me to our friends.
Scripture tells us nothing about the man’s friends. We don’t know if they were related to him or if they were Jews or Gentiles. We know the most important thing: they were willing to do whatever it took to help their friend. Maybe it was a friend of the paralyzed man who had the vision and said, “Hey, let’s get you to the Jesus guy so he can heal you!” Perhaps his friend’s faith was so contagious that the paralyzed man caught it like a cold.
What amazing friends were these! They climbed up on the roof carrying a guy! They could have dropped him and killed him. Anyone of them could have fallen and been injured. Then the work: the pounding, the sawing, the digging—then mud, straw, and tile dropping through the ceiling.
I’m sure everyone was freaking out. But not Jesus. I bet he looked up at that ceiling, saw those faces and said, “A breakthrough!” Then he shook hands with them before he said, “Friends, your sins are forgiven.”
Friends are big deal. Look how many songs are written about friends: What A Friend We Have In Jesus, You’ve Got A Friend, You’ve Got a Friend In Me, With A Little Help From My Friends, Thank You For Being a Friend.
Whatever our vision, we need friends to help us. We need friends who are willing to dig a hole in a roof and lower us through the ceiling. And we need to be that kind of friend. We serve best together as friends. We play best together as friends. We are our best selves as friends. We can help one another pick up our mats and walk. We can go a long way with faith, forgiveness and friends.
And remember: Only break tiles in case of emergency.