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!”
This is one of my favorite stories in the whole of the Scripture. I have studied it and taught it. The theological depth of it overwhelms this Bible nerd. This morning it hit different.
I was left this morning with a deep sense of gratitude. It’s almost overwhelming and tangible.
Do you ever have those moments? When some emotion runs over you and it is almost like you can hold it in your hands? That’s how I felt this morning with gratitude.
This story is ultimately about the authority that Jesus has to forgive sin. It falls in the midst of a number of other stories that demonstrate Jesus’ authority over all of creation.
Yet, this morning I was overwhelmed with image of the paralyzed man’s friends.
This guy wanted to be healed. Yet, there was no way that he could get to Jesus on his own.
So his friends carry him.
When they got to Jesus they couldn’t get through the crowds to see Jesus.
So his friends carry him.
They dig a hole and in the roof and lower him in front of Jesus.
His friends carried him!
What happened? He was healed from the inside out! Everything about the man was healed by Jesus. His body and soul. All healed, all made new, he was a new creation in Christ. How did he get to that point?
His friends carried him!
Without his friends he may not have been healed.
This story reminds us that we are not walk through life alone. Yesterday I wrote about the importance of solitude and refreshing our lives. Today, we are reminded that this solitude opens the way for us to be in deep in abiding community with others.
If we are going to experience flourishing, wholeness, and shalom then we need a community of people in our lives to carry us. Most of us aren’t physically paralyzed. So most of us can hide our need to be carried. But, the reality is that we need one another, desperately.
To experience the kind of community that brings healing from the inside out we must be vulnerable. I bumped into this quote by C.S. Lewis this morning,
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. (From The Four Loves)
I am sure that the man who was being carried by his friends and then lowered probably felt some sense of humiliation. Yet, in his vulnerability he trusted his friends and let them carry him.
Why was I grateful this morning? Because as I meditated on this story the Lord reminded me of the community of people who carry me. I’m not alone. I have a congregation who loves me and loves my family. They care for us in simple and extravagant ways. The thing is, our congregation are also some our closest friends. They know my flaws and love me anyway. There are couple small groups of men who carry me too. One of these groups of guys have been doing life with me for more than a decade. Another one has developed in this time of pandemic. Both are sources of strength, joy, and camaraderie.
I am grateful. I am grateful to be able to be vulnerable. I am grateful for the community that carries me.
The #LoveWell Podcast (I’m reworking the nature of this podcast. New episodes will be arriving soon!)
Beyond Sunday School (I have launched a new podcast that will focus on going beyond sermons and the simplistic stories that we learned as children. This is being live recorded via Zoom on Wednesday nights at 7 pm. Send me a message if you’d like an invite to be part of the recording.)