What would you do for a friend?
No, seriously what would you do for a friend?
Most of us would say simple stuff like “give them a ride someplace”, “hang out with them to watch the ballgame, or “watch their kids for a few hours some afternoon”. A few more might also add in things like “help the move”, “pick up the lunch or drink tab” or “let them crash on my couch for a few nights”. The really honest among us might also add “help them move to that 4th floor walk up apartment” or “give them money”. You get where I’m going.
In today’s culture our definition of “friends” has a pretty loose meaning. I have friends from high school (that I last saw a few years ago at our class reunion, which was the first time I’d seen them since graduation night) and thanks to Face book I have online friends, and then there are my work friends, and friends from church, and friends from my kids sports teams. The list of who are considered “friends” can go on and on. But what type of friendships are they? For most of us these people really are acquaintances that we like and are more pleasant to than your average stranger. We are not emotionally tied to them or spiritually invested in them.
Do you have any close friends? I’m talking about friends who are so involved with you and you with they that you know all about each other’s life burdens, emotional junk and spiritual scars. These are people who despite knowing your exact type of your baggage; they help you carry it around in this thing called life. They also will call you out on it when necessary and hold you accountable for it. These are people who you will not only go the extra mile for, you would go two more if necessary.
But they could not find a way to get him into the house because of the crowd. So they went up on the roof. They made an opening in the tiles and let the man down on his stretcher among the people. (They lowered him in front of Jesus.) Luke 5:19 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
Luke tells us the story of the paralytic man who was unable to walk on his own, so his friends carried him to the place where they knew Jesus was teaching. We don’t know exactly how far away he and his friends lived, but it is safe to assume it involved some effort on the part of the friends and required some distance. Arriving at the house where Jesus was they encountered a crowd gathered. A crowd so large that it filled the house where he was speaking and overflowed outside into the gardens and surrounding area. If ever this was a standing room only crowd it was this! So now what, the friends had made the investment of time and energy to bring their friend this far only to encounter what would seem too many to be a setback. Do they turn back? Do they apologize to their friend and stay on the outside of the crowd hoping for something to happen later for them? No, they get creative and take action. They look up. Looking up they see the roof of the house and up they go to the top, with their friend in tow. Imagine the effort this must have taken, not just the physical aspect of lifting and hoisting a grown man up onto a roof, but also the logistical needs to accomplish this. No one person could have pulled it off, but as a group they were able to reach their goal and get everyone onto the roof.
Once on the roof the scripture says they made a hole in the roof and lowered their friend down into the room below so he literally appeared at the feet of Jesus inside. Imagine being inside listening away minding your own business and suddenly the lecture has a floor show!
He saw their faith and said to him, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” Luke 5:20 (Weymouth New Testament)
I love that verse and for me it contains is the point of the whole story. Jesus saw the man before him and surely looked up and saw his friends peering down from above and looks back at the man and Luke tells us that after seeing their faith (meaning the collective group of friends) says “Friend your sins are forgiven”. Of all the things that Jesus could have said in this situation he simply addresses this man as his friend and tells him that his sins are forgiven.
The collective act of faith by the man and his friends is what got Jesus’ attention first. I take note of the use of the word “their” in verse 20, because if it were not for the efforts of the man’s friends he would not have encountered Jesus. It was not just one person who talked his buddies into going out of their way the help him out, they as entire group had an overwhelming and compelling faith in what Jesus could do for their friend that they literally moved a part of the house roof to try and make it come to pass. Do you have friends like that? Are you a friend like that to someone else?
We so often forget that part of this story and tend to focus on that he next told him to get up and take his bed and go home. We miss the best part of the story, the affirmation of our relationship with Jesus and the radical grace his forgiveness provides. We see the man’s physical condition as his handicap, while Jesus saw his spiritual condition as the one needing healing first.
The redeeming and restorative power of a personal relationship with Jesus is available to everyone regardless of our current physical or spiritual conditions. Jesus calls each of us to be his friend and is ready and waiting for us. Some of us can walk to him, others need to be carried and others still might need us to lift them onto a rooftop so we can facilitate them seeing Jesus face-to-face.
And that’s what real friends are for.