In the age of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter real friendship is hard to come by, especially as adults. For many people, ‘friends’ are divided into categories: work friends, school friends, church friends, neighborhood, etc. We call them friends but the reality is that most are only acquaintances. There are people we know a few facts about and can engage in a conversation over coffee, but we only know them in certain settings. Most of us can count on one hand the number of people who know everything about us – our innermost thoughts, desires, and hang-ups. For a society that is surrounded by people both in real life and on social media, we are often lonely and feel misunderstood.
We seek out those genuine moments of real human contact. We search for a real friend to call on in moments of trouble. We need a shoulder to help carry the burden, not just a shoulder on which to cry. Friends are meant to share our whole life, not just the good parts. It is that deep human connection we seek, not the surface smiles. This is not a new issue for humanity, but it is accentuated by our modern social media and mass communications.
How do we meet this need in us and in others?
2,000 years ago a man had a need. His friends brought him to the One who could help.
Jesus spoke with people, individuals, with whom He intentionally made contact.
Let’s take a look at a group of friends who refused to quit.
Jesus Restores a Paralyzed Man
Have you ever been walking around a store or even down the street and notice someone in a wheelchair? Many times the first thought is, ‘What happened?’ or ‘What is wrong with them?’ It is a fair question and one that the individual who is wheelchair bound is not afraid or embarrassed to answer. But in first century Rome to be disabled meant a lifetime of begging and living off the generosity of others. Someone who could not walk was considered unproductive. If we find it hard to make friends today, imagine how difficult it would have been for someone with nothing to offer!
Matthew (ch 9), Mark (ch 2), and Luke (ch 5) all record this encounter with varying level of detail. Jesus is teaching, and a large crowd has gathered in and around this house to hear Him. Four men carry a paralytic man into Jesus’ presence. This was no easy task, for they could not get to Jesus through the crowd. But these men would not give up. Instead, they climb onto the roof and dug a hole to lower the man down near Jesus (v 18-19). The roof would’ve been made from mud, clay, and pitch which holds together well, but can be broken up with an axe or shovel. Hopefully they fixed the roof afterward!
Jesus sees the man, sees the friends, sees the hole in the roof, and responds in a rather odd way. Jesus calls this paralytic man, friend. To be clear, the Greek word, anthrope, is a general term used for man/mankind/friend. Today, we would use this word for acquaintances. This man that has never met Jesus and, by the rules of Roman society is not a productive citizen, is called Friend by a Rabbi. And Jesus does not stop with a greeting; He announces his sins forgiven! Most people looked at this man and saw a crippled individual, but Jesus saw a friend that needed a fresh start.
One can only imagine what the men that brought him to Jesus were thinking. They brought him to hear the teaching and they brought him to be healed. Now this man has forgiven his sins! Maybe they were disappointed, confused, or even scared but it is safe to assume no one was expecting this reaction from a Rabbi. Jesus is always up to the unexpected! Luke records what the teachers of the Law thought in verse 21. They were trying to wrap their heads around Jesus’ answer because only God could forgive sins. How can this Rabbi do what only God could do?
Scripture does not record the main crowd’s reaction to these words but one could probably hear a pin drop in that house. Eyes, hearts, minds, and emotions were scrambling to come to terms with this action. But again, Jesus does the unexpected. He doesn’t argue with anyone. He simply asks a question. “Which is easier to say, Your sins are forgiven or Get up and walk?” Jesus probably paused for a moment to let His words sink in and then He turned back to the man. Addressing the crowd, Jesus made sure everyone understood His authority covered the physical and the spiritual. So Jesus told the man to get up, take his mat, and go home. And to everyone’s astonishment, he did! His legs were restored to him and he was given a new lease on life. Luke records that this man glorified God! He went home restored both in body and in spirit.
And it made all the difference.
Jesus demonstrates His authority over the physical and spiritual aspects of our lives. This is a truly powerful moment for the man who was restored, the crowds who saw it, and the disciples who are beginning to understand, in part, who Jesus really is. Jesus still has this authority today, and is willing to restore our souls, minds, and bodies to Him.
The people gathered in the house were astonished. This word is used in conjunction with amazement and fear. It is used to describe something so amazing it frightens. Many times throughout scripture we find fear an answer to God’s Presence. This is why when angels appear, or God announces Himself to someone, the message is, ’Do not be afraid.’ The awesome Presence of God is amazing, awe inspiring, and so powerful that it frightens. But God wants us to trust and live in His Love, His Compassion, and in His Authority.
This encounter did not happen on accident. Let us not forget the four men who brought this man to Jesus. These men who did not give up because it was hard, or because there was no room. They fought for, and found a way to get their friend to Jesus. The gospels do not use the word for friend to describe these men, but in that moment they were the greatest friends anyone could ever find. And the result of their persistence and tenacity was a man restored.
That is how a group of friends changed one man’s world.
That is how Jesus changed the whole world.
Are we ready to change the world around us?
Captain Lauren Boatman is a dedicated servant of Christ who has been a pastor in The Salvation Army for thirteen years. Currently, Lauren has the privilege of serving others in Alabaster, Alabama.
The Salvation Army in Alabaster is actively engaging members of the local community through events, social services, and Bible Teaching. We welcome you to join us for Sunday Worship or engage with us through volunteering.
The Alabaster Salvation Army Corps is located across from the Alabaster YMCA at 108 Plaza Circle. Drop by Monday through Friday from 9am-3pm or visit our Sunday worship service at 3pm. We would love to meet and talk with you!