St Luke 5: 17 – 26
One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting nearby (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. Just then some men came, carrying a paralysed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; 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 middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. When he saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven you.’ Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, ‘Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you”, or to say, “Stand up and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the one who was paralysed—‘I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.’ Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’
This is such a wonderful story from Luke’s gospel, a firm favourite to act out with children and young people (who doesn’t like lifting the roof?). I am struck by the contrast between the Pharisees and teachers of the law on the one hand, and the men bringing the paralysed man on the other. One group is in the way, the other group finds a way. One group is sitting down, blocking access to Jesus for others, looking for problems and reasons not to be convinced. The other group are moving, looking for solutions and already have faith.
Somehow, they know that if they can only enable their friend (who we only know as the paralysed man) to encounter Jesus his life will be transformed. Their belief leads to drastic action: removing the roof tiles to make an entrance, lowering the bed into the midst of everything and right in front of Jesus. The remarkable thing is that Jesus looks at them and their faith and that seems to be the catalyst for his intervention ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven’. It is the disbelief of the scribes and Pharisees that prompts the physical healing so Jesus can prove his authority. None of this happens in a ‘sacred’ space or place of worship – the whole scene takes place in an ordinary house on an ordinary street.
Mission at its simplest is finding a way to enable someone to encounter Jesus so that their life may be transformed. The good news is that if we faithfully find crazy, innovative, determined ways to bring people we know of all ages, stages and dispositions into the presence of Jesus, he will respond in gracious love and call them ‘Friend’. Our faith should inspire us to be way-makers. The rest is up to Jesus. Then one day we can all go to our ultimate home glorifying God and filled with awe at the life-transforming things we have seen.
Jesus – help us put faith into action.
Show us the companions who, together with us,
can make a way to you for people who have none.
Give us determination, vision, courage and faith.
Call us onwards as pioneers and pathfinders,
trusting your love to sustain and embrace us,
until we can celebrate all the strange and wonderful things we see you do. Amen.