There was a crowd because in the scene immediately preceding this Jesus had healed a leper, and although he told him not to say anything, he did anything but. “40 A lepercame to him begging him, and kneelinghe said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.”41 Moved with pity, Jesusstretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!”42 Immediately the leprosyleft him, and he was made clean. 43 After sternly warning him he sent him away at once,44 saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesuscould no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.”
When we were growing up, the nearest movie theater was an hour away. So we would squeeze in my mom’s minivan. One time we laid the back seat flat and fit 8 people on there. We squeezed two people in the back of the van. And we had 4 in the captain’s chairs with 1 in the middle. So we got all 15 of us in the minivan. I do not recommend this. And we broke several laws. And come to think of it, my mom still doesn’t know this happened.
I tell you that image because I visualize it when I read this passage. The crowd that was gathered was packed in like sardines. This was no time to be claustrophobic. Saying it was hard to get in, may be an understatement. But the four friends were determined. They knew that Jesus was the Great Healer, who it was said later in Matthew 11:4-5, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.”
They had to dig into the roof, which was not easy. It was made of beams 3 feet apart filled with twigs, clay and dirt – like working with dry wall. The people below probably were not happy to be covered by first little flecks of dust, then some tiles here and there and not to mention long splinters of wood. Then they had to lower a paralyzed man slowly into the center of the room.
Now what would be your reaction if you were in the crowd?
Sometimes we see obstacles and we’re defeated or coughing up excuses before we even start. Sometimes the impossible is made possible. That’s the thing about faith made real. Their friend couldn’t walk – so they carried him. The crowd blocked their path and access to Jesus – they went around or bypassed them. The roof was in the way – they ripped a hole in it. They were people on a mission. They were determined. Spiritually and physically they were determined.
If only the Gators would be so determined to win games. May it be so. If only we were so determined to dive into the Santa Fe community and University of Florida community – developing relationships, stepping out of our comfort zone, and not being afraid of what people were saying about us.
It would be radical.
We all know people who need healing back home and here at school – what are we doing to be present with them – intercession – prayer, encouragement, our actions?
Jesus commends the man’s friends for their faith. It was their faith that brought the man to a place of forgiveness. I wonder, if the salvation of the people around me depended on my faith and my direct actions, how much more seriously and intentionally I would take my time with God and the Christian community and to what extent would I live out my faith?
Do we get our hands dirty in other people’s lives? Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.
James said, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if a person claims to have faith but has no deeds?…Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:14-16).
The Great God of the universe went to extreme measures for us. We need to do the same. It’s the little things. Say a prayer, a kind word, a smile, hoping the Spirit’s imprint on our hearts will be read by someone else.
A couple of years ago an NC State student became involved in a theatre group sponsored by one of the campus ministries. He wasn’t a Christian, he just liked acting. The group performed during the Sunday morning services at several churches in the area. At one of the churches, Adam was captivated by the prayers of the people which included intercessions for people with AIDS. He was so moved that he decided to be baptized and join the church. That church was God’s letter to Adam, which said, “There is suffering in the world, but God cares and we care.”
Lawrence Kushner in Honey from the Rock writes, “We understand that ordinary people are messengers of the Most High. They go about their tasks in holy anonymity. Often, even unknown to themselves. Yet, if they had not been there, if they had not said what they said or did what they did, it would not be the way it is now. We would not be the way we are now. Never forget that you too yourself may be a messenger.”
Some quotes on friendship • A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out. • Everyone hears what you say. Friends listen to what you say. Best friends listen to what you don’t say. • A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words. A friend perseveres.
This semester at Gator Wesley, we are going to use as our backdrop, Leonard Sweet’s book, 11 – indispensable relationships you can’t be without – in which he talks about the 11 people [relationships] that we need in this life to be who Christ creates us to be – we need
- an Editor
- a True Friend
- a Butt-Kicker
- an Heir
- an Encourager
- a Yoda
- a Back-Coverer
- a Reject
- a ‘Little One’
- a VIP
- a Place
- a Paraclete – “one who consoles, one who intercedes on our behalf, a comforter or an advocate”
Who are these people or who can they be for us? I hope you will join us this semester as we take this journey together – but I can assure you, it will not be as great a journey without each of you – I need all of you on this journey of life and faith, and I am grateful for our time together.
As Sweet says, “The real meaning of life is not a journey question or an arrival question. It’s a relationship question. Your journey AND your destination are both important, but neither is possible without an answer to [the] prior question: ‘Who do you have with you?’” [Sweet, 11, page 19]