Summary: Miracle of Faith, Pt. 1
FAITH ALIVE AND KICKING (LUKE 5:17-26)
Faith is alive and well in the 21st century. Science, technology and reason tried but they could not bury faith. Without faith, life is like a house without sunlight, without window or occupants. A life without faith is a murky existence, all doom and gloom, a leap in the dark. Without faith, the body is lifeless, without soul, breath or heart. Faith is at work everyday for those with eyes to see. Without faith, hockey players skate on thin ice, rope-walkers perform on a slippery rope and airline passengers fly at scary odds.
People from across the ages and from all walks of life have weighed in on the significance of faith. Augustine, defender of the faith, remarks, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” The philosopher Pascal muses, “Faith is different from proof; the latter is human, the former is a gift from God.” Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. says, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom adds, “Faith is like radar that sees through the fog - the reality of things at a distance that the human eye cannot see.” Educator Elton Trueblood observes, “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.”
The account of Jesus healing a paralytic in Luke 5 is unique; it offers a number of “firsts” in the Bible. The loud demonstration of the paralytic and his friends’ faith in the presence of Pharisees and teachers of the law is the first record of faith in Jesus. Also, the Pharisees and Jesus had their first direct meeting and confrontation, and for the first time, Pharisees and teachers of the law from “every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem” descended upon a city, specifically Capernaum (Lk 4:31). What a start, what a meeting and what an audience!
The first display of faith in the Gospels was a group venture, yet a personal risk and a public outreach. Jesus admired the resolve of four friends (Mk 2:3), saw the bravery of a paralytic and offered forgiveness to the curious public.
Why is faith an action and not a feeling? What are the obstacles in the way of faith? How can we triumph over animosity and hostility to faith?
Faith is a Personal Experience, But Not a Solo Effort
17 One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. 20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” (Lk 5:17-20)
An out-of-towner drove his car into a ditch in a desolated area. Luckily, a local farmer came to help with his big, strong horse named Buddy. He hitched Buddy up to the car and yelled, “Pull, Nellie, pull!” Buddy didn’t move.
Then the farmer hollered, “Pull, Buster, pull!” Buddy didn’t respond.
Once more the farmer commanded, “Pull, Coco, pull!” Nothing.
Then the farmer nonchalantly said, “Pull, Buddy, pull!” And the horse easily dragged the car put of the ditch.
The motorist was most appreciative and very curious. He asked the farmer why he called his horse by the wrong name three times. The farmer said, “Oh, Buddy is blind, and if he thought he was the only one pulling, he wouldn’t even try!”
The paralytic was a friend in need and his four friends were friends in deeds. They surrounded the paralytic, supported and sustained him. If the most supportive twosome in the Bible were Joshua and Caleb and the most stubborn threesome were the fire-walkers Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, then the most steadfast quartet had to be the four rooftop friends.
Someone articulated friendship well: “A friend is someone who knows you as you are, understands where you’ve been, accepts who you’ve become and still, gently invites you to grow.” True friends are those who stick with us through thick and thin, ups and downs, haves and have-nots. Lee Iacocca reminisced fondly the advice his father gave him: “When you die, if you’ve got five real friends, then you’ve had a great life.”
The four friends had the highest degree of difficulty. In order to get to Jesus, they had to go up, then down and right through the roof. They removed the tiles, opened the roof and lowered the mat, the man, their mate into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus - before His very nose and face. The persistence of the paralytic and his paramedic friends, the selflessness of the four friends and the crowd-stopping, air-defying, object-balancing act made a strong impression on Jesus. The decision was theirs to make (v 19), the bill was theirs to pay and the work was theirs to sweat. Mark 2:4 records that they had to digging through the roof before lowering the mat.