Summary: What friends are for.
This morning’s Gospel, while not really very long is filled to overflowing with things for us to consider. There’s no question that the climax of the story centers on the action inside the house where Jesus is resting. That’s what he is supposed to be doing. Resting. Jesus has come back to Capernaum to take a break and look what happens. His house is crammed with people. They’re everywhere. No more people can get close to the place. All of a sudden there’s some crippled guy coming through the ceiling. The stage is set. Jesus looks at the cripple and does what Jesus does---He makes the cripple whole. He says; “your sins are forgiven”, The important part of the man, his spirit, is healed. Notice, the crippled man doesn’t say, ‘hey, what about the legs!’. The crippled man doesn’t say anything. The scribes start to whisper among themselves. Jesus knows that they are gossiping about him. “He can’t do that!’. “Who does he think he is?” “Only God can forgive sins. Jesus quiets the crowd, looks those scribes in the eye, sighs and says, “OK. Just so you know that I have the power,” he looks to the cripple and says, “pick up your mat and go home.” The cripple picks up his mat and he goes home. The crowd is amazed. The scribes are put in their place. They’ve never seen anything like it. I think it would be fair to say that the whole episode was a success, and not a few people became believers that day. All’s well that ends well!
Great story. If we look only at the climax we might miss what I think is a really important part of the story. The Four friends! The cripple himself. Without these five, there is no story. There is no forgiveness. There is no miracle.
Let’s look at the cripple first. Here’s a man in pretty sorry condition. He can’t do much. He can’t get up and walk. He can’t go outside. He can’t do very much of anything for himself. I wouldn’t doubt that this cripple was pretty bitter. Everybody around him had it better than he did. What kind of life did he have? In Jesus time to be a cripple meant to be a beggar. A beggar. A low life. A nothing. No work, no kids, no wife, no life. This old cripple had it rough. Take the day in the story. He had heard about Jesus. He had heard that this Jesus was an amazing teacher. He had wonderful things to say. He made the scriptures come alive. People all over Capernaum were talking about him. Out in the streets he could hear all the commotion. Jesus had come back to town to rest, and everybody was going to see him. This cripple had heard that Jesus was healing people. He was actually doing the most amazing things. Lepers cleansed. Blind people, blind from birth, had gotten their sight back. This cripple, this wounded man had heard all these wonderful things. For one instant he thought to himself; “Maybe if I could see him, he could change my life”. But then he thinks; “no. I’m not worth it. Nobody cares. I can’t get to Jesus, and even if I could, he probably wouldn’t care. What’s the point of living. I’m useless.”
Just then these four guys who the cripple sees all the time are going by on their way to see Jesus. One of the guys is the cripple’s cousin’s boy. The cripple yells to him. They stop. The cousin’s boy says; “hey, how are you?” The cripple says; “how do I look?” The cousin’s boy asks the cripple if he’s heard about Jesus. The cripple says yes, but that what’s the difference, Jesus doesn’t care about him. The boy says that’s not true. Jesus is a different sort of prophet. He really does care. The other three agree. They say that Jesus is amazing. They say that they believe in Jesus. They think he is special. The cripple says “so what”. “What’s that to me”. The four guys grab the stretcher and are off down the street with the cripple bouncing and yelling. He keeps protesting that Jesus isn’t going to care. The four ignore him, and push on down the street.
They get to the house and the mob is incredible. They can’t get within twenty cubits of the door, and nobody is going to give them an inch. The four guys plead their case. They say that they have to get this guy to Jesus. If they get this guy to Jesus everything will be OK. Some of the people blocking the way tell them there’s no point. Jesus can’t help this guy. The cripple’s too far gone. There’s no hope. They tell them not to be stupid. Go home. The four don’t give up. They believe that if they can get to Jesus things will change. They formulate a plan. They grab the cripple and go round the back of the house and struggle with the mat to get the cripple on the roof. The cripple is scared to death. He yells at them; “I’m crippled now---if you guys drop me I’ll be dead!”