Life was certainly not easy if you were unable to walk. There was a distasteful stigma about being totally dependent on others. The sights and sounds of the same scenes of the Temple Square day after day made life totally monotonous and painfully frustrating. The prospect of the daily routine of begging alms of the faithful on their way to morning prayers had always been totally humiliating, but it was the only way he could survive. He was unable to work for a living, his feeble legs refused to even carry the weight of his body. The pallet on which he lay had become his closest confidant. Fortunately, there were those that often stopped to inquire about his well-being, and offer words of comfort and encouragement. The Friendly Four, for instance, was a group that he had come to love as brothers, and covet each moment that he was able to enjoy their camaraderie. Coming from different life experiences of hardship and disappointments, they were able to empathize with his hurts and frustrations. There was no doubt that he owed his cheerful disposition to their physical and emotional support. They came each morning to transport him on his pallet to the Temple Square, and they always returned before sundown to bring him home once again. They talked of life, they shared their joys as well as their sorrows, they drew wisdom from mutual experiences, and they never tired of showing respect and admiration for each other’s achievements. Without their encouragement and moral support, Matthias shuddered to think of how bleak an existence life would be.
Today, however, there was an excitement in the air. Jonas had heard of a rabbi who had gained a reputation of being able to bring healing to people. People were saying that he had the power of Elijah, and had done many signs and wonders to prove it. If Elijah could raise the widow’s dead son, surely this man could bring strength to Matthias’ feeble body. If there was any hope at all, Jonas and the others wanted to give it a try. It would take much effort and patience, considering the crowds that always surrounded the Teacher, but it was a mission that was well worth the effort.
“Matthias’ my friend!” he heard Jonas’ deep voice, “we have come at last! Surely this will be a day of rejoicing! We have come to rejoice with you!” Matthias considered how valuable was the faith that they expressed, even when his own faith was weak and failing. The fact that Jonas and the others expressed such a surety that the outcome of today’s journey would be successful, gave Matthias the strength to believe as well.
“Where do you think He will be today?” one of the others mused. “Yesterday He was teaching in the temple.”
“I’m surprised they would let Him back in there”, Jonas chuckled, “but that is a good place to start.”
With Matthias lying on the pallet, suspended on ropes at the four corners, the group set out in the direction of the temple. They threaded their way through the busy marketplace, jostling a few old ladies who were bartering at the clothier’s stall. Jonas apologized for the intrusion, and they continued on their mission. They were in sight of the temple now, but the usual crowd was not gathered on the steps. There was no sound of debate coming from the square, and no squeals of delighted children, scurrying playfully among the somber adults. Only the sad-eyed janitor moved slowly among the various porches, fulfilling his menial duties.
“You have come to see the Teacher”, he guessed correctly, noting Matthias suspended on the pallet. “They say that he is teaching at Peter’s house today.” Thanking him for the information, Jonas and the others turned in the direction suggested by the janitor, hoping that they would still be in time to present their request to the Teacher.
It appeared that the janitor had been correct, judging by the crowd milling around the door of Peter’s house. This was not going to be an easy task, but they had come too far, and expended too much energy to give up now. By now the Teacher would be in the middle of His discourse. Should they interrupt His time of teaching? From the stories they had heard, it seemed that He didn’t mind people intruding on His time. Considering the gravity of their mission it was worth the effort.
“Excuse us, please!” Jonas tried to be as polite as possible to the wall of backs that blocked the entrance to the house. He was completely ignored. The man at the center of the human wall wore the robe of the Sanhedrin. Jonas tapped him politely on the shoulder, and the man turned to glare at him. He shrank in surprise at the sight of Matthias lying on the pallet, and muttered the word “Unclean” before turning back to the object of his attention. Jonas turned to the others with a look of mild frustration – this was not going to be as simple as they had imagined.
An old man was shuffling out of the house now, obviously overjoyed at his experience on the inside. The crowd parted to give him room, and Jonas saw his chance. Before the member of the Sanhedrin could close the ranks, Jonas and the others stepped around him, only to be faced with another solid row of backs. “Please, we must get through!” Jonas tried again, more desperate now, but still to no avail. Dejected, they made their way, once more, to the back of the line.
“What more can we do?” Jonas interpreted the look on the faces of his comrades. For the sake of Matthias, they had to find a way. He looked up in a gesture of despair, as his eyes caught sight of the stairs leading to the roof top. His face lit up with renewed hope as each member of the group, in turn, followed his gaze and realized the object of his insight. The roof top! Could it work? It would be worth a try! “Do not despair, my Friend,” Jonas offered, comfortingly, as the four carried the pallet toward the staircase.
Ascending the narrow stairs with the awkward pallet proved to be no easy task. Taking care to keep Matthias somewhat level, while each one maintained their sense of balance, caused more than one moment of great concern. “Careful!” Jonas cautioned his friend on the opposite corner, when he saw that the man’s foot was close to the edge. With a gasp of surprise, the man moved to a firmer foothold, as the pallet bumped lightly against the inner wall.
They were near the top now, just one more step, then they could rest. Panting from the exertion, they set the pallet down as lightly as they could on the clay tiles of the flat roof. Each one sat down to catch their breath before planning any further strategy.
“What do we do now?” one of them expressed the question for the entire group. It had been some time since Jonas had been in Peter’s house, and he was desperately trying to remember the outlay of the floor plan.
“Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die…”, Jesus was saying, as the sound of heavy footsteps on the roof invaded Maria’s hearing. What reason would anyone have to be on the rooftop while Jesus was teaching in the house? The question flashing across her mind was quickly forgotten in the truth of the Teacher’s lesson. Moments passed as Maria continued to absorb the teaching concerning the concept of resurrection. It was an idea she had heard discussed many times before, but no one else had been able to explain it with such clarity. People said this man had never been to school, where did He get such wisdom? Her thoughts were interrupted once again by the sounds coming from the roof. This time, it sounded as though someone was trying to remove one of the tiles from the roof! Before she could think of any other explanation, the tile was lifted to reveal the clear blue sky beyond.
Undaunted, Jesus continued His teaching, to the sound of another tile being lifted and removed from the rooftop. People were staring upward in amazement now, as more tiles were torn away. “Who is that? What are they doing? Why are they tearing up the roof?” the questions rifling through the group, by now, drowned out the sound of the Teacher’s soft voice. The faces of the intruders on the roof were clearly visible by now, as they stood at each corner of the gaping hole in the roof. Now what were they doing? They were hoisting a pallet over the hole in the roof – it appeared they intended to drop it into the room, directly in front of where Jesus stood teaching. With a sigh of relief, Maria noticed that each corner of the pallet was suspended on a rope, steadied by each of the four intruders. The crowd gasped as it became evident that the pallet carried a man, obviously unable to move on his own. Still, the Teacher remained unruffled, though by now He had interrupted the lesson, in favor of finding the reason for the intrusion.
“Excuse us!” Jonas’ deep voice pleaded from beyond the gap in the tiles, “but there was no other way. Our friend is in need of the Teacher’s touch, and with so many people around the door, we were unable to bring him to You.”
“Who is he?” Maria heard someone ask.
“He sits every day in the Temple Square,” came the muffled response.
“What is the matter with him? Why can’t he walk by himself?” the inevitable question was posed.
“Sick, of the palsy,” a knowing voice answered.
“Did he sin, or did his parents sin?” someone questioned. Maria almost hoped the man was deaf, as well, so that he would not be hurt by their insensitivity. Why did people always have to attribute disabilities to unpardonable sins?
Almost in response to the tactless question, Jesus reached for the man’s hand, and with a gesture of mercy, he calmly stated, “My son, your sins are forgiven”. With that, He firmly pulled Matthias into a standing position. He wobbled slightly, before assuming a rigid stance. Before Matthias had a chance to fully comprehend the significance of the preceding moments, a stirring in the crowd caught the attention of those in the immediate vicinity.
“How dare you blaspheme!” looking around Matthias saw the indignant face of the Sanhedrin member who had stood, blocking his access to the Teacher’s presence a few moments before. “You have no authority to forgive sins!” the man fumed.
As if He had expected such an outburst, Jesus faced His accuser and calmly asked him, “Which would have been easier to say, my Friend, 'Your sins are forgiven', or 'Arise, take up your pallet and walk'? I want these people to know that the Son of Man also has power on earth to forgive sins!” With that he turned to Matthias, as if to satisfy His accuser’s requirements, and repeated, “Arise, take up your pallet and walk – your faith has made you whole”
Jonas, with his companions stepped forward from the crowd, as if on cue from Jesus last command. “Allow us, my friend!” he grinned, “just this last time!” Each of them dutifully took hold of their respective corners of the pallet, and Matthias followed his four radiant friends as they bore an empty pallet from Peter’s house. The crowd parted to give them room to pass, and Jonas turned to face them one last time. “We’ll be back tomorrow to fix the roof!” he assured the still-sputtering member of the Sanhedrin.