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Abiding Friendship
by Allen Clupny
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This is the story of five men; Faith, Hope, Love, Persistence, and Need. We have known them all in our lives, and when put together they are a formidable team. The roof may come down

“Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.” (Mark 2:3-5)

They sat around the scarred wooden table;, each man buried in his own thoughts. They had spent all their energies, much of their money, and given their hearts to help their friend, Need.

"I've heard there is another healer in Israel." The bearded one called Faith flatly stated.

The brow of Hope rose as he held up his head. "Have you heard where he might be?" He replied.

"No." said Faith, "But, I overheard others in the synagogue saying he travels even to the smallest villages and heals many."

"D..Do any of you ththink he might hel..h..hhelp our friend?" stuttered Love.

No one answered, but the embers of opportunity were fanned in Hope's heart.

Outside the door chickens were scratching the dirt for their next tidbit of grain. The late morning light was beaming in through the open window. And dust could be seen swirling in a sparkling dance in the sun’s rays.

Across the street a gathering of people began to disturb the men’s thoughts.

"Why do you suppose those people are at Shechem's house?" Asked Persistence as he leaned against the wall and tapped on the worn wooden windowsill with a finger.

Faith and Love rose to look out the window while Hope leaned back in his chair to peer out the open door.

"Hmm, looks like some scribes and Pharisees are going in too." said Faith with a puzzled look on his face

"That's nothing new Faith. The lawmakers often visit with Shechem to debate God’s law." Hope replied.

"Hey, who is that going in with them? An itinerant preacher whose philosophy will be torn apart I'd wager." Persistence answered himself mockingly.

"Maybe it's that Nazarene carpenter. What's his name?" asked Hope. Then he said, "Many wonderful things seem to follow every step He takes."

"I th..th..think it's J..Je..Jesus." Love answered. "His na…name I mean."

Hope looked to the ground. Deep lines began to form on his forehead. "There is a chance to see our friend healed." He spoke softly, but with purpose.

"Yes, yes." replied Faith. "I have been told this one speaks with the authority of Moses when he spoke to Pharaoh in Egypt. I also hear he touches lives with the compassion of Joseph when he revealed himself to his brothers." He shrugged his shoulders, "We've heard allot of things from many men these past two years."

"Where has Hope gone?" Persistence asked the small group as he looked around the room. "Oh no! Look there. I see him squeezing through the crowd at Shechem's door. What is he doing?"

Love struggled to reply, "I...I'm sure he has a good..g..good reason. But the Ph..Pharisees can...can get angry over the sim...simplest things."

A cloud of dust in the street gradually appeared as more sandled feet drew near the home. The volume of chatter rose as voices added to the gathering of people; lawyers, merchants, lame, blind, wealthy, and the poor. All these and more: stretched, maneuvered, and coaxed to see or hear from the stranger.

"Hey, quit shoving!" Said a gruff voice in the street to another onlooker.

"Then get out of my way." A man leading a horse pulling a cart filled with dates, apples, and grapes shouted back.

"You two! Get along or I'll have you both in chains for disturbing the peace… or whatever fancies me." A burly soldier hollered as he steered his temper-mental stallion through the crowd. "That goes for all of you out here. Settle down or I'll send for Centurion Gladimus. He knows how to handle you Jews."

A nervous calm rested heavily on the crowd choking their thoughts like the dust burning in their lungs choked their breath.

"Persistence, can you see anything from the window?" asked Faith. "Can you see if Hope is coming out?"

"No, but I'll go upstairs. I should at least be able to see above this crowd." The short man replied smiling.

Suddenly Love yelled, "I s..s..see him coming out th..th..through the window..win..window! Look at hi..i..im sm..ile."

The heavyset tanner pushed his way through the crowd straightening out his cloak as he emerged. "It's Jesus alright. I saw Him!" Hope said excitedly as he entered his home, "He is simple enough looking, but it's His words, His presence. They drown you with their depth. Yet, lift you up as if resting on eagles wings."

"Then it must be true about Him." said Faith, "If we can get Need to Him, this Jesus can heal him. I know it in my heart!"

The others nodded in agreement and quickly left the apartment for the place where the paralytic would be resting. The men moved quickly through the streets and alleys startling some beggars as they rounded a corner. With each new turn the light seemed to dim until they came to where their friend spent many of his days.

"Look, there he is leaning against that wall." One of the men stated as he halted the others with his arm.

"N..N..Need, Hope has seen Je..J..Jesus and Faith be..be..believes He will heal you." Love stuttered with joy, "We want t…to t...take you to where he...where he is."

Startled at the men’s excitement Need answered. "Are you certain this man can heal? Do you really think He will?" The withering man then answered his own question as he lay on his wooden bed. "God's mercy is to good for the likes of me. Because of my sin, I was stricken years ago and I can no longer walk. I don't…" Guilt overwhelmed Need as he reminded himself of his past.

"Stop it!" Hope interrupted, "If this man has God’s virtue and mercy, let Him decide your worth. Let's go."

The small group quickly moved down the street toward the sound of many people. Even during the short time they had been gone the crowd continued to grow.

"Well, well." Came a sarcastic voice, "Just where do you men think you are taking this man of high esteem. Are you four his slaves?" The tax collector named Levi asked.

"We are taking our friend to see Jesus." replied Faith. "If we can get him to the Preacher, I’m certain he will heal him."

"Our God's mer..mercy is great." said Love. "Come wi..with us and He may t..touch all of our...all of our lives."

"Fools, that false prophet has no more authority to heal than He does to forgive the poor beggar you carry around." The mocking continued. "Why was I born to such a people? Why can't I be a Roman." The bitter man turned and walked away shaking his head. "You'll find yourselves worse off than before. There is no mercy in this pitiful country."

Hope turned to the crowd and walked up to a woman carrying a pot of water. "Please, let us through." He asked, "We are trying to see Jesus." Her face began to melt with compassion at the request and at seeing their attempt. Suddenly, a voice blared out.

"Don't let those fools in!" Shouted a familiar voice, "Let them wait like the rest of you Jews." The soldier peered from his horse in disgust and spat on the ground. Laughing, he turned his war-bred steed and continued to harass others in the ever-moving crowd.

"Hope, yell louder." said Persistence.
"Look, we are trying to get in to see Jesus. Please, let us through!" Hope shouted.

"Hope, maybe we can get him through without the pallet?" shouted Persistence. Quickly the men set down the pallet and began to lift Need.

"AHHH!" He winced in pain, "Please, not like that. It hurts my back."

Faith shouted, "Let's get out of this crowd. We can't get anywhere this way. Let's go over to that well."

When the group had settled near the pool of water Need said, "It's ok, I thank you for all you've done. I can't ask you to do any more." Lying on his bed a tear began to run down his dusty face creating a shiney ribbon that ran into his ear. “I don't know which hurts me more, the pain or the failure of my friend’s efforts.” He thought to himself.

Faith, Hope, and Love didn't know what else to do. They sat at the edge of the well and drew water to their mouths by cupping their hands.

Persistence nervously paced back and forth like an animal caged. Rubbing his hands together and glancing at the other three men he shouted in frustration. "There must be something we can do! How can we know if this Jesus will ever be here again? C'mon, help me pick Need up and let's go find some other way. Even if we have to make a way."

Around the back of the house where Jesus was, another crowd had gathered at the back door.

"Wi..Will you let us th..through?" Love shouted to the crowd. Only short angry glances were their reply.

"Faith," shouted Persistence pointing up to the roof, "up there. Let's go."

Up the stairway they carried Need. Some of the crowd began to point to the group trying to get the man up to the top of the building. Voices from below sounded faint.

Then someone on the street shouted, "You there, what are you doing? There is no way in from there." Then the crowd began to mock them.

Persistence turned his head and stopped. Looking at his friends he said, "Let's go."

On top of the roof it was nearly quiet and the bright sunlight reflected off the clay.

"It's hot.” Said Need. "Why are we up here?"

The four men sat. Exhaustion and frustration had joined the small party of men, while confusion began to speak to their hearts.

"Hey, look." Hope said, "this roof crumbles. We'd better get down."

Persistence lifted his head. "That's it. We'll go through the roof and lower Need down!"

"No!" The cripple exclaimed, "What if we fall through. We will look like fools and someone might get hurt."

"It will be fine my friend." replied Faith. "Persistence is right. We will lower you down with a rope right into the presence of the Teacher. He has to heal you."

Using what they found on the roof and their bear hands they began to chip away at the crumbled clay. But inside another sort of digging was occurring.

"Teacher, how is it you speak with great learning, yet come from a humble tradition of labor?" A Pharisee asked the traveler.

"I have been with the Father." He flatly stated.

A puzzled look formed on many of the faces in the home. Then another Pharisee began to speak. “Rabbi, what is it that you trying to … What is this? Does the sky fall even in a house when this man speaks?" The men began to laugh and then all attention was focused up to the wood and clay ceiling. Pounding and the sound of crumbling mortar resonated in the room filled by Jesus and the Jewish leaders.

"It seems my doorway is not good enough." Shechim said.

As the men continued to work on the roof, Jesus looked up. A thin shaft of light bore down on His face. His sharp features now brilliantly lit as if a stage spotlight had purposely been directed on Him. The occupants of the house were surprised by His expression. A smile as wide as the Sea of Galilee dominated His face as delight filled His soul at the men’s effort.

"Someone go up there and stop those fools." Shechem yelled.

Calmly, Jesus raised His hand showing His approval of the team on the roof.

Slowly, but with ever quickening pace, the doorway to Jesus was growing. It was as if the men had found a long-sought-after-treasure even though tired, they only felt renewed strength.

"That's enough!" Came a shout from the roof. "Need, we are going to lower you down. Hang on to the rope." As if the sun were being eclipsed, the light through the hole was blocked as the crippled form filled the new entrance.

“As I get closer to Him,” thought Need, “I feel refreshment; almost as if I am being dipped into a well if living water. My spirit seems more alive than when I was a child playing with my friends.” His breathing became deep and steady, not out of fear, but expectation. Then the dirt floor stopped him. The short trip seemed long, yet only moments had passed.

"What will He do?" Came a whisper from the crowded room.

"He still smiles. " Said another.

Then Jesus spoke, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."

The air in the room suddenly thickened with tension. No one said a thing, but their faces spoke loudly. Slowly, like the rising sun, anger began to permeate the room as the religious leaders repeated Jesus’ words silently to themselves. All but Jesus and the cripple seemed to be confused.

Then cutting the air with His words, Jesus spoke to those sitting in the home. "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier to say your sins are forgiven or to say get up and walk? But that you may know the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins..." He turned and spoke to the paralyzed man, "I tell you get up, take your mat and go to your house."

Need, no longer wanting, immediately arose and went out in front of them all. “I walk.” thought the man, “just like He commanded. It's as if I always have. Like no illness had ever stolen my legs.” Need picked up his bed and left the building while many in the crowd murmured in hushed voices.

Inside Shechem spoke, “Men, there is authority with this one we have not known for many years. We must be cautious.”

Outside, many in the crowd began to exclaim, "We have never seen anything like this. And look, Jesus is leaving as if nothing has happened. We have seen amazing things this day."

23 July 1999

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