"One day as He was teaching, Pharisees and religion teachers were sitting around. They had come from nearly every village in Galilee and Judea, even as far away as Jerusalem, to be there. Some men arrived carrying a paraplegic on a stretcher. They were looking for a way to get into the house and set him before Jesus. When they couldn't find a way in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof, removed some tiles, and let him down in the middle of everyone, right in front of Jesus. Impressed by their bold belief, He said, 'Friend, I forgive your sins.'" Luke 5:17-20 (The Message).
Talk about initiative! These men were certainly determined to get their friend to Jesus.
How big was the house? A normal family home could not have been big enough to host fifty or a hundred people even if they squashed into every room. And it was full of scribes and Pharisees. What an elite congregation Jesus had that day from all over Israel, so Luke tells us! This rabbi must have caused quite a stir in the land -- without Twitter and Facebook!
The men with the sick friend weren't concerned about who was in the congregation. They had a mission -- to get their friend to Jesus. He needed a miracle and there was no one better than Jesus to do it. There was no way they could get him through the door and past all the people, but a flat-roofed house and the roof conveniently accessible by an outside staircase was all they needed to carry out their plan.
Imagine the surprise and consternation when pieces of the roof began falling on the crowd inside. Then some faces appeared and next a man suspended on a mat. The hole in the roof must have been quite big to allow them to manoeuvre a paralysed man on a sleeping mat through.
Of course the people made way for him then. They didn't want him coming down on their heads! Talk about determination! If the crowd would not make space for him from below, they certainly would from above. Nothing was too big an obstacle for them even to ripping up the roof. That could always be repaired but Jesus might move on and their opportunity might have been lost.
What went through Jesus' mind as the man was slowly lowered to the ground in front of Him? Was He amused? He certainly was impressed, according to Luke. Jesus, impressed? God, impressed? Is there anything that humans can do to impress God? It seems that the answer is 'Yes".
There was one thing that impressed Jesus, many times over -- faith. He even categorised faith; no faith; little faith; great faith and such great faith. Why was faith such a big deal to Him? What else is there that links people to an unseen God and gets such a lavish response from Him? "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." Hebrews 11:6 (NIV). It's quite understandable really. If you don't trust me, why should I do anything for you?
But what is more surprising is that Jesus responded to the faith of the friends. Can one person believe for another? Of course! Don't we do that all the time when we pray for others; otherwise what's the point?
There's something beautiful about believing for others. It’s part of the way God works. Every time we reach out to someone else, be it through prayer or helping in some way, we create a current that comes back to us. It's one of those laws that God has built into the very fabric of human life.
Jesus put it like this: "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:38 (NIV).
It's what I call "boomerang blessing."
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