Mark Chapter 2: vs 1-12
We all have friends don’t we – friends we have made throughout every stage of our lives – at school, church, during our careers and socially. Kath and I have been friends since we were little girls together in Sunday School; Liz and I met when we were teenagers. Friends are people we like to spend time with and we know we can rely on, we may do different things with different friends who share similar interests, but do any of you have what I call “twenty four – seven friends”? Friends you can call on any time day or night in a time of need, I feel blessed because I do, and living on my own that is a great source of comfort to me knowing there is always someone there for me.
The paralysed man in our Gospel reading this morning had four very good friends, who when they heard that Jesus was in Capernaum made plans to take their friend to see Jesus in the hope that he could be healed.
I have picked four words out of this reading which I think are important: as well as friendship there is also hope, trust and faith, I know there is also forgiveness but this morning I want to concentrate on the other four.
If we look at each one a little more closely, we can see that the friends of the paralysed man had hope, hope that by taking him to see Jesus that he might be healed. They hoped that they would be successful in their endeavours.
The paralysed man had to put his trust in his friends, he trusted that they would take care of him. If we think about it he had probably not been out of his own home for some considerable time, the journey would probably be uncomfortable for him, and he was going to be the centre of attention, something he wouldn’t have been used to. He may even have been a little scared or apprehensive about making the journey.
Upon arriving at the house where Jesus was speaking it was so crowded the friends could not get inside. They must have had discussions about what to do next; but they did not give up hope, they had to find another way, so they decided to take their friend up on to the roof. The paralyzed man would have needed to put his trust in them for a second time, after all they were not professional stretcher bearers or modern day paramedics. They were just four men taking their friend, who was lying on a mat on which he was probably crudely tied, up on to the roof, using the ladder at the side of the house. A ladder most homeowners in that area used to get up on the roof, where, when it was too hot they would probably sleep or socialise.
I can remember when I was working going on Management Courses where we had to learn to put our trust in others. On one occasion I was blindfolded and being led by someone giving me only verbal directions – scary. Another time abseiling down a viaduct and having to put my trust in the person holding the other end of the rope – that too was scary but it was also a real adrenalin rush.
When the men finally got upon to the roof they still couldn’t attract Jesus’ attention, so they made a hole in the roof. I wonder how the home owner reacted, we are not told that are we? I don’t think I would appreciate anyone making a hole in my roof or ceiling whatever the reason.
Jesus looks up and sees the men, but he sees more than the men, Jesus sees their faith and this is what makes the healing possible, the paralysed man is a beneficiary of the faith of his friends. Their faith is rewarded because without their confidence and boldness their friend would not have been lowered down for Jesus to be able to heal him, and Jesus always rewards faith that persists in the face of obstacles.
Faith opens a door to a living and loving relationship with God through Jesus if we just put our trust in him.
The paralysed man and his friends all had hope, trust and faith in one another all born out of friendship.
Preacher Joseph Scriven in 1855 wrote a poem for his mother who lived in Ireland, hopefully bring her some comfort whilst he was away in Canada. It was later set to music by Charles Crozat Converse. It became my favourite hymn as a child and one I loved to sing in Sunday School. Had we been in Church this morning I am sure we would have sung it – the hymn is “What a friend we have in Jesus”.
We can have many friends throughout our lives, some we may lose contact with through no fault of our own. There are others we meet back up with after many years of separation, as happened to me when I returned to worship at Sale. There is also someone I heard from again during this past year after almost forty years. But there is a line in verse two of the hymn that I feel not only sums up our gospel reading this morning but also tells us no matter wherever we are and whatever we are doing, we have one true friend, and one I consider to be one of my “twenty four seven” friends, who will never forsake us, and that line is – “Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share?” Can we, can we honestly find a truer friend? I don’t think so. Amen