Best of Daily Reflections: Walking Around in the Skin of the Mat Carriers
Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, "Young man, your sins are forgiven."
This is the third reflection in a series of five focusing on Luke 5:17-26, the story of the healing of the paralyzed man. So far I've looked at this story by "walking around in the skin" of Jesus and the Pharisees. Today I want to consider the story from the perspective of the mat carriers.
We know very little about these men. All we know is that they carried a paralyzed man on a small bed or mat so that he might be healed by Jesus. But, when they came to the house in which Jesus was teaching, they discovered that it was terribly crowded. There was no way to carry the sick man before Jesus. But the bed carriers did not give up. Rather, they got onto the roof of the house, broke open the roof, and lowered the paralyzed man down before Jesus. The rest, as they say, is history.
We don't know anything about the relationship of the bed carriers and the paralyzed man. Were they relatives? Friends? Neighbors? What we do know, at first, is that these men were willing to be inconvenienced because they cared about a sick man. They felt compassion for him and wanted him to be healed.
I can imagine their initial disappointment when they were unable to bring the man before Jesus. I wonder which of the men suggested the "break in through the roof" approach. I'd love to have heard that conversation. "I know, let's go up and make a hole in the roof and let him down." "A hole in the roof? Are you crazy? We could get in a heap of trouble for that. We can't break somebody's house." "But this is the only way. We have to do it." In the end, all of the bed carriers were willing to put their own necks on the line to help a needy man. Now that's some boldness . . . and faith.
The men who carried the bed had such faith in Jesus that they were willing to risk trouble and embarrassment for the chance of helping the paralytic to be healed. It's striking to me that verse 20 notes that Jesus saw "their faith." What he actually saw, of course, was their audacious act of breaking into a house and lowering a man on a mat. Faith took the form of bold action. It involved taking big risks.
The example of the bed carriers challenges me in two ways. First, it dares me to examine my own compassion. Would I have carried the bed? Or would I have been too busy to put myself out for a man in need? Do I have compassion for the needy people in my life and my world? Am I willing to be inconvenienced for them?
Second, I am challenged to consider my faith. Am I willing to do something risky for Jesus? Do I ever risk looking foolish for the sake of his kingdom work? If the Lord called me to step out in courageous, even outlandish faith, what would I do?
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: And what about you? Are you compassionate for people in need such that you're willing to be put out for them? Has your care for someone in need of God's help ever led you to act in a way you wouldn't have acted otherwise? And what about your faith? What have you risked because you trust in Jesus? What might he be asking you to risk today?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, I thank you for those who carried the bed in this story. Though I know so little about them, I can sense their extraordinary compassion and bold faith. Their example encourages and challenges me.
Who are the people for whom I need to be compassionate today? And what should I do to act on my care for them? Give me a tender heart, Lord, a heart that feels the pain of those around me and is moved by their need.
Also, I ask for courageous faith. As you know, I am not one who would be likely to break through the roof. I'd be too worried about getting in trouble and, mostly, about looking silly. May your Spirit help me to have such confidence in you, Lord, that I step out in risky faith to fulfill your purposes for me. Amen.