Thursday, January 15, 2009

Through the Roof

Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.

                        Mark 2.4

Standing Room Only

Attracting multitudes has never been a problem for Jesus. From the earliest days of His ministry until now, His presence invariably has drawn standing-room-only crowds. If He’s there—or even rumored to be there—every imaginable type of person is bound to clamor after Him. It’s far from facetious to suggest there are as many reasons for this as there are people pushing and shoving to get close to Jesus. Some come sincerely. They earnestly seek His love, His healing, His wisdom, and His guidance. Some come curiously, wondering what compels others to be near Him. Selfish vanity brings some. They’re more interested in being identified with His crowd than identifying with His cause. And scorn for Christ urges some to show up. They’re there to dispute His every word and mock anyone who believes Him.

The validity of these and dozens of other reasons why Jesus is constantly surrounded are inconsequential. Being there is the thing, and when people land the closest possible spot to Him, there’s no moving them. This presents serious challenges for those who desperately need to reach Him. Inability to budge the genuine seekers, looky-loos, hangers-on, and nay-sayers—not to mention incapability to assess anyone’s real motives in the first place—often demands creative, unorthodox approaches to get to Christ. No better example of this exists than Mark 2’s account of a few men who refused to be marginalized by the crowd.

The Mother of Invention

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Plato wrote nearly 400 years before this incident. Yet what’s most moving here is the men’s inventiveness was born of another’s need. For all we know, they were able-bodied and might have squeezed into the crowd packed so tightly around Jesus, even though Mark insists, “There was no room left, not even outside the door.” These men, however, accompanied their friend, a paralytic whom four of them carried on a mat. Their urgent desire to take him to Jesus overpowered any logical concession that his condition made it impossible to navigate the crowd. It unleashed their courage to view the situation creatively. They climbed on top of the house, dug a hole directly above Jesus, and lowered their friend through the roof. According to Mark 2.5, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”

Faith for Others

Because of their faith Jesus healed their paralyzed friend. All of us have paralyzed friends and loved ones—people we deeply care for who lack the will, strength, and confidence to get to Christ on their own. We know people hobbled by poverty, prejudice, and destructive addictions. We know individuals in the GLBT community who are crippled by shame, insecurity, and religious hatred. We know Christians immobilized by legalism, guilt, and fear of punishment. It’s our responsibility to help them reach Jesus by any means necessary.

We shouldn’t expect the masses gathered around Him to step aside for our disabled friends. Social taboos—like those that stigmatized the lame, the blind, lepers, and other victims of disease in Christ’s day—will encourage many to dismiss our friends as unfit and undesirable. Indeed, our friends may even believe such things about themselves. Blocked entrances, turned backs, and stubborn intransigence should inspire more inventive solutions. We may have to rise above the crowd, break through barriers, and go through the roof. But once we succeed, Jesus honors our faith for others and makes them whole.

It's our responsibility to do whatever it takes to help friends who can't reach Jesus on their own.

(Tomorrow: Other Sheep)

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