Feb. 25, 2013
After a few days, Jesus went back to Capernaum, and people heard that he was at home. So many gathered that there was no longer space, not even near the door. Jesus was speaking the word to them. Some people arrived, and four of them were bringing to him a man who was paralyzed. They couldn’t carry him through the crowd, so they tore off part of the roof above where Jesus was. When they had made an opening, they lowered the mat on which the paralyzed man was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven!”
A significant part of Jesus’ ministry was healing people. He healed hundreds of people, maybe thousands. In this healing story, Jesus is probably at Simon Peter’s house. The house wasn’t big. Yet it is packed with people wanting to see, be with or be healed by Jesus. A band of brothers have a friend who is paralyzed. The buddies want Jesus to heal him. They load him up on a stretcher and go to the house Jesus is. One small problem: they can’t get near the door.
These guys don’t shrug their shoulders, turn around and wait for another day. They get creative. First century Jewish homes often had flat roofs, commonly used as a patio. The guys scramble up the stairs going to the roof with their paralyzed buddy. I imagine the guys contemplating where Jesus most likely was sitting. “Here goes!” says one as he begins digging through the mud and thatch roof.
Those inside the house soon felt silt in the air, then mud clumps dropping on the floor. Peaks of light poked through the growing roof hole. I envision Peter questioning what is going on. Jesus holds him back.
When the hole is big enough, the four friends lower their ill friend into the house with ropes. Immediately, Jesus proclaims the man as healed. What a miracle!
The story’s surprise is that the ill man does not get healed because he had a deep, resounding faith in Jesus. No, Jesus was impressed with the faith of the band of brothers, his four stretcher-barriers. The ill man is healed only because four friends had faith and dug a hole in the roof.
Who are your stretcher-barriers? Who are the four people you can call at 2 AM when something in your world falls apart? Do you even have four stretcher-barriers? Unfortunately, most of us do not. We all need stretcher-barriers, friends, whose faith gets us through times when our faith is maybe not strong enough. When our faith falters, our stretcher-barrier friend’s faith will carry us through and even lower us before the Lord.
What is the best way to get stretcher-barrier friends? Be a stretcher-barrier to someone else, unrecruited, unsolicited. Think of four people you can help carry right now. What can you do this week to reach out to them and be their stretcher-barrier?
How important community was to Jesus. He never expects us to explore and live this spiritual journey alone which is exactly why he wants us to understand just how important stretcher-barriers are. May we chose to be a stretcher-barrier to someone who needs one this week. Amen.