August 29, 2019 • Life for Leaders
Some men came, bringing to [Jesus] a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Mark 2:1-12 paints a powerful picture of how you and I can care for the people in our lives who are suffering. This story begins with Jesus preaching in a house in Capernaum. His popularity has grown to the place where the crowd exceeded standing room only. People were even jammed outside of the door, trying desperately to hear Jesus.
Four men approached the house, carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing that there was no obvious way for them to get their friend to Jesus because of the crowd, they carried him up onto the roof and dug a hole right through it. Roofs, in Capernaum, were made of branches and dried mud, so it would have been possible but not easy to dig through the roof. When the opening in the roof was large enough, they lowered the paralyzed man down in front of Jesus. He did not rebuke the men who had temporarily ruined the roof. Rather, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” (12:5). This unexpected response led to a debate between Jesus and the Jewish leaders there about the authority to forgive sins. Jesus, as the Son of Man, claimed such authority, and proved his point by healing the paralyzed man.
Every time I read this story, I’m impressed by the men who carried the mat of their ailing friend. They showed exceptional kindness in the act of carrying. But then, they went way beyond kindness to boldness. They had no way of knowing in advance how Jesus would respond to their brash destruction of private property. They did know that they might get into a heap of trouble with the owner of the house. Yet, out of a committed concern for their paralyzed friend, these men risked plenty in order to present him to Jesus.
Their action mattered, not only to the paralytic, but also to Jesus. Mark tells us that when Jesus saw “their faith,” he acted to forgive and ultimately to heal the man. We don’t even know what the paralyzed man thought about Jesus. But we do know that the faith of his friends counted with Jesus, and led to the man’s restoration.
You and I have the privilege, indeed, the calling, of being mat carriers. We do so by reaching out to those in need, kindly and even boldly. We do so when we pray for people with faithful persistence. We are mat carriers when, through word and deed, we help people get to the one who is the true healer and Savior. And we can even be mat carriers in our workplace. We’ll work on this last possibility more tomorrow. For now, let me encourage you to consider the following questions.
Something to Think About:
Who in your life needs you to be a mat carrier today? For whom can you pray with extra boldness? Whom can you help to have an encounter with Jesus?
How might you be a mat carrier in your workplace?
Gracious God, thank you for this tender and rich story. Thank you for the faithfulness of the mat carriers. Thank you for their example of persistence and boldness in bringing their friend before Jesus.
Help me, dear Lord, to be a mat carrier for the people in my life: at home, at work, at church, in my community, and beyond. Give me eyes to see their need and a heart willing to reach out to them. Help me to be faithful in bringing people’s needs before you in prayer. Grant me the courage to “dig holes in roofs” in order to help people experience your love and grace.
Show me, even today, someone for whom I can be a mat carrier. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: The Paralytic Man: Mark 2:1-12
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.