July 9, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 5:18-19 (NRSV)
Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus.
For the context for this passage, read Luke 5:17-27.
Following Jesus isn’t safe. If we’re going to follow Jesus today, we will inevitably take risks. We may put at risk our comfort, reputation, safety, or financial security. Yet, the more we trust Jesus and pay attention to him, the more we will be empowered to take risks for the sake of his kingdom and for the people he has entrusted to our care.
This devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
If, like me, you grew up going to Sunday School, then you are surely familiar with the story on which we are focusing today. But if you’re familiar with this story, you may miss one of the things it teaches us about following Jesus. I’m hoping that today’s Life for Leaders devotion may help you to see things in a new light.
The basic story goes like this: Jesus was teaching and healing in some sort of building, probably a home. Quite a crowd had gathered, including many Jewish teachers. Some men brought a paralyzed man on a bed so that Jesus might heal him, but the crowd kept them away. So, the men went up on the roof, removed a good portion of the roof, and lowered the paralyzed man down before Jesus. Seeing the faith of the men on the roof, Jesus forgave the sins of the paralyzed man. This enraged the Jewish teachers who believed that only God could forgive sins. Jesus explained that he, as the Son of Man, had authority to forgive sins. He proved the point by telling the paralyzed man to get up and go home, which he promptly did. The crowd marveled, glorifying God and saying, “We have seen strange things today” (Luke 5:26).
When I have preached on this passage, I have focused on the faith of the men who lowered their friend before Jesus. I have also talked about the significance of Jesus’s claim to have authority to forgive sins. Today, however, I want to reflect with you on the risk taken by the men who carried the bed. It was a big one!
Don’t you wish you could have heard their conversation? When they realized that there was no way they could gain access to Jesus, I imagine one of them saying, “Oh, this won’t work. Maybe we should wait until later.” Another might have said, “Hey, why don’t we ask people to make room for us.” Still another added, “That won’t work. But we could get on the roof, make a big hole, and let the bed down right in front of Jesus.” The first speaker might have responded, “Are you crazy? We can’t get up on the roof with this bed. And there’s no way we can make a hole in somebody’s roof. We’d get in serious trouble.” But, as they talked, they were reminded of just how much they wanted their friend to be healed. They believed this really was their only chance. So they decided to climb onto the roof and break it, making a hole large enough for the bed.
Unfortunately, Luke doesn’t tell us what happened while these men were creating the hole in the roof. It’s not hard to imagine, however, what they might have been hearing from the crowd: “What are you guys doing? Are you crazy? You can’t break Levi’s house! That’s illegal . . . and stupid. You’re interrupting the teacher. You’re cutting in line. You guys are going to be in such trouble.” Still, the men opened up the roof and lowered their friend right in front of Jesus.
What did these men risk? Many things. They risked their reputation. If their scheme didn’t work, they’d become the laughingstock of their town. They risked serious legal trouble by damaging someone’s home. Would they be arrested? Would they be sued? They risked Jesus’s ire, since they interrupted his teaching in a major way. They risked the ire of the people who had gathered to be healed but we’re stuck in the back of the crowd. And, of course, they risked the possibility that, after all that they had done, their friend would not be healed.
In Monday’s devotion I want to consider what in the world motivated these bed-carrying men to take such risks. Today, I want to suggest that if you and I are going to follow Jesus, we will need to take major risks as well. No, I’m not envisioning you making a hole in somebody’s roof. But I am thinking about other risks you might take as you follow Jesus. You may run the risk of having people at work think you’re a religious nut. You may put yourself in places where you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. You may have a smaller nest egg for your future because of your generosity. You may put your professional reputation on the line because you believe God wants you to lead a startup. You may risk the unhappiness of your coworkers when you ask them not to make jokes that disrespect or objectify others. Or . . . you name it.
In light of the risk-taking of the people in our story, please consider the following questions.
If you had been one of the bed-carrying men, how might you have dealt with the problem of “no access” to Jesus?
In general, are you someone who takes risks? Or do you tend to choose that which is safe, predictable, and secure? Why are you this way?
Have you ever taken a risk because you are a follower of Jesus? When? What was it? How did it turn out? Or, how is it turning out now?
With your small group or a wise friend, talk about risk taking and faith. As you talk, try to discern whether Jesus is calling you to take a risk today?
Lord Jesus, thank you for the boldness of the bed-carrying men. Thank you for their willingness to take a risk for the sake of their friend. Thank you for responding to their daring by acknowledging their faith and healing the paralyzed man.
Lord, as you know, I’m not particularly fond of risk taking, to say the least. I prefer what is predictable, safe, and secure. But I do want to follow you faithfully. So, I pray that when it is time for me to take a risk for your sake, you will give me the boldness I need. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: 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.