The story begins with Jesus is at his home in Capernum. His reputation has grown to the point, that when people hear that he is around, they come to him, bringing their sick or just to hear his words. In this story the people are filling his doorway and spilling out onto the street. They are tightly packed together, all eager, all desperate.
In another part of the town, four friends gather around the bed of their sick friend. They have heard of Jesus, they know that he is in Capernum. They have faith that he can help. Each grabbing onto a corner of the sick man’s sleeping mat, they carry him out to the street and toward Jesus’ home. When they arrive there they find the street packed with people. There is no way to make their way through to Jesus with their friend. They try to figure out a way to get to Jesus and they come up with a desperate plan.
In Jesus’ time homes had flat roofs. They consisted of overlapping sticks that were laid on the beams. They were then covered with hard packed clay. With the first rain, the clay absorbed the water and made a waterproof roof. The roof of the house was like another level for the house. People would gather on the roof for quiet time. In the hot season, people would often sleep on the roof. There was often an outside set of stairs to the roof.
The friends decide to carry their friend up onto the roof. They dig through the hard-packed clay and then removed the sticks. They then carefully lower their friend down to Jesus through the hole that they have made. Jesus is impressed by the faith of the man’s friends, that they would go to such lengths to get the man to him, so sure were they that he could help their friend.
Jesus did two things for the man. First he forgave the man for all of the things that he had ever done. Second he told the man to pick up his mat and walk. Tentatively, then joyfully the man stood, rolled up his mat and walked out praising and thanking God. The crowd was amazed.
We believe that God can make people better when we ask, just as he did for the sick man in our story. Sometimes those prayers are answered right away, sometimes in God’s time. Sometimes it can seem as though God doesn’t listen to us, and perhaps the person we are praying for doesn’t get well.
God has promised that one day all pain and suffering will be no more. God has the power to make us well on the inside as well, by forgiving our sins. Prayer is one way that we bring our friends to Jesus when they are sick. Sharing our story of the times that our faith has helped us through rough times is another way. Another way is by learning about God and strengthening our own faith not only helps us on our faith journey, but can help us, help others on theirs.