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A few things to understand before we listen to the Scripture:
Those who lived in the time of Jesus believed certain things about sickness and faith…
According to the Bible, sickness came through Adam’s sin… So sickness was not God’s intention for us…Sickness and disease were considered part of the curse of the law according to Deuteronomy.
So in Jesus day, if you were a Jew, you believed that if someone was ill, it meant that he or she had sinned in some way to cause the illness. Sickness was often regarded as a judgment from God…
Sickness, then, represented sin… and healing represented forgiveness. So, in the text, when you hear Jesus say, “Your sins are forgiven you”… this is opens the way for healing to happen…
Also, if someone was the instrument of healing, it signified that he was sent from God, for only God heals.
No wonder people were amazed… listen to the story that amazed them. Listen for the strange and amazing things the Lord is doing in this story and listen to what amazed Jesus … as we listen to Luke’s story:
Read Luke 5:17- 26
With friends like these…you know the rest… who needs enemies? I wonder if Jesus felt that way when the religious leaders and scholars gathered around him watching his every move and word, checking him out… waiting for him to make a mistake.
Luke says they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and even as far away as Jerusalem to be there.
They must have looked on with great curiosity when they saw the men carrying their paralyzed man on a mat… trying to break through the crowd to get to Jesus—the great healer… looking for a way to get into the house where Jesus was teaching… climbing to the roof of the house… removing some tiles and letting him down in the middle of the room.
I don’t know if the leaders and scholars were impressed… but Jesus was impressed! Impressed by their bold faith. So impressed he immediately says, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”
Can you imagine how his friends felt… for if sin was a condition that led to sickness… Jesus was removing the problem and opening the way for healing to take place.
Jesus had taken pity on this man… and not because of HIS faith but because of THEIR faith.
Everyone was amazed… well, almost everyone. The religious leaders and scholars were too busy looking for fault to be amazed… standing by and playing the role of critic—while not even lifting a hand to help the poor paraplegic.
No, they were not interested in healing anyone, nor did they care that forgiveness was shared… All they cared about was finding fault with Jesus and what he was doing: “Who does he think he is? Who speaks such blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
So there they stand, these “friends of God”… the leaders and scholars… confronted with enormous pain… a man who cannot walk… a person seeking release from all that is binding him… and seeing friends come to his rescue bringing him to the one who rescues us all… What do they do? Analyze and blame. Play the role of the cynic. I can just see their cynical postings on Facebook now!
I mean, “With friends like these…really… who needs enemies?…”
Of course, there is another way to look at this story, don’t you think?
“With friends like these—these being the friends of the paralytic… friends with faith… With friends like these… God’s grace abounds!”
I have no doubt that given the chance, those friends would have signed up for CaringBridge to post the progress of their friend. They would make it clear that their friend is not going through his paralysis alone.
Sharon and I have a friend Bruce from our previous church who was in a cycling accident around Thanksgiving. He was on a trail and flipped over his handlebars. At first they weren’t sure he would make it. He is now paralyzed from the waist down going through rehab at the Carolinas Medical Center. Every day on Caringbridge his wife posts Bruce’s progress and there has been good progress. I was especially struck by the posting on New Year ’s Eve.
It was the tradition for Bruce and Michelle to gather with friends from the church- Beth, Frank, Cathy and Tom, for games on New years’ eve. That didn’t seem like it would happen this year. Wrong! They all gathered for a New Year’s Eve game night in the hospital just to be with Bruce. One thing you know, Bruce has good friends with love and faith. Bruce is not alone… he has friends who are standing by him and with him through thick and thin.
So did that paralytic. His friends were standing by him, and in some way bearing the pain and paralysis of their friend who cannot walk. His friends want to see him healed.
So when they hear Jesus is in town—they pick up their friend hoping to take him to the one known to heal the sick… and they won’t let anyone or anything get in their way.
And Jesus is impressed. Impressed by their faith—filled with love… put into action. Faith that led them to the one who would forgive and possibly heal their friend.
Everyone should have friends like these. Willing to stand by you and put their love and faith into action… a love and faith that leads to healing and hope.
I wonder who you identify with in this story.Have you ever been the critic and cynic who sits by and analyzes and blames those who are doing good? If you have (and who hasn’t?)–realize it may be your way of managing a guilty conscience. It’s easier to sit on the sidelines and judge than to actually get in the game.
Have you ever been the paralytic and been carried by friends—physically, emotionally or spiritually when you could not carry yourself? If so, count yourself blessed.
Perhaps you have been the one who is the friend who decides the proper response to pain and suffering is to stand with the person and be a means of God’s grace in their lives.
Clearly what Jesus is hoping this is one of the lessons the crowds and disciples will take away that day.
For if we have friends like these, we will be blessed… (even if we are not always cured) we will be healed… and if we are friends like these… we will be a blessing beyond our understanding..
As we return from Guatemala again, I can’t help but think of what a huge blessing your friendship has meant in the lives of our friends in Pala’. I wish every one of you could go and see it first hand.
Whether you packed a meal in December with Stop Hunger Now… (I saw these boxes being carried in the village) or have been sponsoring a student with a scholarship… or donating a musical instrument (you should have heard them playing “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” on the recorders) or even praying (and they do not take praying for granted… almost every one of them says to me, “remember me or us in our prayers”)…
You are being a friend. And your friendship is transforming their lives.
Let me just tell you two stories of friendship… that was amazing to me… though our team could tell you more.
One day, I’m taking a walk outside the village with Patty (our translator), Virginia and Karen being led by a little boy—William who looks like he is 7 years old but is 11. We are going to see the fields.As we are walking, he asks about Chris and Kelly Catlett who had gone in August. He started asking about them and telling me that he wished they were there. Why didn’t they come? We explained Chris had to work. They are his friends. He remembered the candy Chris had shared and the time spent (I’m guessing on the soccer field).
I asked William to write a letter to them and this is what he wrote. He had really connected with Chris:
Hello Chris. I am William your friend. Why did you not come this time? I think your job did not let you get time off to come to Guatemala. There is not much new but I am very sad because I have not seen you for many months and I hope you come back soon with your wife. God bless you.”
One simple trip created a friendship that makes a difference in William’s life.My other story comes from Patty Snow who was in a meeting with the university students.
They were interviewing the students about their experiences in school this year. Catarina, who the Segrettis’ have sponsored for several years was there. She is studying to be a nurse and shared her experience about working in the National Hospital in Antigua for 1.5 months as part of her education. This is a big event in her life. She is a Mayan country girl from the sticks who has traveled to this tourist destination of sophistication. (Culture shock) Think of West Virginia girl from the hills heads to Raleigh!
During her time in Antigua she worked in the Intensive care and Trauma units of the hospital. She helped patients by bathing them, helping them to the bathroom, etc…
She said it was hard work but she ended up having the highest grade with an average of 91—the best of all the nursing students! Her professor congratulated her and told her that she was surprised. After all, Caterina was an Mayan who come from people who have little or no education. When Caterina began the year, her professor thought Caterina would not eve3n be able to finish the school year. And now, she is at the top of her class.”
The friendship and support of the Segretti’s and people like Patty and Carol have changed Caterina’s life…
That’s just another example of how your friendship has been a means by which lives have been changed. (Of how people with little hope now live with great hope)
I would even go further and tell you that your friendship and support is a means by which Christ is able to heal and transform lives. Remember, it was the faith of the friends and the action of the friends that led to healing in our story. An amazing thing indeed!
It has not been lost on me that during this season of Epiphany, we are called to share the light and love of God with all people… to take share the light of Christ with those living in darkness. Sometimes I think that means just looking in the right place and being a good friend…
May God bless us with good friends with deep faith and may we also be those friends of faith… so that we too may be a means of God’s amazing grace in the lives of others. Amen.