While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”
Mark 2: 1 – 5, New Living Translation
Twelve men from Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church stole away last weekend for our annual Men’s Retreat. Most of us were rooting for some snow so we could properly call it a Winter Retreat. By the time we crossed Route 84 in central Pennsylvania, we saw some snow on the ground—slick with a slippery, frozen coat. It was cold enough to freeze a millpond behind Tim Sager’s house.
It was a very good weekend and the reason that it was is that we experienced fellowship. What is fellowship? It is hanging together while hanging out over meals, a hike, and a field trip to Sky Top Lodge and watching the film “Hacksaw Ridge”. Fellowship was found around the tables as we feasted on delicious, rich, guy-food: lots of protein and carbs. Fellowship was discovered as we sat and read God’s Word together.
On Saturday evening, we read the whole story from Mark 2. I’ve included a few verses above. This incident occurred early in Jesus’ ministry. He had just started preaching, teaching and healing. Almost immediately the crowds noticed Him. In a small house in Capernaum, a tiny fishing village on the north shore of the Lake of Galilee, Jesus taught one morning and kept on going all day. The house was packed. Imagine 100 people wedged into a space the size of a garage.
A group of guys heard that Jesus is in town. They had a friend who was paralyzed and these friends figured that Jesus could help their buddy. They threw their immovable friend on a make-shift stretcher and carry him to the house. They never got closer than twenty yards before they ran into all the people who couldn’t fit in the house but were straining to hear whatever they can from Jesus. The four friends were fisherman: big, strong, and young. With a “pardon me, excuse me” they pushed through the people to the outside staircase. They marched right up to the flat roof. Figuring Jesus had to be somewhere down there; they opened a hole in the roof. Branches and bits of dried mud fell down into the living room where Jesus sat and taught. Flecks of earth covered His hair. Then He stopped speaking, looked up and watched with a growing smile, a man get lowered in front of him. I like to imagine that the paralyzed guy looked over and got a face-full of Jesus. The Son of God looked up at his buddies holding the rope, saw their crazy faith and then healed the man, first on the inside and then on the outside.
Four men were holding him. Don’t you need at least four people to “hold” you? Are there at least four friends who hold you in prayer; hold you accountable and carry you when you have lost strength? This account suggests that we can even carry someone with a faith that they don’t have. I am convinced that we surely need at least four people to help us carry the stuff we tend to carry along. Robert Benson makes this point when he writes, “The things we carry around with us—unsaid, unacknowledged, unconfessed—the amount of stuff we insist on carrying around with us in that little sack on our shoulders is killing us. It is killing us literally and figuratively, spiritually and emotionally, quietly and surely.”
In Lent this year, we’re offering opportunities for everyone in our congregation to join a small group for the six weeks leading up to Easter. We’re going to use a study called Finding Your Way Back to God. Starting Sunday, February 12th, stop by the Lenten Small Group table in Fellowship Hall during both coffee hours and join a group to find your four.