I've heard today's Gospel about Jesus healing the paralytic plenty of times.
And I've always focused on the fact that Jesus told this guy his sins were forgiven before he physically healed him. When I was younger, I was as baffled by that as the scribes were. I've learned much since then (cough cough), but I still focused on that line because it always reminded me how much more important our spiritual health is vs our physical one.
However, today I saw this reading in a different light.
Today I saw great friendship.
The four gentleman who carried the paralytic are pretty much an afterthought as the focus of this story shifts from the sick man, to Jesus, to the scribes.
They are nameless, but what they did is pretty remarkable!
First, the fact that they even associated with the paralytic says a lot. Paralytics were looked down upon, and their sickness was viewed as a symptom of sin and punishment.
Second, instead of rushing to try and hear Jesus before the crowd got too big, they went and fetched their friend. That probably took real discipline. In addition, while we don't know how far they were from the house Jesus was at, carrying the man to it couldn't have been a walk in the park.
Third, when they got to the house and realized there was no chance of walking in through the door, they did not give up.
Fourth, while Mark mentions that these four men lowered their friend through the roof, he glosses over the chore that must have been! Assuming this was a typical Jewish house with an upper room and flat roof, there were probably stairs or a ladder already attached to the house. I'm not sure how you carry a paralyzed man up a ladder - or steps - even with help. But I'm guessing it wasn't easy.
Fifth, while the typical house probably had a door to enter and exit the roof area, its hard to tell from Mark (or Luke) if they had to make the hole larger by digging (if mud and thatch) or removing tiles. And even if Jesus was preaching from an upper room, lowering the paralytic down from the roof was yet another physical feat.
I wonder what their reaction was like after their friend was healed. I imagine it was a mix of great awe that they witnessed a miracle and great happiness that their friend was healed.
Did they hang around to listen to Jesus? Did they become followers? Spread the news? Or just go back to their normal lives, thanking the Lord for that day?
We'll never know.
But I do know that I need to find friends like them!