The sun is pounding down on my broken body. I close my eyes to keep away its sharp light, and fight down the nausea as my friends jostle my stretcher through the crowd.
“We’re almost there Eldad.” I hear the concern in Dan’s voice, and try to give a reassuring smile.
“Make way please,” he shouts. “Paralysed man coming through.”
“Hey,” a deep voice growls, “we’re all trying to see the Rabbi here. You can’t just push in like that.”
“Yes. Wait your turn,” other voices chorus, and I catch glimpses of scowling faces as I open my eyes again.
“This is hopeless,” Amos whispers. “We’ll never get into that house.”
“Let’s just go,” I say. “Maybe the Rabbi will come back another day.” Or maybe not. This whole hare-brained plan had been Dan and Amos’s. A Rabbi who could heal? From the beginning, it sounded too good to be true. When every doctor in Capernaum had called me a hopeless case, what could one little Rabbi do for me?
“No!” Dan says. “We’ll get you to the Rabbi, even if we have to dig our way to him.”
“Dig? Like a tunnel, you mean?” Shaul sounds tired. Of all my bearers, he is the youngest and weakest. My weight must be wearing him out.
“Forget it everyone. You can’t carry me much longer.” I look pleadingly at Dan. All I want to do is go home to the shade, and the quiet. But Dan’s face breaks into a sudden smile.
“Dig. That’s it! I’ve got a plan boys. Come!”
They carry me away from the crowd, to the back of the house, and up a small staircase leading to the roof. Here they set me down, and Dan lifts me up slightly to give me a drink from his water skin.
“Dan,” I whisper. “Are you sure about this? Do you really think this Rabbi can heal me?”
“I know he can, Eldad.” Like the water trickling into my mouth, his earnest words trickle hope into my soul.
I turn my head, and watch them attack the clay roof. It’s not too long before they have an opening large enough to slide my stretcher through at an angle. There are shouts from below and hands reaching out to take hold of me. I feel like I’m falling. It’s bumpy and frightening, but I keep my eyes on Dan’s face, until a sea of strange faces blots it out.
The people are moving away and one man’s face comes into view. He drops to his knees by my side, and suddenly I am not afraid anymore. It’s the Rabbi, his eyes full of light and joy, and in that moment I know that Dan and Amos were right to believe in him.
He looks up at the hole in the roof, from which my friends are peering anxiously, and smiles. His gaze finally returns to me, searching and sorrowful. I don’t know how, but I know then that he sees all my brokenness—not just my body, but my heart too—and a wave of shame washes over me.
Then he speaks. “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Five words—a mere five words. Yet their power pierces into me like a sword, slashing away at the cords of guilt and shame wound tightly around my heart. My soul leaps up with joy.
I almost miss the Rabbi’s next words, spoken to the Pharisees standing near him. “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say ‘Get up, take your mat and walk?” But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…”
He turns back to me and now his eyes sparkle with child-like delight. “Get up, take your mat and go home.”
So sure. So confident. As if fifteen years of lifeless legs are nothing but a trifling inconvenience. I hesitate, but he takes my hand and starts pulling me up, and as he does so, I feel life pulsing through my dead legs again. He lets go of my hand. I’m standing…taking a step…then another.
The hushed gasps of the crowd grow into a pulsing roar. I look up, and it’s Dan’s tear-stained face I see first. Then I look back at the Rabbi. Proud as a parent watching his child’s first steps, he pulls me into a joyful embrace.
And it’s the strangest thing, but I feel like that child in his father’s arms.
Of all the accounts in the Bible, this might just be my favourite. I remember, as a child, being rather worried about what the owner of the house thought of his wrecked roof. Now the story speaks to me of friendship. Mark 2 v 5 says, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.” It wasn’t the man’s faith, but the friends’ faith that made the difference. At times, our brokenness and despair keep us from Jesus. It is then that we need friends to carry us—to pray for us, encourage us and draw us back to Him. When those around us are in need, we must be more than faithful friends, we must be faith-filled friends too. We need to lay them at Jesus’ feet, even if it means wrecking a few roofs.
This account is found in Mark 2:1-12.