A Friend of Biblical Proportions

This week, I was reading to my kids from their Bible. The deal is that my son Judah picks a story (usually it’s David & Goliath or Jonah & the whale) and then I pick a story. After we finished reading about David, we turned to the new testament and landed on the story of the four men who helped their paralyzed friend get to Jesus to be healed. Here’s the straight out of the Bible, adult version, of the story:

“Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven… I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ Immediately, he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God.” Luke 5: 18-20, 24b-25

We read through the story and talked about the fun picture next to it. Judah answered the questions at the end of it and we recapped all that had happened. How Jesus not only healed the man but forgave him of his sins. How the house must have been so crowded and full and how that would have felt and sounded. How the man couldn’t move his fingers or toes or run or wave goodbye that is, until He met Jesus. How his friends must have really loved him to carry him all that way, up to the roof and all.

Our day went on but I couldn’t stop thinking about those friends. I couldn’t stop picturing their muscles straining under the weight of the man on the mat, under the weight of their friend’s problem. I could almost sense the disappointment they felt when they finally arrived at the house only to find that they couldn’t even wedge their way inside. I pictured them figuring out a way to hoist themselves and his immovable body up onto the roof of the house, their faces lined with sweat but their eyes the definition of determination.

I pictured those friends on that day, willing to pull apart a roof, tile by tile, until they could fit their buddy down through the whole. I wondered how they knew how to get him right smack dab in front of Jesus with no space or hope to spare. Then I pictured what they must have looked like and felt like and sounded like when they walked out with him, the mat and all that it represented rolled up underneath their arms.

I wish I could have seen their faces and heard their praises. I wish I could have looked inside their hearts and seen the man within dancing for the first time, just like the friend now walking right beside them.

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I was so struck by these men, the ones that carried and lowered and rolled up the mat. Struck enough that I’ve been thinking about it ever sense. The thing is, I want to be a friend like that. I want to be like those four men for my friends. I’ve been trying to glean whatever lessons I can from what they did so that I can be a friend of Biblical proportions. The kind that literally blows the roof off whatever is keeping my friends from moving into what God has for them.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Friends like this carry the burden of their friends.

It’s so easy for us to get caught up in what we have going on. It probably would have been so simple for the four men in this story to have found a million other things to do on that day but instead of getting wrapped up in what was on their heart or schedule, they carried him. They gave of their time and strength and heart and hope to get him to a place where his needs could be met and the problem could be overcome. We can do that too. What burdens are your friends carrying this week? How can you lighten the load by grabbing a corner and carrying for a while? Maybe it’s taking them a meal, watching their kids, buying them lunch and simply listening (not saying a word about yourself) while they talk and unload. Whatever it is, let’s come up with a way to carry the load for each other this week.

Friends like this do whatever they have to do to bring their friend closer to Jesus.

These men carried their friend for who knows how many miles, climbed a roof with his dead weight on their backs, and literally dismantled a building all in an effort to bring their friend as close to Jesus as possible. Do we do that? Do we pray for them as often as we should? Do we look for opportunities to show Jesus love, his heart, his plan as often as we should? Do we allow ourselves to be inconvenienced and stretched when we need to in order for faith to come forth? Do we fill our hearts and minds with knowledge of Jesus and a thriving relationship with him so that we can point our friends towards the same? Let’s strive for all of those things so that, like the man on the mat, our friends can arrive as close as possible to Jesus when they’re with us.

Friends like this arrive at praise.

The story of these men ends with them leaving with praises on their lips. They had walked through the trial with their paralyzed friend and then saw what Jesus had done for him. You better believe that they were never going to let him forget it either. They praised the Lord together for all that God was doing in their midst and that is a pretty, pretty picture. Let’s call out all of the good things that we’re seeing the Lord do in our friend’s lives. Let’s praise Him together.

This group of friends witnessed the highs and lows together but they were there for it all. They carried each other’s burdens and did everything they could to draw each other closer to Jesus. Then, in the presence of their Savior, they praised Him together. That’s the kind of friend I want to be this week. The kind that carries and climbs and calls out praises because that’s the kind of friend that echoes into eternity.