He lays, motionless, on a mat. He is a burden to his family and friends, has always been a burden. He cannot work, cannot earn money, cannot even lift his hands to feed himself or raise himself up to sit and beg.
Life is hard, and then you die. He has no hope of healing, no hope of any future worth hoping for.
And yet his friends hear about Jesus and they hope for him. They lift his bed and carry him to see the One who is said to have healed.
He protests against this trek. Isn’t it enough that his friends would stop by to visit, would lift his head to help him drink, would contribute to his care and keeping? Why should they waste their time on a fruitless, impossible journey, carrying a full-grown man?
They ignore his protests, until they see the crowds. They cannot get their friend through the door, much less in front of Jesus. He protests louder, insists they turn back. The way to the Savior is blocked, there is no hope. We should go.
But his friends carry hope heavier and more real than the broken body on the mat. They climb, still carrying the bed, to the roof. They cut a hole and drop their friend into Jesus’ lap. They will not give up until they have laid their friend at the feet of Jesus.
He still protests. He doesn’t believe this healer can change anything, doesn’t believe there is anything to hope for anyway.
Jesus sees him, sees his faithless, hopeless, motionless form. And he sees the faith and hope of the friends. Seeing their faith, he forgives and heals the man.
My friends have been dropping me into Jesus’ lap for years, carrying my protesting and struggling and worn out body to the foot of the One they have not given up hoping in.
They believed Jesus was the only hope I had when I wasn’t so sure, and their faith has sustained me when my own could not.
They were right.
It’s still a surprise when I remember that I can pick up my mat and walk, that Christ will continue to provide for each new step every morning. But I have yet to falter.
Their hope and faith has become my own. And when my own fails, theirs will carry me.
May we all be friends who carry each other in faith to the Messiah. May we be friends who hope for each other, who believe for each other, who carry each other.
And may Christ see our faith for those we love and heal in the midst of doubt.
Photo by James Emery, via flickr.