Sometimes it was hard to get next to Jesus. He was usually surrounded by his entourage of disciples, followed by hungry crowds, or stealing away to pray. One day, as recorded in Mark 2, a house is packed out to hear him, and some determined friends go so far as cutting a hole in the roof to get their paralyzed friend next to Jesus. (Maybe the paralyzed guy was rich and paid some people to do this, but I like to think that they were friends who cared enough to try and make an opportunity for his healing in a seemingly impossible situation.) They risked ruining somebody’s roof and offending a lot of people for their friend’s sake. It was the kind of demonstrative love that is sure to yield some kind of transformation—either disaster or wholeness. Maybe they concluded that their friend was already living with disaster, and so it was worth the risk.
Our cell group cut a big “hole” in our own roof and multiplied into two groups this week. It tested our our relationships and our faith a bit, and we missed each other last night when we met as two separate groups. But new friends were included and able to get next to Jesus already, and there was more than enough love to go around.
It’s still hard to get next to Jesus, in some ways. Ever since Constantine made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire in the 3rd century, it’s been difficult for many people to find the authentic and simple heart of the gospel under the overlay of laws and traditions and human corruption. It’s hard to know who to trust, and it’s not easy to experience grace in the U.S. culture of entitlements that also operates like a meritocracy. But Jesus has been at work on everyone’s behalf anyway, and the Church continues to grow organically all over the world, like in our cells and public meetings, or at your backyard BBQ.
The reason to try and be a determined friend is hidden in Jesus’s first response to the paralyzed man. Instead of healing his physical body right away, Jesus offers him the thing he is really looking for: forgiveness and peace with God. In this moment, Jesus reveals his purpose as the One who restores us to God and to one another.
It may be tempting for us to give up on our own healed life or on our friends’ healing because it doesn’t seem to be happening quickly enough, or it’s too inconvenient or potentially offensive. But let’s take heart from the roof-cutters. It may be against the law to even think it, but you may actually have what your friends need because you know the Healer. Roof-cutting (or whatever) may just be the way of love.