By Mark D. Roberts
Mark 2:1-12 paints a powerful picture of how you and I can care for the people in our lives who are suffering. This story begins with Jesus preaching in a house in Capernaum. His popularity has grown to the place where the crowd exceeded standing room only. People were even jammed outside of the door, trying desperately to hear Jesus. Four men approached the house, “carrying a paralyzed man on a mat” (2:3). Seeing that there was no obvious way for them to get their friend to Jesus because of the crowd, they carried him up onto the roof, and dug a hole right through it. Roofs, in Capernaum, were made of branches and dried mud. When the opening in the roof was large enough, they lowered the paralyzed man down in front of Jesus. He did not rebuke the men who had temporarily ruined the roof. Rather, “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘My child, your sins are forgiven' " (2:5). This unexpected response led to a debate about the authority to forgive sins between Jesus and the Jewish leaders who had gathered. Jesus, as the Son of Man, claimed such authority, and proved his point by healing the paralyzed man.
Every time I read this story, I’m impressed by the men who carried the mat of their sick friend. They showed exceptional kindness in the act of carrying. But then, they went way beyond kindness to boldness. They had no way of knowing in advance how Jesus would respond to their brash destruction of private property. They did know that they might get into a heap of trouble with the owner of the house. Yet, out of a committed concern for their paralyzed friend, these men risked plenty in order to present him to Jesus.
Their action mattered, not only to the paralytic, but also to Jesus. Mark tells us that when Jesus saw “their faith,” he acted to forgive and ultimately to heal the man. We don’t even know what the paralyzed man thought about Jesus. But we do know that the faith of his friends counted with Jesus and led to the man’s restoration.
You and I have the privilege, indeed, the high calling, of being mat carriers. We do so by reaching out to those in need, kindly and even boldly. We do so when we pray for people with faithful persistence. We are mat carriers when, through word and deed, we help people get to the one who is the true healer and Savior.
Think and Pray
Who, in your life, needs you to carry their mat today? For whom can you pray with extra boldness? Whom can you help to have an encounter with Jesus?
Dear God, thank you for this tender and rich story. Thank you for the faithfulness of the mat carriers. Thank you for their example of persistence and boldness in bringing their friend before Jesus.
Help me, gracious God, to be a mat carrier for the people in my life: at home, at work, at church, in my community, and beyond. Give me eyes to see their need and a heart willing to reach out to them. Help me to be faithful in bringing people’s needs before you in prayer. Grant me the courage to “dig holes in roofs” in order to help people experience your love and grace.
Show me, even today, someone who needs me to help carry their mat. Amen.
Published by The High Calling. Theology of Work Project Online Materials by The High Calling are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Mark D. Roberts is the Executive Director of Fuller's Max De Pree Center for Leadership. He is the principal writer of the Life for Leaders daily devotional. Emailed each morning to over 7,000 subscribers, Life for Leaders serves leaders in all sectors of life by helping them go deeper in relationship with God as they grow in a biblical understanding of their work.