When Jesus returned to Capernaum, word went round that he was back; and so many people collected that there was no room left, even in front of the door. He was preaching the word to them when some people came bringing him a paralytic carried by four men, but as the crowd made it impossible to get the man to him, they stripped the roof over the place where Jesus was; and when they had made an opening, they lowered the stretcher on which the paralytic lay. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘My child, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some scribes were sitting there, and they thought to themselves, ‘How can this man talk like that? He is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God?’ Jesus, inwardly aware that this was what they were thinking, said to them, ‘Why do you have these thoughts in your hearts? Which of these is easier: to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven” or to say, “Get up, pick up your stretcher and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he turned to the paralytic – ‘I order you: get up, pick up your stretcher, and go off home.’ And the man got up, picked up his stretcher at once and walked out in front of everyone, so that they were all astounded and praised God saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this.’
“Sometimes walls are there not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to break them down.” Anon
This miracle is one that is particularly close to my heart.
I - more so my husband - have a friend who was paralysed following an accident about thirty years ago now. From a young man; with all the imaginings and ambitions of youth he became encased in a wheelchair, all medical, personal - all care - needing to be done for him. There have been efforts from the authorities to support his care and the necessities of living are in place. There have been dark times along the way and people who talk about 'quality of life' and 'lives worth living' may wonder what, in the end, this medical intervention has achieved.
I would say that what this intervention has allowed is the grace of friendship.
The friends that knew him before, supported him during and accompany him now are as incredible and as loyal as the friends of the paralytic man. Through them and sometimes despite him, life has gone on - real life. Through the way they speak to him, argue about football or politics - no quarter given or expected. Through the invitations and the practicalities of invitations to all and any parties and get-togethers. Through experiences of being pushed through boggy ground at race meetings, lifted into the back of vans to get to a concert, of racing through busy streets on match days; of the casual acts of holding a pint or cutting up a pie.
In a time when disabilities still cause some embarrassment and when no-one wants to be reminded of 'what if ' these fifty-something men see their friend as no more and no less than that - their friend. And if they thought Jesus was in town they'd be there with their saws and hammers and not taking 'no' for an answer.
And just like the four here - who they were; what their own concerns might have been; what Jesus could have done for them wouldn't have mattered as long as Jesus said 'yes' to their friend.
The prayerful truth is that Jesus has already said 'yes' to this man - for, despite whatever else he may have chosen to confess, what would have been the real sin?
Surely that he might have chosen to exist in a life filled with regret; refusing to acknowledge that there were people who cared about him; finding no place in a community. Believing that no-one would love him; that no-one could love him.
And there were times, I know, when that was how he felt.
That there was no way that God's grace could reach him.
Except he had friends.
The friend who can be silent with us, who can stay with us in an hour of grief , who can tolerate not knowing... not healing, not curing... that is a friend who cares.”