The Faith of the Friends

When they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’ ” (vv. 4–5).

- Mark 2:1-5

True faith takes risks and will stop at nothing to reach the object of faith. We have seen this in the account of Jesus’ healing of the leper, who did not allow social convention or ceremonial law to keep him from the Savior (Mark 1:40–45). He recognized the author of the law and knew that He had the power to do what the law in itself could not; thus, his approaching Jesus honored the spirit of the law, for He sought out the One to whom the law points.

We find another remarkable example of the lengths to which true faith is willing to go in today’s passage. This familiar account is set at a home in Capernaum, where our Lord has returned after ministering in greater Galilee (1:35–39; 2:1). This is likely the home of Simon and Andrew, the place where Jesus seems to have resided during his previous stay in Capernaum (1:21–34). By now, many people have heard of Jesus, and a crowd of people has come to the door of the home to hear Him preach the gospel (2:2).

However, this gathering presents a problem for a paralyzed man and four of his friends. Knowing that Jesus is present, these friends have carried the paralytic to the house so that Jesus might heal him, but there are so many people that they cannot make their way to our Savior (2:3–4). Perhaps they try maneuvering through the gathered throng. Maybe they cry out, hoping Jesus will hear them. Regardless, they find the way to Jesus blocked.

Under such circumstances, it would be easy for these men to go away, hoping that Jesus will be available later to help their friend. But faith knows that tomorrow is not guaranteed, that today is the day of salvation when Jesus is present. So, they climb on the roof. Typical of roofs in first-century Palestine, the structure is flat and covered with hard mud that they have to dig through (the literal meaning of “made an opening” in v. 4) to get access to the Lord.

If true prophets are identified by their good fruit (Matt. 7:15–23), surely we can discern something of the inward condition of others by their actions. Of course, we must see fruit over a long period of time in order to be reasonably certain of the state of another person’s heart, and even then we lack the omniscience required for absolute certainty. Jesus knows no such limitations, and seeing the fruit of faith in the friends’ stopping at nothing to reach Him tells Him faith is surely present. So, Jesus pardons the paralytic’s sins, which causes controversy, as we will see in tomorrow’s study (Mark 2:5).

Coram Deo

John Calvin comments that the paralytic’s friends “would never have submitted to so much trouble, nor contended with such formidable hindrances, if they had not derived courage from entire confidence of success. The fruit of their faith appeared in their not being wearied out when they found the entrance closed up on all sides.” These men were so sure of Jesus’ ability that they would stop at nothing to see Him. May we pursue our Savior with such fervent faith.

Passages for Further Study

1 Kings 17:8–16
Matthew 15:21–28
Luke 7:1–10
Philippians 3:12–16

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