There are many lessons that we could gain from this passage, not the least of which is the power of Jesus to forgive sins. Nevertheless, again, I want to draw your attention to that phrase: “Jesus saw their faith.”
While the crowd struggled to get closer to Jesus, these four men came bringing a paralyzed man on a stretcher. I read what one man had to say about a recent visit to Capernaum. He said that his group included a couple of folks in wheelchairs and he noticed that even today, Capernaum is not an easy place in which to maneuver if you are disabled. The roads are not paved smoothly, stairs and vertical rises make it difficult to get around, and you really have to rely on your friends to help you travel there if you can’t walk.
That’s what’s going on here. This man has four friends helping him out. They want to take him to see Jesus, but there was no way to get in the door. So what could they possibly do? This was important. They had to see Jesus. Therefore, they carried the man up on the roof. In Palestine, the roofs were flat. They would be used for rest and quiet, for drying clothes and storing things. In I Kings 17, we read about Elijah living on the roof. In Acts 10, Peter is up on the roof praying. So, generally there were stairs going up along an outside wall.
According to some scholars, the roof was usually made of beams about three feet apart. These beams would be filled with twigs, then packed with clay and covered with dirt. If that were the case, it would have been an easy matter to dig between the beams without doing much damage to the house.
Then the paralyzed man was lowered down to Jesus, and when Jesus “saw their faith,” he both healed and forgave the paralytic.
These men evidently had heard Jesus talk about himself. How he said that the Son of Man had come to seek and to save that which was lost. How he said the Shepherd would leave the ninety-nine in the pen, go out, and find the one that was still lost. How he said that he was the Physician who had come for the sick rather than for the well. In addition, I’m sure that throughout his teaching in those early days in the Galilean ministry, Jesus repeatedly made the point that needy, broken, hurting, and desperate people were the very ones for whom he had come and on whom his ministry was focused, that he was God’s representative to meet their needs.
And these men were audacious enough to believe him! They were boldly saying, "If you say so, we are going to trust that you care more about people than buildings, and we are going to tear a hole in your roof and put before you one of the very kinds of people you said you have come to help.” They believed the things that he had said about himself and they acted on their belief. They were willing to go to lengths that other people would regard as questionable.
I think that illustrates a point about how we are to experience the Christian life. Let me ask you, is there anything bold about your faith? Jacob wrestled with an angel, who was really nothing short of God himself. He wrestled all night, and then grabbed him and held on and said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me" (Genesis 32:26). Let me tell you, that’s a pretty bold thing to say to God. Yet, boldness is a word that the Hebrew writer uses to describe how we ought to approach the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16).
There is a boldness that comes by believing deeply that God means what he says. Someone has said, “When we are asked to describe our relationship with God, if the first adjective that springs to our minds is ‘polite,’ then we have a problem. It means that we are not listening. There needs to be a boldness with which we confront the Lord, and insist in his presence that we are going to take his word seriously and we likewise expect him to take us seriously.”
You see, a hole in the roof was no problem for Jesus. People have always been, and always will be, more important than buildings to him. So he saw a bold faith in the action taken by these four men.
I want to briefly look at three qualities of their faith that I believe need to be a part of our faith as well.
I. Jesus Saw Four Men Who Cared
These were four men who weren’t thinking of themselves. They didn’t need a special blessing from the Lord. But they had a friend who did. And they went to a lot of trouble to get him the help that he needed. The reason is that he was important to them. They cared about him.
Someone has well said "They won’t care how much we know until they know how much we care."
Certainly Jesus set the supreme example in this regard. There’s a beautiful story in Matthew 11 where John the Baptist was in prison. He heard about some of the things Christ was doing and he sent two of his disciples to find out if Jesus truly was the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus said, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them." (Matthew 11:4-5)
You go back and you tell John about a man who truly cares about people, who hurts, where they hurt, who is concerned about their needs. I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful that Jesus didn’t just come to the earth, preach a couple of sermons a week about how sinful people were, and then ascend back to heaven. It helps to know that our God is full of compassion, that he truly cares about us and our problems.
As the body of Christ today, we’ve got to be a people who truly care. Paul wrote, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with them that weep." (Romans 12:15). In other words, care. Get involved in the lives of others. It’s so easy to sit back, wrapped up in our own lives and our own problems, so that we don’t really care about anyone else.
What a tremendous difference it would make if we would just spend a bit of each day looking for someone who has a need. It might be a brother or sister in the church. It might be your next-door neighbor. It might be someone who has a material need. It might be someone who needs a babysitter for a couple of hours. It might be someone who needs someone to talk to. It might be someone who needs some help with the housework, or a ride to the store. It might be someone who is anxious to learn more about God’s Word. Remember, "They won’t care how much we know until they know how much we care."
And that means more than expressing concern. It means actually helping people out with their problems, what one writer calls "getting your hands dirty in their lives." Can you imagine these four men visiting their paralyzed friend? They stop by to say hello, talk about their big plans for the week-end, then they start out the door saying, "Yeah, we’re going to hear this fellow Jesus speak. By the way, this Jesus has the power to heal anybody, even somebody paralyzed like you. Listen, if there’s ever anything we can do for you, you just let us know!"
They didn’t do that because they cared. And they showed that they cared about him by meeting his need.
James said, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds...Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ’Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?" (James 2:14-16).
Indeed, what good is it? Caring about people only has meaning when we are doing something. Jesus saw four men with a faith that cared. We need to have the same kind of faith. We need to be a people who care about one another, and a people who care about the physical and spiritual needs of the world around us.
II. Jesus Saw Four Men Who Wanted to Share Christ
These four men didn’t want to take the paralyzed man to a chariot race. They didn’t want to take him down to the lake to go fishing. They wanted to share Christ with him. And that made all the difference in his life.
The church needs to be a people with a faith that is anxious to share Christ. Like Andrew. Andrew is not one of the prominent apostles. Not like James and John, or Peter, his brother. But every time we read about Andrew, he’s bringing someone to Christ. He brought his brother, Peter, to the Lord. He brought the boy with the fish to Jesus. He brought some Greeks with questions to Jesus. No, he’s not recognized as great. But he shared Christ with the people around him. And when you stop to think about it, what could possibly be greater than that?
We ought to feel about Christ the way the apostles did when they said, "We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:20). They couldn’t hold it inside of them. They had to share it!
The four men in our lesson were men in good health. They didn’t need a special blessing from the Lord, but they brought someone who did. And that’s also the goal of all Believers. Indeed, what greater compliment could be given than to say, "He brought people to Christ"?
III. The Lord Saw Four Men Who Wouldn’t Give Up
These four men brought their friend to Jesus. But when they got near the house, they saw that there was no room to get through.
Now if you had been in their place, what would you have done if you had arrived at the house and seen all those people crowded and overflowing out into the street? Would you sit back and wait for the crowd to leave? Would you say, "Let’s just go home -- we’ll never get in"? Not these four men.
Now, if they had quit at this point, they would have had a good excuse or reason to go home. But they weren’t looking for a way out. They were looking for a way in. It’s amazing how many people are looking, it seems, for a reason to get out of doing something. They always seem to have a “reason” for their unfaithfulness to the things of the Lord. The New Testament calls them excuses.
But these four men had a faith so great that it refused to die in the face of obstacles. They didn’t want to quit. They couldn’t bring themselves to say, "We can’t do it." They were determined that nothing would stop them from seeing Jesus. Their friend was sick and Jesus had the power to heal. And they were determined that they would bring the two together, at any cost to themselves.
And that is exactly what it took – a cost. It cost them the time to carry him to the house. It cost them the effort to carry him to the roof of the house. It cost them the trouble to tear up the roof and let him down. It cost them the favor of the people on whose heads the rubble was dropping as they ripped up the roof. And it probably cost them the money to pay for the roof to repair it. But they were willing to do whatever it took. And it probably increased their faith, because difficulties test us, and thereby cause our faith to grow.
You see, our failures as churches and as individuals generally lie not so much in our obstacles and problems as they do in our lack of faith. We’ve already decided what’s not going to work and who’s not going to respond and what can’t be done. And somehow that soothes our conscience a little bit when we don’t do anything because "it wouldn’t do any good anyhow."
There are many who are anxious to cry, "It can’t be done." And until we put forth the effort, it won’t be done. But so much can be accomplished when we recognize the power of God.
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."(Philippians 4:13).
The Lord’s work has not always been accomplished by talented people or intelligent people or strong people. But it has always been done by people who believed in the power of God, who did what they could, relying on God to supply the rest.
So, here were four men who refused to have a defeatist attitude. There were some obstacles in the way, yes. There were probably some people who said it couldn’t be done. But their faith led them to put forth the effort and the Lord rewarded them.
And it showed their faith. It made their faith visible to Jesus and to any others who saw it. Our actions will make our faith visible to the watching world. A visible faith is a faith that works.
In these four men, Jesus saw faith, determination, and concern for others. What does Jesus see in us?