‘So we’re going to do this then?’ one of the friends asked. ‘We’re going to take him to Jesus?’
The other three friends nodded their heads determinedly. ‘Jesus heals people,’ one of them said. ‘No one’s ever gone to Jesus and not been healed, so we will take him - today. I know he’d go himself if he could, but as he can’t it’s up to us and we need to leave now.’
At that, the four friends bent down and picked up the man’s stretcher-like mat and accustomed themselves to the weight. For a long time now the man had been paralysed, unable to move, and his four friends knew that this might be the only chance they’d have to take him to Jesus. So after carefully manoeuvring him out of the house, the four of them set off.
Of course, this didn’t just happen; they’d been talking about it for a while. Over the last weeks and months, they’d discussed all the stories they’d heard about what Jesus had said and what Jesus had done. And their paralysed friend, we’ll call him Simeon for now although we don’t know his real name, had listened to every word. (PAUSE)
It had dawned on them very slowly at first that perhaps, just maybe, Jesus could do something for Simeon. But as the idea started to sink in, and they heard more and more stories of all the incredible and wonderful things that Jesus said and did, they became convinced. Jesus was the answer, Jesus could heal Simeon – all they had to do was find out where Jesus was and take Simeon to Him. The rest would be up to Jesus.
But as his friends shared all the news about Jesus, Simeon started to feel uncomfortable. Jesus had come with a message, ‘Turn away from your evil ways and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!’ How could he face Jesus when he was such a sinful man? He might be paralysed and unable to move, but did that stop him from having evil thoughts, from being rude and selfish, for wanting his own way and not caring for other people as he should? He knew he was guilty, and even though he longed for his body to be free, the real pain was in his heart, knowing that he was guilty of sin and that his real need, before anything else, was for forgiveness.
It was quite a long walk to get to Jesus, and the four friends had to take frequent breaks - putting Simeon down, changing arms and sides of his stretcher-like bed and then lifting him up again and carrying on.
Simeon hadn’t wanted to share what was going on inside him. Even though he felt more and more uncomfortable about meeting Jesus, especially when he knew how guilty he was of failing to be the person God wanted him to be. But he also knew he still had to go – he had to see Jesus. And after what seemed an eternity, they came to the place where Jesus was. (P)
That’s when they got their first taste of reality! The place was packed to overflowing with people - because everyone wanted to see Jesus. Some, like the religious types, had come to pick holes in what Jesus said; to find something to knock Him down with to show that He wasn’t anything special after all. They filled much of the room listening to what He said, and yet because they were so intent on finding fault, they never really heard what He was saying. The rest of the space was taken up with ordinary people just like them. People who wanted to see Jesus and hear Him for themselves, and, if possible, see Him do one of the remarkable miracles that everyone was talking about.
At first, the friends assumed that people would make way for them to bring Simeon to Jesus. But the other people weren’t about to give up their chance of meeting Jesus and refused to move! Simeon’s friends couldn’t believe it! Why were the people being so selfish? Why wouldn’t they make way for Simeon to be brought to Jesus?
‘What’re we going to do now?’ one of them asked. ‘There’s no way we’re going to get in there and see Jesus.’
‘I guess we’ll just have to wait,’ another one of them said.
‘But that could take hours!’ The first one replied, ‘And Simeon needs to be taken care of. Anyway, who’s to say that we’ll be able to find Jesus in this crowd when everyone starts to leave? It could be dark and we might miss Him. We can’t wait, we have to do something now!’
‘So what do you suggest?’ the others asked. ‘We can’t barge our way in, and no one’s going to make room for us. Do we have any other option but to wait?’
Pausing to look around, a flash of inspiration came across the first man’s face. ‘The roof,’ he said, pointing to the flat roof of the house. ‘I say we take Simeon onto the roof, dig a hole through it large enough to fit Simeon through on his mat and lower him down right in front of Jesus. (P) What d’you think? It’s our only option!’
Simeon had no say in the matter, his four friends had decided. Simeon needed to see Jesus if only to get peace of mind and deal with his feelings of guilt – Jesus was the answer and they weren’t going to let a little thing like the clay roof of this house stop them from laying their friend right at Jesus’ feet.
With total commitment, the four friends took Simeon onto the large flat roof and started to dig.
It wasn’t long before the people below couldn’t ignore what was happening above their heads. As they saw the four friends digging a bigger and bigger hole in the roof they knew that come what may Simeon was going to be lowered right down in front of Jesus, and they started to make room. And so the moment came when Simeon finally found himself looking into the eyes of the One he’d heard so much about, the One who could heal anyone, the same One whose message, ‘Turn away from your evil ways and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!’ had made him realise just how guilty of sin he was. (PAUSE)
Jesus looked up at the four grubby faces smiling down at Him, so sure of His power, so sure of His love. And then He looked into the eyes of Simeon. (P) Later, Simeon couldn’t explain how Jesus knew, but just by looking at him, Jesus had seen his real need, the ache in his heart and the pain of being separated from God by all the sin that burdened him down. It was then that Jesus spoke the most comforting words imaginable; words that were true, words that changed his world. ‘My son,’ Jesus said, ‘your sins are forgiven.’
A burden the like of which you could hardly imagine seemed to roll off Simeon’s shoulders. He didn’t even hear the hushed murmurs going around the room and the quietly uttered words of the religious leaders – ‘blasphemy’ they were saying. ‘This man’s claiming to do something that only God can do – forgive sins!’
But Jesus had heard the whispers and He knew what was racing through people’s minds. ‘Do you think that what I’ve said’s blasphemy?’ He asked. ‘That I’m claiming something that can only rightly belong to God? If so, tell me this, is it easier to say to this paralyzed man lying before you, 'Son, your sins are forgiven' or to say to him 'Get up, pick up your mat, and walk'?’ And then without waiting for a reply, Jesus continued, ‘And so now I will prove to you that I, the Son of Man, do have the authority on earth to forgive sins.’
Turning once again to Simeon, lying paralyzed on his mat Jesus said, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home. You have been healed!’
It was indescribable for everyone. Simeon, rejoicing that he had been cleansed from his sin, felt the healing power of God avalanche through his paralysed body healing every part. At once, without a moment’s hesitation, he jumped up off his mat and obeyed Jesus’ command. Pushing his way through the group of stunned onlookers he marched out of the house where his four friends came rushing down from the roof to join with him in rejoicing at the wonderful things God had done.
Those who’d seen all this were amazed and started to praise God. "We've never seen anything like this before!" they said. And the news of all that Jesus had done spread even further.