18Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
(Luke 5:18-19, NIV)
Following Jesus isn’t safe. If we’re going to follow Jesus today, we will inevitably have to take risks. We may put at risk our comfort, reputation, safety, or financial security. Yet, the more we trust Jesus and pay attention to Him, the more we will be empowered to take risks for the sake of His kingdom and for the purpose for which He has called us.
If you grew up going to Sunday School, then you are surely familiar with the story in today’s passage. And if we are familiar with this story, we may miss one of the things it teaches us about following Jesus. I’m hoping that today we may see things in a new light.
The basic story goes like this: Jesus was teaching and healing in some sort of building, probably a home. Quite a crowd had gathered, including many Jewish teachers. Some men brought a paralyzed man on a bed so that Jesus might heal him, but the crowd kept them away. So, the men went up on the roof, removed a good portion of the roof, and lowered the paralyzed man down before Jesus. Seeing the faith of the men on the roof, Jesus forgave the sins of the paralyzed man. This enraged the Jewish teachers who believed that only God could forgive sins. Jesus explained that He, as the Son of Man, had authority to forgive sins. He proved the point by telling the paralyzed man to get up and go home, which he promptly did. The crowd marveled, glorifying God and saying, “We have seen strange things today” (Luke 5:26).
We often focus on the faith of the men who lowered their friend before Jesus. Or we talk about the significance of Jesus’s claim to have authority to forgive sins. Today, however, I want to ask you to reflect on the risk taken by the men who carried the bed. It was a big one!
Imagine for a moment, what their conversation must have been like. When they realized that there was no way they could gain access to Jesus, one of them might have said, “Oh, this won’t work. Maybe we should wait until later.” Another might have said, “Hey, why don’t we ask people to make room for us?” Still another added, “That won’t work. But we could get on the roof, make a big hole, and let the bed down right in front of
Jesus.” The first speaker might have responded, “Are you crazy? We can’t get up on the roof with this bed. And there’s no way we can make a hole in somebody’s roof. We’d get in serious trouble.” But, as they talked, they were determined to see their friend healed. They believed this really was their only chance. So they decided to climb onto the roof and break it, making a hole large enough for the bed.
Unfortunately, Luke doesn’t tell us what happened while these men were creating the hole in the roof. It’s not hard to imagine, however, what they might have been hearing from the crowd: “What are you guys doing? Are you crazy? You can’t break Levi’s house! That’s illegal . . . and stupid. You’re interrupting the teacher. You’re cutting in line. You guys are going to be in such trouble.” Still, the men opened up the roof and lowered their friend right in front of Jesus.
What did these men risk? Many things. They risked their reputation. If their scheme didn’t work, they’d become the laughingstock of their town. They risked serious legal trouble by damaging someone’s home. Would they be arrested? Would they be sued? They risked Jesus’s ire, since they interrupted His teaching in a major way. They risked the ire of the people who had gathered to be healed but we’re stuck in the back of the crowd. And, of course, they risked the possibility that, after all that they had done, their friend would not be healed.
If you and I are going to follow Jesus, we will need to take major risks as well. No, I’m not talking about us making a hole in somebody’s roof. But I am thinking about other risks you might take as you follow Jesus. You may run the risk of having people on campus or at work think you’re a religious nut. You may put yourself in places where you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. You may have a smaller nest egg for your future because of your generosity. You may put your professional reputation on the line because you believe God wants you to lead a startup. You may risk the unhappiness of your classmates or coworkers when you ask them not to make jokes that disrespect or objectify others. Or . . . you name it.
Here are a few questions for us to reflect on the story. If you had been one of the men carrying the bed, how might you have dealt with the problem of “no access” to Jesus?
Have you ever taken a risk because you are a follower of Jesus? What happened? How did it turn or is it turning out?
I pray that we will have the boldness of the nameless men described in this passage. Pray that God will give you the boldness you need to follow Jesus faithfully, even if you have to take risks.