Monday, February 29, 2016

Friendship that is Through the Roof

Dara and Jaclyn a couple of years ago.
These two have been friends from birth.
I know of no sisters that are closer, and
their friendship makes them both better.
Good friends. We all want them. They’re usually not found on Facebook or on other online “communities,” by the way. Real friends share the good times and make memories. They are the ones before whom you can take off the mask and open up your heart and say what you really think without being misunderstood or judged. Friends make you better. When you need to be shown a blind-spot in your life, a friend points it out. But the hard times are when true friends are really revealed, and it’s when you need them most. If you’ve ever experienced desperation, you know this is true.

Desperation is not a fun place to be. You can drift in one of two directions: despair or determination. A good friend will not let desperation turn into despair, but will help you turn desperation into determination. A great friend will sacrifice and show determination on your behalf when you’re desperate. 

There’s an example of some great friends in the fifth chapter of Luke who by faith meet desperation with determination. And we’re going to see them all meet a friend who’s the greatest friend.
On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. (Luke 5:17)
Most likely, these important men were coming from all over Israel to see Jesus for themselves and report back to other religious authorities who sent them. Luke has previously told us that news about Jesus had spread all over the land. And remember, Jesus had just sent the leper to go to the temple to show himself as genuinely healed to the priests. By sending him, Jesus essentially served notice to them that he was indeed the legitimate Messiah. Know this: these representatives were the serious, conservative, religious “defenders of orthodoxy” of their day. 
And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. (Luke 5:17b-19)
This needs some explanation. Jesus is obviously teaching in a nice house of someone wealthy. It’s big enough to accommodate a crowd, it’s filled with dignitaries from all over Israel, and it has a roof with “tiles” (Luke's is the only gospel to give us this detail). There were not many tiled roofs in Israel (most consisted of beams and sticks covered with thatch and mud). But the tile-roofed homes were nicer, more water proof, more substantial, and could serve as a mezzanine floor or deck. To break through  these tiles was a job (and wasn’t appreciated by the owner!). 

Imagine being there in the house when this happened. What’s your reaction if you’re an important religious leader, finally meeting with this young, popular, talented spiritual leader, and you hear knocking and chipping on the roof? What are you thinking when dust begins to fall and beams of light crack through and more dirt—getting all over you, Jesus, the furniture, & food? This hole was made bigger, then these rubes began putting something through the hole! Then you see that it’s a person on a stretcher. And these rednecks are lowering him down with ropes! 

How do you react at this point? I’m pretty mad. This isn’t just a distraction—it’s an intrusion! Someone could have gotten hurt by this stunt—the man who’s already paralyzed or one of the ones below! They’ve destroyed property & made a mess! What are these guys thinking!?

I’ll tell you what they were thinking: they love their friend who is in a desperate state of existence. 

Now, let's put ourselves in the shoes of the guys on the roof. Rewind the tape: How in the world did they come to conceive of this audacious idea to lower a man through a roof? Here’s my possible scenario: 

One of these guys heard from someone about this man named Jesus—maybe about how he’d been healing people or the miraculous catch of fish or how demon-possessed people had been freed, or perhaps how the leper had been cleansed. When he heard about Jesus, he immediately thought about his poor, paralyzed friend. Maybe he had been with him when his friend had the accident: when he fell off the wall, or was run over by an ox, or dove into the shallow creek, or got kicked by a horse. It was a wonder he lived, but he was unable to move from the neck down. He would require extensive help for the rest of his life. There were no wheelchairs or pain killers or Physical Therapists. His boyhood friends watched him shrivel up and waste away. Fun and laughter subsided as cold reality set in. Hopes for career and family died. Gone. It was heartbreaking. 

I know a little of what a friend feels like when a tragedy like this occurs. My high school friend Doug was an incredible athlete and popular and cool. We were both competing for the same position in football, then over a break, he had an accident and was paralyzed. Believe me, that’s not how you want to win a position. We were all shocked. Being paralyzed was no longer far away to me. When he finally came back to school, he was confined to a wheelchair. It was heartbreaking and awkward. What should I say? Of course he wasn’t all about sports and girls as before. But he wasn’t sad and dejected either. Amazingly, Doug had joy. Doug had trusted Jesus.

Back to my scenario: so one friend, upon hearing about Jesus, must have talked to the other friends of this poor man. They all decided: “Let’s carry him to Jesus.” So they made a stretcher and together told their friend of their plan. His reaction must have been affirmative. After the long walk to Capernaum, their muscles were aching but spirits still high, they encountered a problem: There was a huge crowd packed around the house. One friend said, “Lets go to the roof.” Without hesitation they mustered their energy and climbed the back steps. One started tearing up the tiles while another tied some rope to the four corners of the stretcher. I have to think the paralyzed man whispered a sincere “thank you” to his friends for their great effort on his behalf that day as they lowered him through the hole. 

But what would Jesus do? The men weren’t really thinking about that. They only wanted to get their friend before him—he’s his only chance. When their friend touched the ground, they peered through the hole and saw the room of dignitaries looking at them in disgust, and Jesus…who smiled.
 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” (Luke 5:20)
Jesus saw more than a paralytic. He saw a man and his friends who believed. Just like the leper, these guys made a bold move to get to the one who they knew could do something. And he gave the man a gift: he forgave his sins

Wait, what? I’ll bet no one was expecting that! 
And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:21) 
Already there's a big contrast: On one hand there's a paralytic and his friends who believed Jesus could heal and went to great lengths to act on that belief. On the other hand there's a bunch of self-important religious types who objected to Jesus' words of forgiveness as blasphemy. 

The men on the roof think Jesus is big. The men in the house think Jesus is small. 

Those in the house don’t even consider he might be God! He can’t be! It doesn’t even cross their minds. Don't think Jesus didn’t create this tension on purpose. He absolutely did. Look:
When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? (Luke 5:22-23)
Here he gets to the crux of the issue. They don’t like that he said, “your sins are forgiven.” It doesn’t even occur to them that he can. Oh, their theology is good. They know only God can forgive sin and not a mere man. They're asking, "Who does he think he is?"

Jesus asks them in effect, “What, you don’t think I’m God?” He just proclaimed forgiveness—which they can’t verify with their eyes. So he asks in effect, "What if I proclaim healing—which can be verified? Would you believe I’m God, then?"
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. (Luke 5:24-25)
This is the big deal: Jesus gives them undeniable proof that he has the power to make the paralytic walk—something only God can do—in order to show them something bigger: that he also has the power to forgive sin

You see, everyone else in the house could walk, so they didn’t need physical healing. But they all were sinners who desperately need forgiveness, i.e., spiritual healing. Truth is, their paralysis was far worse—with far greater consequences. But they were not desperate. Because they were blind. They missed the point and Jesus’ implied offer.
 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.” (Luke 5:26)
Of course they had! But did they see what God wanted them to see that day? Did you? Here are four lessons:

• Jesus is the Messiah predicted by the OT. 
He is the Son of Man (a messianic term in the Old Testament), and he is God in the flesh. He claimed to be and proved he was. Luke wants us to see this again!!

• Faith is revealed by determined action. 
Faith here is not seen as agreement with truth about Jesus’ identity. It is the determination to allow nothing (crowds, roof, reputation) to prevent access to Jesus. Hear me: While the Bible doesn’t teach a works-based faith, it does teach a faith that works. You can tell one’s faith through one’s actions. In fact, if a person does not have a changed lifestyle, they have not experienced saving faith. Faith without works is dead faith (James 2:17). Jesus said that you can tell a tree by its fruit. I could quote many more examples.

• Friends will do anything for a friend. 
These guys' love is through the roof! Do you have friends like these guys? More: Are you this kind of friend? To have friends you must be one. I’d say the former paralytic was eternally grateful to these guys. Have you ever seen the movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life”? Do you remember what the angel Clarence said? He was right.
Friends are good.
Friends who help you turn desperation into determination are really good.
Friends who will sacrifice and show determination on your behalf when you’re desperate are great.
But even greater is a friend who will do all that to bring you to Jesus. 

• Receiving forgiveness is bigger than receiving healing. 
God is the only one who can forgive sin, because all sin is ultimately committed against him. He forgives through the sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus is a better friend than even this guy’s faithful friends. Why? because he knew sin was worse than paralysis, and he went even further: he secured this man’s forgiveness himself. He died in his place. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” If you believe, that’s the kind of friend he is for you. What’s more? He died for us while we were his enemies. Romans 5:6-8 says, "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." 

I think it is safe to say Christ’s love and friendship is through the roof!

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