The scripture of Mark 2:1–5 records one of my favorite biblical story of friendship. It is about four men who took their paralyzed friend to Jesus to be healed. As I reflected on the story, I could not help but be amazed at their tenacity in going the extra mile for their friend.
In my imagination, I believe that they had heard about Jesus and his amazing powers of healing and decided to take their friend to see him.
They got him ready and went to the house where Jesus was preaching. As they approached the house, they saw a large number of people. “So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them” (Mark 2:2). The crowd was so huge, try as they might pushing bodies aside to force a gap, they could not get to the front door. Nevertheless, they were not about to give up. They walked around the house looking for a window or some opening that they could get their friend through; however, they were unsuccessful. Then they decided to try the roof! They most likely had to build a makeshift ladder or devise some other method of lifting their friend up to the roof. I picture them carrying him precariously up the side of the house, pulling and pushing as they found footholds to make their way to the roof. The wobbly ride up may have been scary for the sick friend, but the thought of being healed would have put aside his fear. Once they got up on the roof, they had to identify the exact spot where Jesus was in the house and then began digging there. It probably took them some time to dig through the roof because it was no small peephole, but an opening large enough to pass their friend through. However, they did it! “Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on” (Mark 2:4).
Visualize, if you can, the face of the owner of the house as he saw a hole appearing in his roof. Most likely, his eyes bulged and mouth opened wide as he gazed up again and again in disbelief. His first thought was probably that it might be rodents, but as the hole got larger and larger right before his eyes, he knew that could not possibly be the case. He may have tried to make his way outside to see what was going on but got stuck because of the crowd. Surely, he must have been distraught as he witnessed the destruction of his property. Others too may have been looking up, incredulous at seeing the paralytic being lowered into the house.
In our lives today we can certainly learn from the actions of these men in building friendships of our own. It is great to have one best friend, but how much more enriched our lives would be if we have a few best friends. Think about the wealth of love that can exist through these friendships. We can have best friends in different areas, at different times, and for a short or long period in our lives. They can come in different shapes, sizes, and ethnicities, and with a range of emotions from joy to pain. What is important with valued relationships is that we invest the time to nourish them. Friends often are a reflection of who we are and they help to mold and shape us. It is said that we attract friends who bring out either the worst or best in us. But we should bring the best of ourselves so as to form authentic relationships. Friends don’t have to be perfect, but they should be genuine. The men who persevered with their sick friend exhibited true qualities that any good friend should possess: faithfulness, caring, trust, patience, persistence, and love. Today we can build, or strengthen, our friendships by their example.
Faithfulness These men did not just take their friend to see Jesus and leave him there. Nor, did they turn away when they saw the crowd. Sometimes friends leave when the going gets rough. One might lose money, job, or home, and the friends that one counted on do not stick around. Obviously, these types are not true friends and were probably in the relationship for all the wrong reasons. We need friends who are reliable and who will come through for us. Of course, there will be times when one friend cannot meet an immediate need (which is another reason why we should have many best friends), but the reason should not be unfaithfulness or lack of trying to accommodate the need. We are also tested when one of our friends is unavailable. If our relationship is authentic, we should be understanding rather than resentful. The four men were faithful and they never gave up, but stood by their sick friend’s side until he was healed. Look at the marvelous gift they received because of their faith—their friend was freed of his illness!
Caring This probably was not the first time they sought a cure for their friend. Through his illness the friends most likely took him to doctors and healers, and perhaps even nursed him themselves. There may have been times when the sick friend wanted to give up, but the friends would encourage and uplift him. It is good to be surrounded by friends in times of need. Their support and prayers help to sustain us, and their presence can soothe us. Of course, one must be open to receiving help. Sometimes a person may hide a need, hindering another from being a blessing to them. God gave some of us the gifts of sharing and caring and this may be the only way we can help. True friends take off the barriers laying bare the needs, and the care is lovingly given.
Trust The sick friend put his life into the hands of his friends, and they came through for him. He also trusted them not to drop him as they carried him up the building and then lowered him down through the hole. It is good to have several friends who are loyal and can be called on in any emergency; with whom we can speak freely and confidentially, knowing they will not betray us; and with whom we can share our dreams and aspirations, knowing that they want the best for our lives. They are complete in themselves; hence there is no jealously or competition with each other. Nonetheless, trusting someone is not always easy. We do not like to reveal our emotions and struggles, and in the process of holding back and hiding our hurts we lose out on forming great friendships. Trust is a two-way street. We have to earn the trust of others by proving that we are responsible and can be held accountable.
Patience I am sure there may have been times when the sick friend or the others were tired and wanted to give up. Dealing with that kind of illness, especially with the stigma attached to it, could not have been easy. It called for a tenacious spirit. When things go wrong in any kind of friendship, we have to be patient and ride the waves of dissention until things get right again. These are not the times to wander away or get caught up in one’s own life. There will be occasions when the issue is as simple as a difference of opinion, but one may see it as a monumental problem. It may be easy to solve the problem if the friend changes a pattern of behavior that is destructive. However, the friend may not see it your way or believe that there is anything wrong with the behavior. In such cases, one has to be patient in letting the friend sort it out, but be available to support and comfort when the friend is ready.
Persistence The friends of the sick man showed up and took action. They persevered and he benefitted from their determination. There will be times when we have to push a friend beyond what she believes she is capable of, which may entail telling some truths that she is uncomfortable in facing. Persistence can also take the form of assisting her with completing a college application, urging her to follow up on her dreams, or simply being on the other end of the phone in the middle of the night. Even when we are unable to be there physically, a friend should still know that she can depend on us at all times.
Love I cannot say what brought these friends together, but they shared a common bond of love for their friend. I think that when they reached the building and observed that there was no way of getting through the door, they evaluated the situation, came up with a plan, and executed it. They were unified in that goal and were successful despite the odds. I am inspired by their audacity and fortitude. This exhibition of love stood the test of time. It surely was a mental and physical strain on all of them, but their love conquered all and their efforts were rewarded when Jesus forgave the friend’s sins and he got up and walked. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’" (Mark 2:5). Similarly, our friendships should demonstrate this kind of love for each other. For those who do enjoy such relationships, what a joy to their souls. For those who do not, what a blessing to receive.