‘Some men came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on…When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralysed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’…’I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ (Mark 2:1-12)
Seamus Heaney, arguably one of Ireland’s finest poets, wrote ‘Miracle’ a poem written around Mark 2 and Heaney’s personal encounter with human kindness when at life’s lowest ebb.
Not the one who takes up his bed and walks
But the ones who have known him all along
And carry him in –
Their shoulders numb, the ache and stoop deep locked
In their backs, the stretcher handles
Slippery with sweat. And no let up
Until he’s strapped on tight, made tiltable
And raised to the tiled roof, then lowered for healing.
Be mindful of them as they stand and wait.
For the burn of the paid-out ropes to cool,
Their slight lightheadedness and incredulity
To pass, those ones who had known him all along.
Heaney draws out the ache, burden, relentlessness of carrying someone through the lowest ebb in their life. That moment when a person is hopeless and totally dependant on the comradeship of others. While focusing on the sacrificial nature of helping others, Heaney misses the miracle that is Jesus from Mark 2. There is something beyond mutual companionship that compels these four men to usher their friend to Jesus. They are burdened – to not just hold up their friend in his circumstances but to see him moved to wholeness. They are adamant that only Jesus can perform the miracle: the healing of their friend.
There is no lurking unbelief in these men, no doubts but rather an audacious faith in Jesus who performs miracles of healing. A belief so bold that they set out on a relentless and costly pursuit to ensure their friend meets with Jesus. Many obstacles to overcome – a massive crowd, a closed roof, butthey rolled up their sleeves and dug through. To lower their friend into the presence of Jesus would be a costly and weighty work – they knew and accepted that. Their hands burning as they slowly lowered the ropes in faith to Jesus.
Exhausted they waited, their expectancy and faith rising as they stood in the gap, waiting on their friend with Jesus. The wait broken as Jesus proclaimed, “Son, your sins are forgiven… I tell you get up, take your mat and go home.” A paralysed man lifting his legs, standing upright and walking free. Their friend forgiven, his lifeless limbs were moving – only Jesus.
I am challenged by the faith fuelled sacrifice undertaken by these men in order that one man could meet Jesus.
Who are the people we know that are paralysed, those living life at the lowest ebb? Who will in faith stand in the gap for, pray for, support, carry and lower into the presence of Jesus? These will witness Jesus bring the miracle of new life.
Father, I repent of my lack of belief and the complacency of my heart. Deepen my desire for those I rub shoulders with daily to meet You. Fill me with an audacious faith, a boldness to stand in the gap, in faith to pray, support and carry others to Jesus. Open my eyes to those around me I know who are living life at its lowest ebb, teach me and show me how to carry them to You. I chose to surrender my time, my energy, my home for You Jesus, for Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen