Jesus stories are a daily part of our life and ministry here in Wales. We earnestly believe that God transforms people as they experience Jesus through His parables, miracles and teachings. When it comes to sharing our faith with others, Jesus stories are a great way to give someone a glimpse of God’s family, a taste of what it means to be reconciled and welcomed home. But sometimes the stories surprise us on our own journeys with God.
One story I’ve always loved is when Jesus heals a paralysed man who was lowered through the roof to Him. There’s a palpable cinematic quality to the story: a crowded scene, a dramatic entrance, a twist to the plot followed by a counter twist. And each corner of the story is stacked with different characters. Jesus at its centre with some of his disciples. The house heaving with people from all over the country and from all walks of life: day-labourers, farmers, urchins, merchants and the well-to-do—anyone in search of healing. And then those there for the spectacle itself, plus a group of government officials hoping to catch Jesus saying the wrong thing and ready to cancel Him for good! And then the friends who arrived with their bedridden charge, looking for a way into the house.
One way we’ve read the Bible with people leans on using our imaginations to put ourselves in the story itself. We imagine what we would see and hear, what we would taste and smell, even the texture of fabric or the heat of the sun. After exploring with our senses, we encourage people to find someone in the story to whom they feel drawn in order to witness the work of God and experience His presence through their eyes. It’s a great way to slow down the story instead of rushing through familiar lines and elements.
The poem Miracle by Seamus Heaney does just this. It takes the perspective of those carrying in their friend for healing and imagines their laboured breathing and stooped shoulders as they haul him up the roof and let him down to Jesus. As I’ve re-read the story in recent weeks, one word from the passage has stood out and given me hope. I’ve emphasised it below.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”Mark 2:5 (NIV)
I often read the Bible in terms of my own faith journey and personal salvation. The word “their” takes me down a notch and reminds me that I don’t exist in a vacuum. It reminds me that I don’t always have to be strong, that I can borrow the faith of friends, who sometimes carry me.
Many of us have people that we’re “carrying to Jesus” ourselves. There are times when our burdens become heavy, when our backs play out and our perseverance wanes. At a time when many of us are labouring quietly behind the doors of our own homes, I take comfort that God sees my obedience, that He sees the faith that keeps me getting up in the morning. My prayer is that we keep going—even when the number of steps between us and the rooftop are unknown.