By David B. SmithThey made up the world’s first ambulance—and then the first elevator as well. An invalid in Mark 2 had the good fortune to have four friends willing to lug him in a hospital bed all the way through Capernaum to meet Jesus. And it’s still true today that one of the most important things you can do in this world is to take someone else to Jesus.
In John 1, John the Baptist points out Jesus to two of his own disciples and says to them: “There’s the real deal. Look, the Lamb of God!” The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.
You may have a friend at work who doesn’t know Jesus as their Savior, and maybe we’re afraid to say anything. We are what we call laissez faire—in a non-urgent frame of mind. They’re okay; we’re okay; we let them be in their secular state. But these men were not laissez faire about their dying friend; they spoke up and brought their sick companion to Jesus because the situation was desperate.
What does this trip entail? They must travel down a common road toward a common goal. They must work together. In honor preferring one another (Romans 10:12).
Instead of fighting each other and ending up in a ditch, these four men have to make common cause, put aside differences of opinion, and head in one direction. Often, to intercede with effective power, we have to try harder than before to work with one another. Bible.org comments: “This miracle teaches us the privilege of intercession. The friends . . . were instruments of healing. We see the importance of unity and teamwork. One or two friends could not have accomplished this on their own.”
Is there a sacrifice involved in being unified, in working together? Yes! This same site: “It is costly to have Christian unity. In order for the four men of Mark 2 to get together to bring this paralytic to Jesus, they had to consent to go in the same direction. Otherwise, they would not have succeeded. Then they had to go at the same speed and to the same place.”
Physically speaking, they had to agree on a route to Peter’s house. “Go down to the fish market, turn right and go three blocks.” But these four carriers could have easily gotten embroiled in a discussion or debate about various issues.
For example: is this Jesus capable of healing? Is He or isn’t He the divine Son of God.
Issue Two: is there even such a thing as miracles? That is a debate point today. Are they fake? Are they appropriate? Are they perhaps done through the power of Satan?
Three: is it appropriate to even seek spiritual healing? Or should we simply go to doctors and put our faith strictly in science, in ambulances, in HMOs and prescription drugs? The Terri Schiavo tragedy had believers weighing in with some very heated ideas about what is the right thing to do. These four men could have sat down by the side of the road and spent two hours talking about ethical issues.
Here’s another. It’s suggested that this sick man might well have been sick because of his sins. Maybe he had an STD or was an alcoholic. Which is perhaps why Jesus said, almost immediately, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” But is it the dreaded “sin of presumption” to take a man with VD to go and see Jesus? Should a person who got HIV by violating the Bible’s rules still be a candidate for a healing? Are we enablers if we carry a man who has always lived a party life to go and see Jesus?
Is it difficult, then, for four spiritually sensitive men with well-formed opinions to pick up a stretcher and go down one theological road? They could have killed a week debating and lost this rare opportunity, because Jesus was in Capernaum right now.
David B. Smith has served as a teacher, writer, and pastor in southern California. Better Sermons © 2005-2007. Click here for usage guidelines.