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The church or a local community of believers is essential to our spiritual well-being.
Believers in the early church needed each other and God expected them to be there for each other.
Likewise, we need each other and God expects us to be there for each other.
God has ordained that we play a vital role in each other’s faith.
For that reason, we are commanded in Hebrews 10:25
Hebrews 10:25 KJV 1900
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Jackie Robinson was the first black man to play Major League baseball.
In his first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson faced venom nearly everywhere he traveled.
Pitchers threw fastballs at his head.
Runners spiked him on the bases, brutal comments were made to him and even to his teammates.
Even the home crowds in Brooklyn saw him as an object of reproach.
During one game in Boston, the taunts and racial slurs seemed to reach a peak.
During the game, his teammate, a Southern white man by the name Pee Wee Reese, called time . . .
and he walked from his position at shortstop toward Robinson at second base, and with the crowds looking on, he put his arm around Robinson’s shoulder.
Robinson has no idea what Reese said to him, but the fans grew quiet.
Robinson later said that meant so much to him.
I’m not talking about simple acquaintances.
I’m talking about people who will care about you, people who will love you, encourage you, and stick by your side, even with all of your sins and mistakes.
We all need good and great friends like this.
There’s a story in the Bible about some great friends.
I want to share that scripture with you.
It’s found in Mark 2:1-12
It’s one of the great stories in the Bible about community.
It involved a paralyzed man and his friends.
Imagine what life was like for a paralytic in the ancient world.
This man's whole life is lived on a mat three feet wide and six feet long.
Someone has to feed him, carry him, clothe him, move him to keep him from being covered with bedsores, clean him when he soils himself.
He will never know the sense of independence we fiercely try to maintain.
Nothing can be done medically — no surgeries, no rehab programs, no treatment centers.
Anyone in this man's condition has to go through life as a beggar — lay by the side of the road, be dependent on people dropping coins beside him so he could live another day.
He has no money, no job, no influence, no family, and seemingly not much of a future.
What's he got going for him?
This man had friends, amazing friends!! He’s in one of the most amazing small groups of all time.
This whole story takes place because of his friends.
Without them, he never makes it to Jesus, never gets forgiven, and never gets healed.
Because of his physical condition, the odds were against this man having any friendships at all.
Even in our day, people who wrestle with physical challenges often say the most difficult obstacles they face are the attitudes of so-called normal people.
Those are people who don’t know how to respond, sometimes they’re unkind, sometimes they look away.
This is a fast-paced world, and it is not a very gracious place for those who can't run as fast as others.
But the ancient world could be even harsher.
The Greeks regularly disposed of newborn infants with physical abnormalities.
In ancient Israel, there was an assumption that if people were suffering physically, they had brought it on themselves.
In another New Testament story the disciples see a man blind from birth and ask Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
Think about the story of Job.
Job’s wonderfully obnoxious and accusatory friends believed Job was guilty of some type of sin, because of all the grief which came his way.
That was the ancient belief.
It was the fact that God was a retributional God.
That’s the belief that God punishes us for doing wrong.
If that’s the case, then we should all be suffering like Job.
But, that’s not who God is.
He’s filled with grace and mercy, love and power, courage and life.
Yet, here’s a small group of men who refuse to let any obstacle stop them.
And this is a key point ~ Their little group did not come about by accident.
In the face of very real obstacles — social stigma, inconvenience, financial pressure, lots of time and energy — they chose to be friends.
As this chapter begins, Jesus had already performed several miracles.
In chapter 1, the text says that the whole city had gathered at Peter’s house to see Jesus and that Jesus could not publicly enter a city.
Chapter 2 begins as a continuation of this theme.
Jesus was speaking and the crowds were so large there was standing room only.
Capernaum was the home of Simon Peter.
This city was Jesus’ base of operations in his Galilean ministry.
It was a large city on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.
The paralytic was being carried on a bed or a small couch, probably with a friend on each corner.
Mark is a master of understatement in these verses.
While Palestinian homes would have been accessible to someone wanting to get on the roof, it was by no means a daily occurrence.
The houses were low, usually with an outside stairway to reach the roof.
The roofs were tiled and covered with thatch.
The four men had to drag the cot up the stairs, tear up the tiles, and dig through the thatch.
The hole would have to be large enough to get the cot through.
Add to this the annoyance of the people below.
Debris would be falling on them as they tried to listen to the words of Jesus.
A further complicating matter would be the damage to someone else’s property.
We have no idea how the owner of the house, whether it was Simon Peter or someone else, reacted to the destruction of his property, but we can imagine that it came as quite a shock!
The mat (bed) can stand for our sinfulness, brokenness and imperfection.
It’s what is "not normal" about us.
It’s that "AS - IS" tag we try to hide.
There’s no warranty on our woundedness.
But only when we allow others to see our mat, when we give and receive help with each other, healing becomes possible.
Maybe your mat (bed) is a raging temper, fear, or an inability to trust.
Maybe it's control.
Maybe it’s an addiction.
Maybe your mat is a terrible secret you still feel guilty about.
Maybe it’s a deep sense of failure, or inadequacy, or loneliness.
Community is made up of people with all their goodness and badness.
It’s made up of people who are strong and powerful; yet at the same time, we’re weak and poor.
If you want a deep friendship, you can't always be the strong one.
You will sometimes have to let somebody else carry your mat.
That’s what happens in this story.
When Jesus saw their faith.
Whose faith did Jesus see?
The text says “their faith.”
He certainly saw the faith of the four men who would not let any barrier stand in the way of their friend’s need.
But I believe that Jesus also saw the man’s faith.
It took courage to lie calmly while people were hauling you up a flight of stairs and then lowering you through a hole in the roof.
But perhaps there was even more evidence than that.
There’s this story of a friend who once went through a stressful period.
The landlady decided to sell the townhouse the friend was renting.
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