Stand by Me is a film set in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Oregon. And there begins the story of four friends – Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern. Gordie feels alone in his own home as his parents quietly grieve the death of their oldest son. Chris bears the reputation of being from a no good family. Teddy yearns for his father, his hero, yet a broken man who the town spurns. And Vern, well, he is just plain goofy.
These four friends set out on a journey to become local heroes. It will require a lot of walking which will be occupied by a lot of talking, accompanied by serene moments to think upon what really matters. “If I could only have one food to eat for the rest of my life? That’s easy. Pez. Cherry flavor Pez. No question about it,” said Vern.
It was these four friends sharing this journey which will cause Gordie, as an adult, to end their story with these words: I never had any friends like the ones I had when I was twelve. Does anybody?
John Balyo was a most respected man and beloved Bible teacher. He was pastor of Cedar Hill Baptist Church, here, in Cleveland. He never forgot, when he was young, being told that if you have five true friends by the time you die…well, that is remarkable. When he was in his sixties, perhaps a bit older, he shared that he did not yet have five.
At 38 years old, I am not so much reflecting on the friends I had when I was twelve – Reid Radcliffe, Kyle Wilson and Rob Bauer. Nor am I tempted to begin the count on my hand. Instead, I am left wondering if someone is reflecting on me or beginning to count me on their hand.
Luke writes Luke’s Gospel because there are things which happen to make us totter. But there are things which happened to keep us from tottering over. Keeping this in mind, Luke 5:17-26 makes just one demand of us. “And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus” (5:18). Behold is an imperative, a command.
There is much happening in these ten verses. Jesus is again teaching. Pharisees and teachers of the law, the Bible experts of the day, are there, just sitting there. And a crowd, too, is there, giving no wiggle room. The mood on this day will be affected by one rather short sentence. “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” And yet, Luke is concerned that we not miss some men bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed.
How many men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed? Listen to Mark 2:3 which records this same journey. “And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.” It is four men, four friends, who brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed. The paralyzed man could count four friends.
It Was One of Those Days
Have you ever had just one of those days? The mere mention of one of those days and we all know that this was not my, oh my, what a wonderful day; plenty of sunshine headin’ my way kind of day. This was oh, what a beautiful morning, oh, what a beautiful day, I’ve got a terrible feeling everything’s coming my way kind of day. And so Luke 5:17 begins “on one of those days.” And yet, it was not just one of those days as we know it. What kind of day was this? It was one of those days when Jesus was teaching.
What is significant about this one particular day when Jesus was teaching? First, I just want to point out that Luke, for some reason, is doing something peculiar as chapter fives unfolds. There is Luke 5:1. “On one occasion…” Then there is Luke 5:12. “While he was in one of the cities…” And Luke 5:17. “On one of those days…” There just seems to be this intentional ambiguity as Luke pens these moments.
But what is significant about this one particular day when Jesus was teaching? Listen to the rest of Luke 5:17. “On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there.” The Pharisees and teachers of the law (also known as scribes, cf. 5:21) were there! And who were the Pharisees and the teachers of the law? In short, these were the Bible experts, the theologians of the day. But remember, how did Jesus teach? What was distinct about Jesus’ teaching? Listen to Matthew 7:28-29. “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority.” What does it mean to teach with authority? Listen to the rest of verse twenty-nine. “…and not as their scribes.” So, to teach with authority means to not teach as these scribes. And these scribes on this day were sitting there listening to Jesus teach! And really what was the difference? What was the difference between Jesus teaching and the Bible experts teaching? When Jesus taught, he taught the Bible, not about the Bible. When Jesus taught, he simply and wonderfully taught the bare Word of God; this is what it means to teach with authority.
What makes this just one of those days? We know Jesus was teaching and we know his teaching was distinct from the Pharisees and the scribes who were sitting there. Notice, too, that the Pharisees and the scribes had come from all over the place – every village in Galilee, every village in Judea and the all important city of Israel called Jerusalem. It seems then that not only were there a lot of Bible experts sitting there, but some of the most important Bible experts were sitting there. But still, what makes this just one of those days? Listen to the last part of verse seventeen. “And the power of the Lord was with him to heal.”
What Is Important About this Power?
What is important about this power? I would like to tell you that this word power is the Greek word dunamis from which we get the word dynamite. I would like to tell you that this is the same word that describes Easter. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). And I would like to tell you that this is the same word that describes how Jesus holds all things together. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). But what I must tell you is that the power of the cross, the power which holds all things together, is the same power which in this moment is with Jesus to heal.
But why is Luke telling us this now? We have read of Jesus healing a woman with a severely high fever. We have read of Jesus healing those sick with various diseases. We just last week read of Jesus healing a man who was rotting from head to toe with leprosy (Luke 4:39; 4:40; 5:12-16). And so, when we read now that the power of the Lord was with him to heal, what might we be expecting to happen? When we read next, the very next verse, that four men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, that they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, what might we be expecting to happen? We might be expecting that Jesus will heal this man; that this man will feel again; this man will walk again; this man will run again; this man who is broken, will be made whole. But why is Luke telling us this now? I think the reason is that we may have low expectations about healing. What folly to obtain bodily wholeness, only to get into eternity without Christ.
So, Here Come Those Four Friends
So, here come those four friends. And remember, this is the lone demand of us as we read this passage. Do not miss these four friends. Notice, it is these four friends each holding a corner of this bed or stretcher, carrying their friend. Where have they come from? How far have they traveled? We do not know. Mark tells us that this is taking place in Capernaum (Mark 2:1). We know from Luke 4:40, that there is no one left in Capernaum plagued with or by anything. So, most likely these men are not from town, but from out of town. It is these four friends seeking to bring their friend to Jesus. And it is these four friends seeking to lay their friend before Jesus.
And what happened? There was no way to bring their friend to Jesus! The crowd was too much! There was no wiggle room to enter the room. So, they went up on the roof. And who were they? They are the four friends and the stretcher and the paralyzed man. Now, most likely this was a one story building. How high is the roof from the ground of a one story building? Probably not that high. But it feels much higher lifting and bearing the weight of a stretcher with a paralyzed man upon it.
Here they were, all five of them, huffing and puffing and sweating and tired, on the roof. There was but one problem – how to get into the house from the roof! They begin to remove one tile after another. Then they begin to remove the ice guard and then the paper and then the nails and then the ply wood, all by hand. If that was not enough, the opening had to be big enough and wide enough to lower a grown man through it! How long did this take? How much noise was made? What were they feeling? This was someone else’s roof!
There is a point here, though. The condition of their friend did not stop these four friends. The distance did not stop these four friends. The crowd did not stop these four friends. The roof did not stop these four friends. The cost, the roof repair cost something, did not stop these four friends. No one gave up. No one gave in. What does that say about these four friends? Oh, how they loved their friend! Oh, how they cared for their friend! Oh, how persistent they were for their friend!
What Does Jesus Say About These Four Friends?
But what does Jesus say about these four friends? “And when he saw their faith” (Luke 5:20). Listen to what comes next. Jesus was looking at those four faces peering through this new skylight and then turns his face to the paralyzed man. And with the power to heal says, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”
This makes the Bible experts either fall out of their seats or come up out of their seats. “Who is this?! Who is this that speaks blasphemies [lies]? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” The Bible experts are asking all the right questions. But what must be the look of the four men who brought their friend to be healed? What must be the look of the paralyzed man who heard all that Jesus did in this town? Jesus is broadening the expectation of what it means to be healed. For surely, he came to heal…the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1, cf. 53:5). And so, that we may know that the Son of Man – he who has been given dominion and glory and a kingdom; he is the King; he is the promise of the Old Testament (cf. Daniel 7:13-14) – has authority to forgive sins, he commands the paralyzed man to get up, walk and go home. What does the paralyzed man do instead? He gets up and runs home! Jesus uses this moment to get all to think about who he is and the power he has to heal which is complete and eternal (the word forgive indicates a permanent condition). Each of our lives, each of our stories hinges on who Jesus is. Is he a liar? Or is he God? There is no room for any other talk about him.
What is the point? When it says that Jesus saw their faith, this surely includes not just the four friends, but the five friends. It includes the paralyzed man. What does it mean to have faith? “Too many Christians live in constant despondency because they cannot distinguish between the rock on which they stand and the faith by which they stand upon the rock. Faith is not our rock; Christ is our rock. We do not get faith by having faith in our faith or by looking to faith, but by looking to Christ. Looking to Christ is faith.” The point is that all five men were looking to Christ. It is why Jesus could say to the paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven you.”
And do not miss these four friends! What does it take to dream and pray and plan, in love, more ways to reach people? It takes a friend. A man or woman’s greatest need is forgiveness of sins. “In our own lives, our family and friends will very likely not know the healing touch of Christ unless we have the kind of love that rips open roofs.”
Listen to Matthew 15:21-28.