A story for our times: Jesus, friendship and a hole in the roof

One of the most moving healing stories in the Gospels is the healing of the paralysed man. It's told by Mark and Luke, in much the same way. Jesus is teaching in a house and the crowd is thick about him. A paralysed man has some friends who bring him for healing. In the urgency of their need, they break open the roof of the house and lower him down into the room where Jesus is speaking.

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It's a moving story because, unusually, it involves friendship. More often in the Gospels, people come to Jesus, or he comes to them, because they are alone and helpless. There is no one else who cares. In this case, loyal friends stage a dramatic intervention.

The story features in today's tweet from the archbishop of Canterbury in connection with the Thy Kingdom Come prayer initiative. He says: 'But to admit you're weak is to be strong. To come clean that you're broken, is actually to be whole. To ask for help shows how together you really are. Jesus is here. Right by your side to help you. Put down your stubbornness and pride, and let him.'

And this is an insight into another aspect of this story: the role of the paralysed man himself. In the way it's told in the Gospels, he is completely passive – everything is said and done to him. He does not speak – perhaps he's unable to speak. But that doesn't mean he has nothing to say. In his mind he is aware of his weakness and dependency. Perhaps he's grateful for the care being shown him – but perhaps he is resentful and angry, and just wants people to leave him alone.

None of us likes to admit our dependency on others. We would prefer to be able to stand on our own two feet. But that isn't always possible, and that's when we need our friends.

It's also when we need God, whether we know it or not. Jesus' first words to him were, 'Son, your sins are forgiven' – restoring him to a life-giving relationship with God. Healing, he seems to say, is more than physical.

In an age when there are technical solutions to everything, independence is prized and personal autonomy is valued above interdependence and community, this story says, 'There's a better way. Look to your friends; and look to your Friend.'

Follow Mark Woods on Twitter: @RevMarkWoods

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