I was watching the young people in our church doing a drama about the guy lowered down from the roof last Sunday, (particularly enjoying the hard hats and hi-vis jackets donned for roof removal).
You know that story? It’s an odd moment in Mark 2, when suddenly the crowd around Jesus is sprinkled with plaster dust, and then a hole in the roof appears,and is steadily enlarged. Everyone looks up in surprise as around the edge of the hole, four grinning faces appear, and then disappear. There’s a bit of “To me, to you” stuff and then a stretcher wobbles its way down into the middle of the room at Jesus’ feet.
And Jesus “seeing their faith” said to the guy on the stretcher….
Leaving aside what he said for a moment (But do check it out for yourself and get back to me; it’s fascinating stuff and not at all what you’d expect)… I was startled by that opening moment.
Some people looked up at the disappearing ceiling in delighted surprise. Possibly the home-owner looked up in irritation or anger. Some saw the dexterity or cleverness or sheer Get-Up-And-Go-ness of the stretcher-bearers.
But Jesus saw their faith.
As was often the case, Jesus was looking in a different kind of way, and saw something that had been overlooked or misunderstood by the rest. Their faith got through to him. It gained access.
Literally and metaphorically.
Faith is a pioneering kind of quality. It pushes through past every obstacle and won’t take no for an answer. Hebrews 11 contains a wonderful list of people, some well known and some completely unknown, who simply believed God’s promises and put their belief on the line. Some experienced happy endings and many did not, but that wasn’t the point that the writer was making.
He was outlining the adventurous lifestyle that God calls us into.
He begins: “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see… And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
He rewards those who earnestly seek him! Think about that.
So that’s what Jesus saw in the faces of the men who destroyed the roof! He saw people who were earnest about getting to Jesus because they believed that he could deal with the crisis in their friend’s life!
And so they pushed through every barrier. And Jesus saw it and rewarded them.
It so happened that on the morning of the drama, I had been reading Romans 5 (a favourite passage). But when I saw the drama, the words of the text came to me in a wholly new way. Here it is:
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”
Now this puts the whole in the brilliant perspective of the Gospel of Christ. If you major simply on the pushing-through aspect of faith, you are tempted to think that it’s all down to you and your effort to get to God, with high scores for personal achievement. The verse makes it clear that “we have peace with God [only] through [the work of] our Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s entirely through him that we have any gain.
But don’t forget the other side of it! -And this is my point – that “we have gained access by faith.”
You know, I really do think that God allows obstacles to test the limits of our desire to reach him. He admired the faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman who traded witticisms for a few “crumbs” of the children’s bread. He saw Zaccheus in the tree and gently recognised it as a reaching-out in faith. He simply told a soldier that the healing was done, and nodded appreciatively at the guy’s About-turn and quick-march away. The fellow understood authority and acted on it. So “Be it done to you according to the measure of your faith.”
Faith gains access.
It’s like those badges the roadies wear at rock concerts: “Access all areas.” If you truly believe that God can heal, he wants you to act on the belief. If you believe he can supply all your needs, then he wants you to act as if that is more than a theoretical concept. “All things are possible to him that believes.”
And, of course, that’s what was happening on the roof! Faith was gaining access to the place of power, healing, authority and grace.
So how much do you want God to do for you? And what are you prepared to do about it?