Faith Friends

by Rich Bregitzer
(St. Louis, MO)

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)


Matthew 9:1-8

Mt 9:1 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town.
Mt 9:2 Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
Mt 9:3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”
Mt 9:4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?
Mt 9:5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?
Mt 9:6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . .” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”
Mt 9:7 And the man got up and went home.
Mt 9:8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, I who had given such authority to men.

The first Christian school I ever went to was located in Broken Arrow, OK and it was an enormous campus. It has a 2,000 seat sanctuary, full school, several auditoriums and of course, a book store. In the book store you could buy just about anything with the school shield and name on it. The shield had on it one word: “Faith” and you could find that faith shield on notebooks, coffee mugs, pencils and on these little stuffed animals called Faith Friends.

People describe faithful friends in all sorts of way. A faithful friend could be someone that sticks to you as close as a sibling in the good times and the bad. Or a faithful friend may be someone that helps you out or that keeps confidences. Some may say a faithful friend is someone that doesn’t judge you.

Those are all pretty decent descriptions of really good friends, but today I want to talk to you about those people that touch your life because of their faith in God. Do you have friends like that? I am talking about friends that are first and foremost friends of God before anyone else? Are you that sort of friend?

In the chapters leading up to chapter 9 of Matthew Jesus has been busy. He had just wrapped up the sermon on the mount and had spent some time healing the infirm and the demon possessed.

He met people that believed he could heal them, he met a Roman Centurion that believed if Jesus said the word that his servant would be healed. He had even met people that believed if they just touched the hem of his clothes that they could be healed. All of these people showed, in some way, faith for healing if at all possible.

But this situation is a little different. Here you have a man being carried by his friends. The man is a paralytic…meaning he is completely paralyzed. So, how does one approach a situation to fix it or to correct it if one is unable. Well, if that is the case then you have to rely upon the kindness of others.

Now, let’s be real. We have all heard the horror stories of people taking advantage of people that cannot otherwise care for themselves. Most of the time it seems as though the so-called “care giver” is only in it for the money or if it is a relative; that they may only be in it for the inheritance.

But a good friend…or for that matter a good person…doesn’t see the profit to be gained for themselves, but they see the value of the person they are reaching out to. So, here in this scripture we see the paralytic man being carried by people that are obviously concerned for his well being.

Now these men are not stopping at caring for their friend. Many people will laugh or cry with a friend, but when it comes to going the extra mile…well let’s just say that is when you find out who your real friends are. And these men were showing their paralytic friend just that sort of thing, but they also were showing their faith in something even stronger than their bond of friendship.

These men carry their friend to the one they believed could help him the best. See it is one thing to want the best for your buddy, but it’s quite another thing to act in a way that will benefit your buddy. These men bear the burden of their friend and carry him to Jesus. “So, what’s the big deal?” you may ask. The big deal is that these men came to Jesus so that he may heal their friend because they realized that Jesus could do that.

Now Jesus recognizes the faithfulness of these good friends and he tells the paralytic man: “Take heart, d son; your sins are forgiven.” Note that he does not address the friends. Nope. Matthew only tells us that Jesus saw their faith and because of their faith he forgives the sin of the paralytic man.

This speaks volumes to me about the benefits of having friends that possess a faith in Jesus Christ. I can’t begin to stress all the benefits of having faithful friends.

A good Christian friend will offer you encouragement, will pray for you, and if they are able, will help you out, will listen first and advise later, will care and will help you to draw closer to God; just as surely as these guys helped their paralyzed friend to get close to Jesus.

And the other great thing we learn from this scripture is that because we are friends with people of faith that we can be blessed because of them.

What about being a friend?

Sometimes being a friend isn’t all that easy. In the case of these men they had to approach Jesus while he was surrounded by some of the teachers of the law that were out to disprove Jesus’ teachings. And that is a characteristic of a true friend…someone that will not bail out on you when there seems to be opposition.

So, while the naysayers attempt to rebuke Jesus we do not find the friends abandoning their immobile comrade, but we find them holding their ground.

So, on top of the fact that they have brought their friend to Jesus, perhaps Jesus also recognizes this about them; that their faith is steadfast in the midst of opposition. And let’s face it these men, bringing their friend, had nothing to personally gain…in fact associating with Jesus could have been relatively dangerous for them.

Now what about us? To what extent do we exercise faith when it comes to living a life of faith where others are concerned? Are we willing to go the extra mile for the benefit of others?

Jesus tells us a story in Luke 10:30-37

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.
Lk 10:31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.
Lk 10:32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
Lk 10:33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.
Lk 10:34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.
Lk 10:35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
Lk 10:36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
Lk 10:37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

See there are many so-called religious people out there and there are many professing to have a relationship with Christ that cannot bear to have a relationship with those in need around them. How do you think God feels about such people? Jesus tells us in Matthew:

Mt 25:32 All the nations will be gathered before God…,
Mt 25:33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Mt 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
Mt 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,
Mt 25:36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’...

Mt 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Mt 25:42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,
Mt 25:43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

It would seem that Jesus is emphatic about us being there for others because we cannot be close to God if we are not close to those around us.

The thing about Jesus, the paralytic man and his friends is that Jesus sees in these men people ministering as unto the Lord; serving a fellow human being as if they are serving God and Jesus rewards that faith by first speaking to the spiritual condition of the paralytic; forgiving his sins.

And because they faithfully endure the scorn of the “teachers of the law” they also get to witness a miracle as Jesus tells their friend to “Get up, grab his mat and go home.”

AMEN

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