Recently I found myself watching a reality show revolving people in remote areas simply trying to survive. I wasn’t watching all that closely but I was struck by their sleeping arrangements. All day long they toiled for basic aspects of survival; water, food, avoidance of deadly snakes and inclement weather. With nowhere soft to rest during the day, when it was time to lay down and go to sleep, their long-awaited icon of rest was a handmade mat constructed out of woven leaves and branches. I don’t know about you but when I travel and don’t get a mattress similar to my pillow top with memory foam at home, it’s a bad morning. I remember thinking as I watched, “those poor people…wait, they volunteered for this!”

Mark 2:1-12 chronicles a man who did not volunteer to call a mat his mattress. As a paralytic suffering from a palsy, that mat was most likely his companion all day and night. I can only imagine how that mat must have seemed more like a prison. His life was confined to the dimensions of that mat. If he needed to go anyway for food or other basic human functions, he had to rely on the availability and generosity of friends and neighbors. They even went so far as to vandalize someone’s roof to lower him through just so he could get close to this guy named Jesus who was rumored to have the ability to perform physical miracles of healing. Those friends who carted this desperate soul around were convinced enough of Jesus’ abilities and willingness to be kind to people, they risked tearing apart a neighbor’s roof; bold move!

What’s so interesting about this account of God’s physical kindness extended to one of his kids is how the transactions goes down. Look at this,

“And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they (the four friends) removed the roof above him (Jesus), and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven…I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all..” Mark 2:4-12

Did you see it? This is quite amazing. Scripture says, “when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven…rise, pick up your bed, and go home’ “. I love this. Jesus took notice of yes, the paralytic man’s plight, but was struck and moved apparently by the faith he witnessed of his friends.

Friends and neighbors; it’s what we are to each other. I would suggest that most, if not all of us, have, at times, “mats” in our life. Some form of need, ailment, or calamity confronts all of us from time to time. We all have to deal with the “mats” that life forces us to contendwith. It seems there is a big life lesson to be learned in this passage. Yes, it reveals many aspects of God’s nature but what seems most striking to me is the role of friends and neighbors and how Jesus punctuates his own acknowledgment of the faith, effort, and kindness those friends showed this man.

It seems one major message here is God’s compassion of thecircumstantial mats in your life. Equally pointed is the message of how God would move in people’s lives, through the kindness and initiative of caring friends and neighbors around them. Is there anyone in your sphere or neighborhood that could use a little help tearing through a roof to get to some help? When someone is confined by a mat of circumstance, a little help getting over barriers can make a substantial difference.

Would you be willing to help someone with their mat? Let us be a community of friends and neighbors!