Borne by Four

And again he entered into Capernaum, after some days, and it was heard that he is in the house, (2) and immediately many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door, and he was speaking to them the word. (3) And they come unto him, bringing a paralytic, borne by four, (4) and not being able to come near to him because of the multitude, they uncovered the roof where he was, and, having broken it up, they let down the couch on which the paralytic was lying, (5) and Jesus having seen their faith, saith to the paralytic, `Child, thy sins have been forgiven thee.’
Mark 2:1-5 YLT

East Bay Fellowship studied Mark 2 this past week, which includes the famous healing of this paralytic. This account is often referred to when talking about the importance of spiritual companionship and tight friendship. After all, it is indeed touching how these four friends went out of their way to bring the paralytic to Jesus. However, I want to bring up a slightly different way of looking at this passage.

Let’s look at verse 3:

And they come unto him, bringing a paralytic, borne by four…

We frequently say these four must have been good and close friends with each other and with the paralytic because of their actions. But if we just look at verse 3 alone, there isn’t any indication of such a relationship. Many modern translations say “four men” probably for completion’s sake, but even that doesn’t imply any sort of  relationship. For all we know, these four could’ve been close friends, mere acquaintances, or random strangers who, on their way to see Jesus, saw the paralytic and out of the goodness of their hearts decided to lend a helping hand.

How could this change the way we think about this passage? Let me share my own personal example and thinking.

After a sermon, the speaker typically goes over prayer requests before prayer which often include those who are sick physically or spiritually, and those who seldom or never come to church anymore. This summer I had the opportunity to visit many True Jesus Churches in other countries and attend service, and at each one the speaker would mention people to pray for, some by name. Being a visitor, I didn’t recognize any of the names since I didn’t know everyone. Whenever I heard these prayer requests, I never felt a strong urge or obligation to pray for them, particularly for lost sheep. I found myself thinking, “members who don’t come to church anymore – not really my problem; they’re the responsibility of their close friends and peers.”

And yet, the paralytic was carried possibly by four strangers; four people who climbed onto the roof, dug through it, and lowered the paralytic down in order to bring him to the presence of Jesus. And I was one of the many in the multitude who passed by the paralytic and did nothing, like the priest and Levite who saw the man beaten by the road and passed by on the other side. But the four, who may have coincidentally walked by the paralytic on the side of the road, had compassion – they were living examples of the good Samaritan.

We know the moral of the story of the good Samaritan well; we should love our neighbor as ourselves, and our neighbor is whoever is in need. When we listen to prayer requests, we are learning who our neighbors are, and Jesus commanded us to love not just our friends, but our neighbors as ourselves. Doing a favor for a friend? No problem. But how much out of our way are we willing to go for people we may not know so well or not know at all? Those who are sick either physically or spiritually, those who are lost, those who are paralyzed – whether strangers or friends – they are our responsibility. We can either be part of the multitudes who pass them by, or be part of the few good Samaritans. Let us choose to have compassion.

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