I want to talk about friendships today. I already read one Scripture story about a man and his friends. I’d also like to read a Scripture story about a man with no friends. This is John 5: 1 – 15.
5 …Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  [b] 5 One who was there had been disabled for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
7 “Sir,” the man replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”
11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”
12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”
13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.
I heard a Gospel song recently about this text. I didn’t catch the name of the song to find all the lyrics. A few of the lyrics I heard were memorable to me. When I heard the song, I heard an interpretation of this Scripture that I had not before considered. The man had no one to help him down to the water. The singer suggests that God asked “Will you be made whole?” But, the singer also said he had “One to help him down to the water to be healed.” The disabled man had no friends to help him be healed until he found a friend in Jesus who didn’t help him be healed. Jesus healed him.
I wondered, who helps us down to the water so we can be healed and made whole? This can be a lonely life without the companionship of friends and family. When we are alone, I know some of us crave some alone time away from kids, but too much alone time, makes us thankful for our companions. In any alone we get, we probably take the time to be thankful for our companions. And, we take time to talk to the best friend anyone could ever have, Jesus.
We have friends and family to carry us down to the pool to be made well, unlike the disabled man who had no one to carry him to the pool to be made well. Instead, Jesus came to the man and made him whole and healed him without the magic waters, simply the forgiveness of sin. That’s something the magic water couldn’t do, forgive sin. In the man’s loneliness and suffering, Jesus came to him when the man had no one to help him.
We are lucky to have friends and family. Some of us may have time to be lonely, but we are blessed to have companions. We may never find ourselves stranded by a pool hoping for someone to carry us down to the healing waters. However, I think our friends and family aren’t the type that carry us down to the magic water. I think our friends and family are the type who carry us to Jesus.
We don’t need friends to take us down to the pool for healing. The waters of the pool have no comparison to the healing power of Christ. I don’t want a friend to take me down to the pool of Bethesda. I want a friend who will take me to Jesus.
In our 2nd scripture reading, a paralyzed man has friends who believe in Jesus. They have obviously heard about His healing power. They know Jesus can heal their friend. They carry their friend on his mat to the place where Jesus is teaching. I can imagine a couple men straining to carry a man on a mat like a stretcher to Jesus. They must have had great faith to carry their friend any distance to be healed.
They get to the place and there is a huge crowd. They can’t get through the crowd to get their friend in front of Jesus. They had not carried their friend all that way to not be healed by Jesus. They have to find another way to get their friend in front of Jesus. They go to the roof of the home where Jesus was teaching. They pull aside the roof tiles to make a space big enough to lower their friend down in front of Jesus.
I’m not sure how this works. I have trouble imagining how they lowered a man on a mat down to the floor in front of Jesus. I imagine there were ropes which means they had to run and find rope or it was a clumsy tumble through the roof down to the ground. Maybe they thought that their friend couldn’t get anymore hurt by falling to the ground from the roof, not anymore paralyzed than he already was. Maybe that was a risk they were all willing to take in order to get their friend in front of Jesus.
I imagine what Jesus was thinking through this event. After hearing noise above, Jesus looks up at a man coming at him, being lowered down or falling down through the roof. I imagine him thinking, “Now that’s faith.” He must have known that someone carried this man there and he probably saw the man’s friends peering through the roof.
Jesus healed the man, not because of his faith, but because of his friends’ faith.
Have you ever thought about that?
Have you ever thought that you may believe enough for your friends or family?
Can it be that your faith is enough to carry a person to Jesus?
Is it possible that our friends, family and church family might believe for us and carry us to Jesus when it is difficult for us to have faith?
While I’ve been thinking about companions over the past couple weeks, I had some time to go home and visit with my family. It was nice, at first, to be in the midst of a busy family and constantly having someone around who wanted to hang out. Now, I’m glad to be back to some peace and quiet and all of you.
When I was in Ohio, I spent a day with my nephew. Just he and I had some special time. He wanted to go to Five Guys burgers and to see Captain America: Civil War. I hadn’t remembered that he was lactose intolerant when I fed him a cheeseburger for lunch and bought him chocolate candy at the movie. But, he made it through the movie before I had to take him home and explain that I was just doing my duty as an aunt to feed him junk food, get him hopped up on sugar and send him home.
The movie Captain America was not what I expected. It had Captain America and a bunch of super heroes and a lot fighting and action. I just didn’t expect the fighting to be among the Avengers, which is the name of the group of super heroes. I had expected the Avengers team of friends to battle some bad guys together. I didn’t expect the civil war would be a war between friends.
The Avengers had been so close fighting bad guys together living in the Avengers compound. They encouraged one another to be the best they could be, recognized the abilities within each other, empowered one another to fight for justice. They were super individually but even better together. Then, civil war broke out. They couldn’t agree on what was right for the future work of the Avengers. They couldn’t agree on what was the right side or the right thing to do. They turned on one another and used their best abilities to try to take each other out. The Avengers may never be the same now that they’ve fought against one another. At one time, they had sustained one another and now they are torn apart.
It is so important to fight for our companions, not with our companions, who are true friends and loyal family. These people help us more than we could every repay their love. They are the ones who pick us up when we’re too sick to move and take us to Jesus where we can be restored. They are the ones who help us through divorce or addiction, depression or illness, loss or suffering. When we are too broken to believe, when we’re questioning why God isn’t doing anything, when we’re wondering what God could possibly do to make it better or easier, these friends have faith enough for us to sooth us with words of encouragement and comfort us with prayers and surround us with loving arms.
Maybe the last thing I need to say is: don’t ever think you have to go it alone. Whatever you’re dealing with or need help with, please reach out to one of us in this room and we will journey with you because we are your Christian family on whom you can rely.