Friendship, listening, and empathy: A Prayer GuideTwo Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian LifeSabbath Keeping FastingA Renewed SpiritualityNurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationPersonality Type in CongregationsPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathFriendingA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthDeath in Dunedin: A NovelDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelBeating Burnout in CongregationsReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeAdvent DevotionalDraw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave Baab

Praying about Jesus’s miracles: The man lowered through the roof

Lynne Baab • Wednesday May 22 2024

Praying about Jesus’s miracles: The man lowered through the roof

Christians have probably imagined themselves in biblical scenes ever since the Gospels were written and read aloud. St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) gave instructions for what he called Gospel Contemplation. He suggested placing ourselves in Gospel stories and imagining the smells, sounds, and sights as a way to encounter Jesus.

One of my favorite miracle stories, the paralyzed man being lowered through the roof by his friends (Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26), has allowed me to put myself in a Gospel story in three different roles.

1. A bystander. I like to imagine that I got to the house early enough to get a place inside. In fact, I managed to push a chair up against the wall, and I stand on the chair, looking over everyone’s head, captivated by Jesus’s teaching. I hear a noise coming from the roof, and soon, bits of dust start falling into the room. Then, clods of dirt and bits of straw fall into the room, as the tiles that make up the roof are removed one by one. A hole opens in the ceiling, and the sunlight streams through, illuminating the dust still falling from the ceiling. I hear voices from the roof and I see hands tearing apart the roof. Then, as the hole gets bigger, I see faces. Those of us in the room are mesmerized by the movement from above. The hole gets bigger and bigger, and eventually, a man is lowered by ropes into the room where we are standing.

Jesus says to the man that his sins are forgiven, and the Jewish leaders in the room look mad. Jesus addresses what he sees in them with confusing words. Then he heals the man, who gets up and walks out.

2. One of the friends carrying the man. I imagine that I live in Jesus’ time. When I hear about Jesus’s numerous acts of healing, I think about my friend who is paralyzed. In our village, we hear that Jesus is coming to our area, and some other people and I decide to carry our friend to Jesus. We are heartbroken when we get to the house where Jesus is speaking. We have gotten there too late! We see that the house is so full of people that the crowd has spilled into the front yard. We decide to try lowering our friend through the roof. I imagine the tricky climb up the stairs to the roof carrying the litter and the pain in our hands from digging through dirt and dust to get to the roof tiles. I picture the view of the room below as our hole gets bigger. I imagine the first time I see Jesus through the hole.

I feel the strain in my shoulders and arms as we lower our friend with ropes. I listen to Jesus talk to our friend and to the Jewish leaders. When I see a glimpse of our friend getting up and walking, I run down the stairs and greet my friend, shouting with joy.

3. The man experiencing paralysis. When I imagine myself as the paralyzed man, I try to let myself feel the years of hopelessness and discouragement. I try to see the journey to find Jesus from the point of view of someone lying on her back, looking up at the faces of my friends with the occasional leafy tree coming into view. I don’t understand why they struggle to carry me up on the roof, and I’m not at all comfortable when they lower me down with the ropes. But Jesus. His face when he looks at me! The tenderness of his words to me, healing me spiritually and then physically. The feeling in my legs when I stand up and walk. The joy of hugging my friends while standing up.

Three views. As we watch for the work of God in daily life, we toggle through these three roles. Sometimes we see God at work in others. We rejoice even though we did nothing to contribute to God’s work. Sometimes, we bring the people we care about to Christ through kind acts, gentle words, and persistent prayer. When we see God work in people’s lives in response to our prayers, we rejoice. Sometimes, we are the one in need, and our Christian siblings bring us into God’s presence through their own presence with us and through their prayers.

Am I willing to accept that I will experience all three roles at different times? Am I willing to de-center myself and watch God at work through others? Can I rejoice even when I have nothing to do with God’s actions? Am I willing to bring others into God’s presence with perseverance and hope? Am I willing to receive help?

Jesus, Healer, we need the guidance of your Holy Spirit to know what role you are calling us to in the many painful situations we witness in this broken world. Help us rejoice when we see you at work in situations where we made no contribution. Guide us into the best ways to bring people we love into your presence. And please give us humble hearts to receive help when you provide it through the actions of others. Thank you that you heal and restore our whole beings — body, soul, spirit, heart, and mind.

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Next week: the woman who touches Jesus's cloak. Illustration by Dave Baab: Golden Gardens, Seattle. In summer things are so dry here that this painting actually looks a little bit like the Middle East. 

Grief AND gratitude. As I heal from covid, and Dave continues to suffer through it, I grieve the effect of viruses in our world. I grieve the years that covid has made life difficult in so many ways. Yet I’m grateful for friends and family members who have been kind to us in the past two weeks, bringing groceries and checking in to cheer us up. I want to highlight my book, Two Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian Life, and the series of blog posts I wrote a few years ago about grief and gratitude. The series begins here. The book is available in paperback, kindle, and audiobook.

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