The Mystery of the Mat
The Mystery of the Mat
This week, I have been praying about the need for those who profess to follow Jesus Christ, to gather together for mutual encouragement. The writer to Hebrews asks us to "Encourage one another daily, as long as its called today, that none will have our hearts hardened by sin's deceitfulness." (Heb 3:13).
It is clear that one of the defining attributes of the early church was their sense of community and cohesiveness. In our era, where width is preferred over depth, community is not recognized as one of the core disciplines of our faith.
Authentic community is the place where people can be extend grace (come as you are), be vulnerable (share who you are), experience love (accepted for who you are), and challenge one another. Historically, it has been the discipline that promotes real and sustained life transformation.
Today, God reminded me of a story in the life of Jesus that helped me understand the necessity of community as the practice of intentionally meeting together.
One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."
21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . ." He said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today."
A couple of principles for your contemplation:
1. Everyone has a mat that we carry until we experience the healing of Jesus. The paralytic man's mat represented his inability to be whole or complete. He relied upon the mat because he could not walk. When Jesus heals him, he no longer needs the mat. What's your mat? What do you rely upon that you think is helping you, but its just a reminder that you are not complete. Your mat may be a horrible relationship or watchin pornography. What ever mat we carry, we are convinced that it is helpful when it is a hinderance.
2. Everyone needs caring friends to help carry them and their mat. The paralytic man's four friends are dedicated towards getting their friend to Jesus. They know that the only hope for their friend is Jesus. The purpose of community is to get a few friends who are willing to enter into a journey where they help carry you to Jesus, even when you lack the strength or faith to do it for yourself.
3. Our healing may occur in stages, so we need friends who are willing to carry us long term. Notice that in the story, Jesus heals his soul (forgiveness) and his body (his paralysis). My experience suggests that healing and wholeness occurs as a process of healing as opposed to events (although I have seen event like healing). We need others to support us while we are still in process.
4. Committed spiritual friends contrasts the common experience of "crowded loneliness". I heard Pastor Randy Frazee use that term and I have loved it ever since. Crowded loneliness is the experience of being around a lot of people, but not being intimate (non-sexually) with anyone. This is the regular experience of many church goers today. They go to church but do not share their story and their lives with anyone. Committed spiritual friends who gather intentionally for sharing and encouragement guards against church as a performance syndromes.
5. The faith of friends is another conduit of the grace and power of God. The text states that Jesus performed the miracle after he saw "their" faith. The "their" is referring to the friends who demonstrated their faith in Jesus through boldly lowering their friend through a roof. Sometimes, we lose faith and we lose hope. We need others who love us to compassionately have faith in the goodness and faithfulness of God, when we do not.
Who is carrying your mat? What non-relative are you committed to carrying them and their mat to Jesus? If you have "mat carrriers" who you meet with regularly, then let them know how important they are. If you are in need of mat carriers, take time today and ask God who you can approach about this.
May God bless you,
Pastor M Traylor