Links Daily Devotional

Mat-Carriers at Work

And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” (Luke 5:18-20, ESV)

Reports were spreading quickly and people gathered from all of the regions of the Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, including some Pharisees and teachers of the law. They wanted to hear his teaching and be healed of their infirmities. A large crowd filled the room, leaving no room for even a single person to squeeze in. Four men were undeterred and did the unthinkable. Digging. Dirt falling. Gazes turned upward to see a paralytic being lowered on his mat right in the center of the room in front of Jesus.

I remember seeing pictures of this scene in my childhood Bible story book and feeling captivated by the adventure of it, but over the years my sense of wonder disappeared and my logical mind has focused more on the miracle of Jesus forgiving the paralytic of his sins and telling the man to pick up his mat and walk—it makes sense, for it’s a powerful example of Jesus’ authority.

One thing I have learned from my biblical study trips in Israel is the importance of asking the text two questions: “Why is that there?” and “Why do I need to know it?”

Today I’m curious to know why do three of the gospel writers mention, “And when he saw their faith…” when they tell this story? No one can be saved by another’s faith, but the writers seemed to believe something important was going on here. The resourcefulness and determination of the four friends to get the paralytic close to Jesus moved him to respond, first to the man’s spiritual needs and then to his physical needs.

I heard a sermon recently where the teacher named these men “mat-carriers.” The term made me smile because more times than I am willing to admit, it’s the faith of another person who helps me turn my eyes back to Jesus when all I want to do is run away. Usually it’s the men and women who know me best, but I’ve also experienced the faith of a stranger who has carried the corner of my mat when I needed help.

A mat-carrier’s faith is wise – knows the only one who can heal, Jesus; is persistent – unhindered by what feels like overwhelming circumstances; is sacrificial – gives time and effort; is not intimidated – unashamed of public scrutiny; is humble – dependent on Jesus; is loving – willing to do hard things to get real help; is active – gets involved and takes people to Jesus.

Being a mat-carrier doesn’t mean you have to do more for other people, especially from a posture of guilt. It’s not about enabling others to continue in destructive patterns by fixing their problems. It’s not about volunteering more time at church or the homeless shelter. It’s not about depleting ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally, or financially.

Everyday, however, we have the opportunity to be mat-carriers. Sometimes it involves a life-changing circumstance, but more often it occurs by being the hands and feet of Jesus in the middle of our daily routines. Welcoming a new family to the neighborhood by inviting them over for a meal instead of just dropping one off. Sitting with a grieving friend and offering your presence, whether words are spoken or not. Instead of being self-absorbed and frustrated on the course, offering laughter and encouraging words to your playing partners. Setting aside your agenda to play with your children, opening an opportunity to be known. Doing a random act of kindness: paying for another’s coffee or leaving a bigger tip than normal leaves a person feeling valued.

How can you be a mat-carrier today?

Tracy Hanson
August 6, 2014
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