And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay.

Mark 2:3-4

On the second Sunday of Great Lent, we read the Gospel account of Jesus healing a paralytic. And as so often happens, God’s miracles happen in concert with our own faith, and also our own work. For instance, in the feeding of the five thousand, someone offered five loaves and two fish and Jesus multiplied those to feed five thousand men, plus women and children, and there were twelve baskets left over. In the miracle we read about in the Gospel lesson, Jesus heals a man who was paralyzed, but who was brought to Jesus by four friends. These four friends were material to the miracle.

As we envision how this might have played out, there were several elements that mark a good friendship. First, there was inclusion. Four able-bodied friends made room in their circle for a man who was not able-bodied. Second, there was concern and hope for a friend who was in need. Somone heard about Jesus coming and had the idea that the paralyzed friend might receive healing from Him. Third, there was faith. The paralyzed man was going to allow his friends to carry him through town, to Jesus, not really knowing the outcome. Fourth, there was determination. When the friends brought the man to Jesus and realized they were not going to get into the house where He was preaching because there was no room, they didn’t go away, but were determined to find a way. Which leads to the fifth thing they had, which was creativity. Someone came up with the idea that perhaps they could access Jesus by somehow getting the man up on the roof and lowering him down to Jesus. Sixth, there was a lot of teamwork and trust. Four people trying to get a mattress up a wall and lowering it down without dropping the paralyzed friend must have taken a lot of teamwork on the part of the four friends. Allowing this to happen must have required a lot of trust for the paralyzed man. And finally, there was resolve. Those four friends were going to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus no matter what. They cut a hole in the roof of someone else’s house. The Gospel doesn’t tell us who fixed the hole but presumably the friends would have seen to that. It’s not likely they would have come to Jesus only by vandalism. They probably had some financial outlay as well. This mission involved sacrifice as well. And all this happened so that Jesus could heal their friend.

When we look at friendships today, both how our friends act toward us and how we act towards them, this Gospel passage can do a lot to help us improve friendships from both perspectives. Everyone has a desire to feel included and not left out. And while we can’t always control when we get left out, we can definitely look to include others, and we should definitely look to include the person who looks like they need a friend, or someone who appears to have few friends.

Friendship is not only about having a good time, although good friendships should enjoy good times. Friendships should be about mutual concern and hope, friends concerned about friends, friends hoping, and helping, friends work through problems so that they can enjoy successes.

Faith doesn’t figure heavily enough in most friendships. We should make a habit of praying for our friends. Wouldn’t it be nice to work up the courage to pray with a friend? And whether our friends are Christian or not, we should model Christian behavior in our friendships, which means being mindful of the kinds of things we do with our friends.

Determination is a characteristic of a good friendship. Sometimes friendships themselves become paralyzed, because of unresolved conflict or misunderstanding. Being patient and able to make it through the valleys that affect all friendships is the mark of a solid relationship.

Without creativity, relationships become stale and problems go unsolved. Friends help friends with their problems. Friends allow friends to help with their problems. Good friends can solve mutual problems and problems that creep up in their friendship.

Teamwork and trust necessarily precede love and vulnerability. No one will feel comfortable being vulnerable around people they don’t trust or can’t work with. Spending time with friends, whether it is just hanging out having good conversation, sharing a quiet day watching a movie or working on a project together, all of these foster teamwork and trust which leads to the ability to be vulnerable.

And finally, resolve. People make New Year’s resolutions about things that they will or will not do. Legislative bodies pass resolutions for or against things. There should be resolutions in friendships, like “I don’t want to do things that hurt you,” or “If we get to a spot and we feel stuck, we’ll work through it and fix it.”

On that day that four friends brought their paralyzed friend to Christ for healing, you could say that their friendship was “Christ-centered.” How wonderful it would be for our friendships to be Christ-centered. Sure, not all of our friends will be devout Christians, and friends need friends to be friends and not “pastors” necessarily. However, a Christ-centered friendship does the things that Christ modeled for us—patience, forgiveness, joy, consistency, etc.

In friendships, some days we will be the paralyzed man who is stuck and needs a hand. And on other days we will be the friend who creatively helps get a friend unstuck.

Have mercy on me, O God. Have mercy on me.
Lord, Lord, at the Last Day shut not Your door against me; but open it to me, for I repent before You.
(Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Ode One, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)

Good friendships bring out the best in people. We all can do a better job in our friendships.


Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced multiple books, you can view here:


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder