(see Luke 5:17-26)
The view was unvarying: cloudless white-hot sky above him, against which he closed his eyes most of the time. If he turned his head a tiny bit to right or left, he could see the back of a head and the top of a shoulder. If he strained his eyes up and back to either side he’d see grim faces, upside down. Four men, two on either side, trudged doggedly forward, while he lay still, strapped in place.
They were grim because it was hot, heavy work, and they’d been walking since sunrise. They were dogged because they were determined to get him to his destination. And he lay still, not because he was strapped down, but because he could not will his limbs to move. Nor could he say or do anything to stop these four. Their minds were made up. This was their last hope.
He had given up hope long since. For years, the five of them had worked merrily together at their trade. They’d laughed together, sweating in the heat. They’d poured the wine at each others’ weddings, blessed each others’ children, built each others’ homes, adding on rooms as their families grew. And then it happened. The freak accident that left one of them helpless, paralyzed, useless. The others pitched in to support his family, they consulted physicians, took him to healing springs, massaged his limbs, cheered him or chided him at need.
Meanwhile the paralyzed man grew more and more bitter, watching his friends going on with their lives–loving wife, holding child, wielding chisel. They worked without him. In time he didn’t think he liked them any more. He believed he hated them.
But now here he was, feeling like a sacrifice being carried to the altar against its will. They’d strapped him to the cot so he wouldn’t fall off if they stumbled. They’d explained that this was absolutely the last time they’d try to help him…but they’d said that before, too.
“This Man…He works miracles. He does. We’ve seen Him. If anyone can heal you, it will be Him. We just have to get you to Him. He’s in Galilee right now, so let’s go, OK?”
OK? What choice does a paralyzed man have? What can he do by his own will? He stared silently into space as they got him ready.
His wife kissed him good-bye. “I’m praying, ” she whispered.
And what will happen when nothing happens? he thought. Maybe they’d just leave him by the side of the road some-where, to choke to death on the dust.
He must have dozed for a time. When he awoke, they’d stopped. A mutter of urgent words washed over him. The men hissed at each other.
“We can’t do that! Are you crazy?”
“Well, what do you suggest?”
“We’ve come too far to stop now.”
“There’s no other way in–the crowd is already five deep outside the door. The courtyard is packed.”
“Is there a ladder? What about a rope?”
Ladder? Rope? What were they talking about? He opened his mouth to protest, then closed it again. Why waste his breath? They would do whatever they chose. They’d long ago stopped asking his permission or even his opinion. He felt more than ever like a piece of meat, and not kosher either–just an unclean, useless lump, barely alive.