I was in my early twenties, pastoring a tiny Baptist church in Clarkston, Washington. As newlyweds, Carla and I lived across the bridge in Lewiston, Idaho and commuted the twenty minutes to church, where we met weekly with the small congregation.
Maxine was there. Always. On some Sundays, Maxine drove to church from her home, just a few blocks from the church. More often, Richard, her husband, dropped her off. Richard never got out of the car. He never came into the church building. Never.
On Wednesday evenings, our little congregation gathered for an old-fashioned prayer meeting. Maxine was there. After singing a few hymns, and after a Scripture had been read, I’d ask the faithful few, “How can we pray tonight? What burdens would you share?” Invariably, Maxine would respond. “Please! Can we pray for Richard?”
Richard was a nice man, a good citizen, a man who loved his wife and family. But Richard was lost. He didn’t know Jesus, and Maxine begged us to pray for his salvation. Throughout their long decades of marriage, Maxine never gave up. She kept on praying and kept reminding us to pray. She was faithfully persistent.
Matthew, Mark and Luke each record the story of four men who didn’t give up. Their friend was paralyzed. He lived flat on his back, day after day, year after year. When the four learned that Jesus was in town, they picked up their broken buddy and faithfully, hopefully, carried him to where Jesus was ministering to the needy crowds. When they arrived at the house, they found that the little home was crammed, packed. Folks were standing in the doorway. Others were leaning in the windows. They couldn’t push through the crowd, so they climbed the steep stairs and hefted and hoisted their way to the roof. On the roof, they dug until they had opened a hole as large as the stretcher. Carefully, they tied ropes to the four corners of the cot and gently lowered it until it came to rest just before Jesus.
I suspect that the folks on the front row weren’t happy when the dirt and debris started falling, and even less happy when they had to scoot out of the way to make room for the intruder. I also suspect that Jesus stopped teaching and turned His attention to the activity above him. He watched and waited as these men dug the hole and then strained, lowering their friend. When the bed was safely on the floor, Jesus looked compassionately at the broken body, the man who hadn’t walked since the accident or illness stole his mobility.
Then Jesus looked up at the four faithful friends. “Seeing their faith...” (Matthew 9:2). “Seeing their faith...” (Luke 5:20). “Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven ... Get up, take your mat, and go home’ ” (Mark 2:5, 11). Miraculously, He did.
Maxine, like the four faithful friends, didn’t give up. In a hospital bed, a few days before he died, Richard gave his life to Jesus. I have little doubt that Jesus, seeing Maxine’s life-long labors, and hearing Richard’s cry of repentance, said, “Son, your sins are forgiven... Get up... come home.” Miraculously, He did.
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.