Seeing an opportunity, they acted decisively. Four men, not intending to draw attention to themselves, were determined to get it done. Somebody noticed.
We don’t know if they were friends before this, nor how they knew the paraplegic. What we do know is that these four men became aware that a powerful person was meeting nearby with influential people. So they loaded up the paralyzed man and dropped in to the meeting. We don’t know what they said, but what they wanted to happen was obvious.
Perhaps you recognize this story as a historic encounter with Jesus. The point of the story is that Jesus demonstrates his authority to forgive with a physical healing of the man. But don’t miss a tiny phrase in the narrative. Considering what the four had done, and “Seeing their faith” (Luke 5:20), Jesus responded. Faith is not an invisible, internal concept for those who believe and follow Jesus.
Jesus had already expressed this idea in his Sermon on the Mount. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see our good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 5:16). To Jesus, faith means you will have a light to shine, and its purpose is to glorify your heavenly Father. That presumes there is darkness somewhere within your reach.
Martin Luther famously called the Biblical book of James an “epistle of straw” for its emphasis on works. But I see no difference between what Jesus said and “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works?” (2:14). To claim faith but live a complacent or compromised life is foreign to the mercy of God and the regeneration by the Holy Spirit poured out upon us richly through Jesus. It is antithetical to the exchanged life expressed as, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).
The church has made itself visible in culture. Consider the architecture that creates a sense of sacred space as an aid to worship. Art through the ages expresses Christian themes of creation, fall, redemption, eternity. Our language, the calendar, and our ceremonies bear evidence of Christianity. Yet, as noticeable as this is, this is not the visible faith we are called to. Upon us is the imprint of the nail-scarred hands that are generous and gentle. Inside us is a new heart of compassion for the helpless and hurting. Within our mouths are the true words of grace to heal the sin-sick soul.
What animates a visible faith is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22), which you know as the fruit of the Spirit’s presence. With this harvest of character, your faith will not be intangible. It will be visible. “Seeing their faith,” it says.