Friends in Need
by Revd Alan M. Barker (revised, originally published in 2001)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To reflect on the importance of friendship in overcoming difficulty.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a sling and if possible, a pair of crutches.
- Familiarize yourself with the Bible story in the passage Luke 5.17-26, which is about some friends who lower a paralysed man through a roof so that he can reach Jesus. A version of the story is provided in the ‘Assembly’, Step 4.
- Optional: you may wish to have available the YouTube video ‘Best friendship song ever by Bruno Mars’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 3.24 minutes long and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L14QtTGtjF4
- Note: there may be children present who have disabilities or have had recent accidents, so please use this assembly with sensitivity.
- Be ready wearing the sling at the start of the assembly.
Ask the children whether any of them know why someone would wear a sling. Have any of them ever needed to do so? (Adapt your words with sensitivity to the children present.)
Listen to a range of responses.
Invite the children to identify some of the difficulties posed by an injured or broken arm, such as carrying bags, writing, washing our hair and cutting up food.
- If the crutches are available, show them to the children.
Invite the children to identify some of the difficulties someone might encounter if they needed to use crutches to help them to walk. Examples could include carrying their dinner tray, carrying books and moving around school safely.
- Ask the children to suggest how some of the difficulties could be overcome. Emphasize the ways in which friends can help. There are times when we discover how important friendship is, and who our true friends are.
- Explain that a doctor called Luke wrote one of the gospels, which are four books in the Bible about the life of Jesus. As a doctor, he knew the importance of friendship in overcoming physical difficulties.
Introduce the story of the healing of the paralysed man, reading it from a modern translation of the Bible (Luke 5.17-26) or using the following version.
A Friend in Need by Alan M. Barker
Crowds gathered to see Jesus. The news about him had spread far and wide. Many would travel miles to catch a glimpse of him and to hear him speak.
‘Jesus is so special,’ everyone said, ‘that if he just touches you, you’ll feel better.’
Hundreds came to be healed of their diseases; those who couldn’t make the journey on their own were helped by friends.
One day, Jesus was teaching inside a house. So many people were squashed into the room that it was hard to move. Others stood around the doorways, standing on tiptoe and craning their necks to catch a glimpse of what was going on. A short distance away, four men had brought along a man who couldn’t walk. He lay on the ground on a mattress.
‘What’s the use? I told you we wouldn’t get in,’ the man grumbled. ‘No one cares about me.’
‘We care,’ replied his four friends.
Back inside, the people were listening to Jesus. ‘God loves you,’ he told them. ‘He loves you much more than you can ever tell. Even if you don’t feel good enough, you can believe and trust in him. God will forgive you and help you.’
Suddenly, Jesus was interrupted by some thumping noises that seemed to come from above him. A cloud of dust fell from the ceiling and two or three people sneezed. (Atchoo!)
‘There’s someone up there,’ everyone muttered. ‘It’ll be those kids again . . . we’ve told them not to play on our roofs!’
Then, to their amazement, a hole was punched in the mud plaster and a hand appeared, its fingers frantically scrabbling away at the edges of the hole.
‘They’re taking the roof off to hear Jesus,’ someone called out excitedly.
Soon, those inside could see a large patch of blue sky, and sunshine beamed down into the house. Then, a large shadow fell across the room as a mattress was heaved into the opening.
‘Steady at your end, Josh.’
‘Careful,’ wailed a voice. ‘Don’t drop me!’
There was someone on the mattress! Hands reached up to steady and support him and, in just a few moments, the man on the mattress was sitting on the ground amid everyone’s legs.
Jesus looked at the man and also at the faces of his four friends peering down through the hole above. ‘My son, you are forgiven,’ said Jesus, smiling.
But not everyone was pleased. Some were quick to complain. ‘Forgiven? He’s just made a hole in the roof. Forgiven?’
‘Isn’t forgiveness hard?’ replied Jesus. ‘I wonder, is it harder to say, “You are forgiven” or to say, “Get up and walk”?’ He turned to the paralysed man and said, ‘Get up, take your mattress and go home.’
Feeling strength flood into his legs, the man struggled to his feet, rolled up his bedding and pushed his way out of the door. Everyone was utterly amazed.
Outside, the man hugged his friends. They jumped up and down, punched the air and shouted, ‘Yeeesssss! Jesus did it! Yeeessss! We did it!’
Pointing to the hole in the roof, they shouted to the house-owner, ‘We promise we’ll be back tomorrow to mend your roof.’ Then, pointing to their friend, they laughed, ‘And this time he’ll be helping us!’
Time for reflection
Conclude by inviting the children to imagine why Jesus was impressed by the friendship he saw. One reason might be because the friends wanted the best for one another and weren’t put off by difficulty. Refer back to the suggestions made earlier. Note that friendship that responds to the needs of others and helps to overcome obstacles is true friendship indeed.
Thank you God, for the care of friends.
Help us to be good friends to others.
May we always look for opportunities to help other people.
‘Best friendship song ever by Bruno Mars’, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L14QtTGtjF4
‘When I needed a neighbour’ (Come and Praise, 65)