There was always six of us. Never any more than six, never less. Six of us going to school, six of us dodging it. Six of us at work, six of us off sick. Six of us keeping our noses clean, six of us bending the rules a wee bit. Well, ok, maybe more than just a wee bit, but nothing serious, and six of us always managed to stay out of real trouble with the law.

We did everything together, and in the end that turned out to be our undoing. It was an opportunity that Jacob had spotted. A store with some nice gear in it. The doors and windows were bolted, so there was no way in there, but the roof was easy to get to and wasn’t overlooked by any other buildings, so we could get in that way. With six of us it would be easy. Three to go down into the store, the other three to stay on he roof with a rope and pull the gear, and the other three, back up. Then scarper. Easy.

They say you can’t keep a good man down. We discovered that night that a poor roof won’t keep six bad men up. We had only just got onto the roof when there was a ripping noise. Jacob and Joram crashed through, but the rest of us managed to grab the wall and stay on what was left of the roof. We got to the edge and looked in. The two of them were lying, both of them in weird positions, and both very still indeed. We lowered the rope, and I slid down to them. Jacob was groaning, but Joram made no noise at all. It was obvious that they were both badly hurt. I put the rope under Jacob’s arms and the other three pulled him to the roof. Then the same with Joram.

What a night! We carried them home. We knew things would never be the same. We got help, but it wasn’t good enough. No help could have been. Jacob had broken his back. Though he seemed fine from the waist up, he couldn’t feel his legs. Joram regained consciousness later that night, but he was spitting blood and he could hardly breathe. The physician said his ribs had burst his lungs – there was no hope for him. He knew himself he was going to die. Painfully, he called us to him. Through gasps, he made us swear that we would look after Jacob. That was easy. Of course we would, there was no other way. Then he made the five of us swear that we would live his life for him. That way, we would still be six. We had never been five, and the death of one was no reason to start. In tears we gave him our oath. In tears we watched him die.

The next couple of months were awful. Jacob was showing no sign of recovery and his legs were just useless. We made a stretcher for him, but we could see that being carried around hurt him even more than the guilt he woke to every morning. He was convinced that because he had planned the break-in, God was punishing him. We had sinned, he had been left a cripple and Joram was dead. It was all linked. He said he felt like he was a burden, but he weighed nothing compared to how heavy we all felt at the loss of Joram. Soon, though, it was Jacob who started to break us out of the gloom. “How would Joram feel if he saw us now?” he asked. “We are supposed to be living his life too, and we are making him miserable!” He was right, and we started to get back to our old lives. There was no more nicking, though. As Jacob said, you can’t make a very quick getaway with a stretcher!

Then we heard of the healer. He was healing loads of people, and we saw it as Jacob’s chance. We went after him, but everywhere the crowds were so thick that we just couldn’t get the stretcher close enough. We heard that he had gone to his house and we went there. The crowd was overflowing into the street and there was no way we could get in. But then we saw the steps. That was it! The roof! A roof had caused this damage, and maybe a roof would be the way to healing! We were up in seconds, pulling away the thatch like madmen. Heaven knows what the people below us thought was going to happen! Soon we had a gap big enough to get the stretcher through, and we now saw that fear of the roof coming in had cleared a gap on the floor too! We lowered Jacob through the hole, only just aware of him mouthing to us “What do I do, what do I say?”

The stretcher hit the floor. Smiling, we looked at the healer, then at Jacob. Jacob, panic-stricken, looked at us, then at the healer. The healer, covered in bits of straw and plaster from the roof, looked at us, then at Jacob. “Son,” he said, “your sins are forgiven.” He turned to men at the side of the room. “Why are you thinking these things? Is it easier to say, `Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, `Get up, take your mat and walk’? But so that you know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . .” He turned to Jacob and said, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”

We belted down the stairs and met Jacob as he came out of the house. And how we danced! “Did you hear?” asked Jacob. “I never said a word, and my sins are forgiven! Forgiven! Every wrong I have done has been cleared away! I never asked for a thing, and I can stand again! I can walk again! My sins are forgiven!”

Based on Mark 2:1:12