The Way Of His Culture
In Jesus’ day there was this place in Jerusalem by a pool called Bethesda. It had five decks, and each deck had a roof supported by pillars. The rumor was that whenever an angel stirred the water, if you could be the first to enter the pool, you would be healed of any health problem you might have. All around this pool lay “multitudes” of blind, lame, and paralyzed people.
So Jesus is walking by this place and he sees this one man there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. And when he saw him lying there he says, “Do you want to be healed?” (That’s how God is by the way. He’s always determined to preserve our freedom. So he asks, “Do you want to…?”)
And the man says, “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. By the time I get to the water, someone else gets in before me.”
Jesus says to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”
And at once the man was healed. And he took up his bed. And he walked. (see John 5:1-9)
Jesus’ Instruction Was Jesus’ Solution
So think about this with me. When Jesus came to the man, what did Jesus say to him? Did he say, “Oh, I see the problem, you have no one to help you into the pool. Okay, well I can do that. I’ll just hang here until the water’s stirred and then…” Or did he say, “Never give up man. Just keep trying, I know that one day you’re going to be the first one to make the pool.” Or did he say, “Let’s just keep you as comfortable as possible. I’m going to buy you a sleep number bed.” No, he didn’t. He didn’t say any of those things.
Instead he tells him to do something the man hasn’t been able to do for thirty-eight years.
The Suffering Man’s Response
And what was the man’s response? What if the suffering man had said: “Really? I already tried standing up, and guess what, it didn’t work.” Or, “I’m pretty comfortable here in my bed and I’d really rather not.” Or, “I would but I have something else I have to do right now.” Imagine what he would have missed out on, had he responded in any of these ways. But isn’t that what we do with Jesus so often? He comes to us and tells us to do things. There are scriptures with Jesus’ instructions waiting to be read and teachings to listen to but how do we respond? So often we’d just rather not. And Jesus, so mindful of our free will, won’t force the issue.
“Do you want to be healed?” He asked the suffering man.
“Do you want to follow my words?” He asks you and he asks me. “No? Okay,” he says, “that’s up to you.”
But the suffering man in our story, he tries anyway because he’s made a conscious decision. He’s said to himself, “If I want this guy to help me, I’ll need to do what he tells me to do.” And even though Jesus asked him to do something that seemed impossible to him, something he hadn’t been able to do for thirty-eight years, he tries anyway. And here’s the thing, he’s given good gifts in return: he’s given strength, and he’s given expanded capability.
That’s what happens to us, when we follow Jesus’ words. When we follow Jesus’ instructions. He gives us strength, and growth, and expanded capability.
That’s what happens, when we do what he says.
Even when it seems impossible.
Original image via Till Westermayer-Creative Commons (Modified by Kurt Bennett for GodRunning.com)