"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Do you want to get well?

When asked to imagine the scene in John 5... a great number of ill and disabled people surrounding a pool, I can almost feel a sense of sadness in my gut when looking on.

I have been in a dump where people live. When I was 15 years old I had the privilege to minister in this dump in Central America. It isn't a pretty sight. Many times in my life overseas I have seen, walked by, been touched by a invalid beggar at the bazaar or on the street. I have seen them in Guatemala, Kazakhstan and Turkey and they often look the same. Rarely moving from the same spot they are filthy, smelly, barely clothed with sometimes desperate or sometimes hollow-looking eyes.

When I wonder at the scene that Jesus saw in John 5, I don't have to go far in my imagination. I have seen it. I have watched these least ones just sit on the ground and wait. What are they waiting for? A coin in their cup? A kind glance? A harsh word or abuse? A piece of bread?

The scenes I have witnessed are just sad and hopeless. They sit and sit and wait... What are they waiting for? These ones I have seen are waiting for something... but, certainly they are not waiting for healing.

The man that Jesus sought out that day was certainly not waiting for healing. He was stuck in one place, unable to move forward, unable to find health. He was just sitting there. I had to read the passage twice to catch the amazing fact that Jesus went to him. Unlike other stories where the sick have come to Christ, where the blind have yelled out "Son of David have mercy on me!", this story has Jesus enter the invalid's world and seek him out. Jesus himself approaches this man. He walks into this dank, dirty and stench filled "world", asks about the man and approaches him. He then asks the man a simple question, "Do you want to get well?"

Are you kidding, Lord?! Of course, he wants to get well!! Is this a joke? Is this the question you ask a hopeless, disabled person after almost 40 years of illness? Does he want to get well? ... but, this is the question that Jesus, my kind brother, asks this sick man... "Do you want to get well?"

When I read the question this morning, it stopped me. I stopped and sat with a deep sigh... Do you want to get well? Christ asks.

In answer to this odd question, the man does not say "Yes!" In fact, he doesn't really answer the question that Christ asks. He answers a different question... Why are you not well? Why are you ill? or something of the sort. What is the man's response to the Lord? What is his tone of voice? When he begins to explain why he can't or hasn't gotten better... what does his tone of voice sound like? Is he defending himself? Is he annoyed? Complaining? Does he have a child-like whine to his voice... Ah, Dad, this is why I did this or that? Or is it just sadness, a wavering, unsure voice? What does his voice sound like when he explains, "this is why I can't get well!!"? I don't know.

But, I do know my Brother's response to this man. Jesus says, "Get up. Take your mat and walk". Simple words. Simple to read, simple to say, simple to understand. But, for an invalid... impossible to do! "Get up", Christ says. It reminds me of His words to the wind and the waves, "Be still." He says "Be still" and the winds go silent. It reminds me of the "Let there be Light" words spoken over creation. The words are spoken and then bam! there is light. In this story, Jesus says to this man, "Get up" and the man is instantly healed. One word from the Lord and he is healed.

And then Jesus slips away... why did he leave? Again, I am puzzled by my Saviors behavior. Jesus leaves the man. But, the story doesn't end there. We leave the man and end up at the temple. We are no longer at the dirty, dank and dark pool at Bethesda. We are now at God's temple and the man is there! I love that! He went to the temple. He was healed and then he went to the temple. Even though people were criticizing him and questioning him, he still went to worship. It says that Jesus found him at the temple. I love that our Savior goes out of his way to find this man... like He has nothing better to do! I love that! And when Jesus finds the healed-man he says to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse will happen to you". Wow. Those are intense words.

In Scripture it is clear that NOT all illness is from sin. But, it is equally clear that some illness IS from sin. Was this why Christ asked that question, "Do you want to be well?" Was it the man's sin that was keeping him from health? Was it his doubt that he would ever be well? Was it his lack of courage to fight for wholeness? Was it worry? Was it fear? Was it a victim mentality that left him sitting on the mat and not trying, not choosing health? Was it these sins you were prodding, Lord Jesus? Again, I have no idea.

But, Christ clearly says... continued sin will lead to an illness far worse than you have ever known. OH how this is true in our lives. When we have learned to trust and then choose to not trust... ah, the sickness in our hearts. When we have learned to not gossip and we choose to let our tongues wag loosely, oh! man the sickness in our hearts... When I know what to do that is right and I do not do it... oh! the brokenness. Like an invalid, I plop down on my mat and chatter about why I am not well.

I can make you well, Jesus says. Do you want to get well? Okay, then, Get up! I can make you healthy and whole, he says. Do you want to stay healthy? Great, then stop sinning.

Dearest Jesus, thank you for going out of your way to find us. Thank you for knowing us and for being an initiator AND a responder. You initiate with me and you respond to my cries. Thank you for knowing exactly where I am. Thank you for healing me. Thank you for your healing words, your healing touch, your healing presence. Yes, Lord, I want to be well! I want to stop sinning, stop being fearful or worried. I want to get up from these old patterns, this "mat" that I can sit on, and I want to continue to walk forward in freedom and health. I am not a victim of my personality, my upbringing, my circumstances or my temptations. I can get up and walk... make my way to the temple to worship you! I love you, Lord. Thank you for your Word!
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