Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Do you wish to get well?

Jesus stopped at Bethesda.

Bethesda was a pool or a spring in Jerusalem that had special healing powers. According to the book of John, in certain seasons an angel of the LORD came down from heaven and stirred the waters. The first person to enter the waters after they had been stirred would be healed from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. 

A multitude of sick, blind, lame, and withered people gathered at Bethesda, waiting, waiting, waiting for the waters to dance. Then they would struggle to be the first person in. If such a place still existed today someone would make a reality show about it. Can you imagine? Suffering crowds competed for the coveted place in the pool--their only hope for healing.

Or so they thought.

Enter Jesus. 

As the Great Physician, he could have easily healed the masses.  He doesn't. And as far as we can tell, none of the sick asked to be healed. I find this shocking! Jesus enters a crowded corridor of sick people, people who are supposedly seeking to have their health restored, and no one approaches him.

Jesus looks around and he notices a man who has been suffering for 38 years. Day after day, the man waits for the waters to start moving; but, when they are stirred someone else always beats him to the pool. This is the man that Jesus singles out. 

"Do you wish to get well?" Jesus asks.

And suddenly I wonder if I am like all of those broken people waiting at the pool. They remain focused on the waters, desperate, when there in their midst is the One who could cure them, body and soul. They no longer need to wait on the angel, they are in the presence of the Great Physician. Healing is theirs for the asking. But they don't ask. Which prompts this question from Jesus:

"Do you wish to get well?"

How often I struggle with the sin and brokenness in my life simply because, in my heart of hearts, I just don't wish to get well. I'd rather cherish the status quo than risk having to get up and walk. Oh sure, I say I'd like to be free from the crippling effects of sin, and I even make efforts on the outside that put me close to the pool that might one day make me whole. But I dilly dally, and make excuses, and hem and haw, until deep down, I've actually given up on being healed. I just stick around Bethesda to keep up appearances. 

"Do you wish to get well?"

Have our churches and Bible Studies become the corridors of Bethesda, where the sick gather, talking wistfully about the idea of being cured, but ignoring the One in our midst who could cure us? Do we wallow in the same illnesses, day after day, week after week, as if the Healer isn't among us? If we truly believed that walking in wellness was an option, would we choose it?

"Do you wish to get well?"

Today, Jesus is asking me this question. He has put his gentle finger on a place where I am paralyzed in my life. He has made it clear that He can heal me--free me from the stuck place. But if he does, you see, I will have to walk. I've been lame in this area for a while. I've gotten comfortable with my cot. I'm downright scared to stand up again. What if I fall?  Ah, but that isn't really the question, is it? The question is "Do I wish to get well?"

Interestingly, the man at the pool of Bethesda doesn't answer Jesus' question. Instead he justifies his position. 

Yeah, I've been there, too.

Full of grace, Jesus gives a command. "Get up!"

I hear it. He's not waiting for me to work it all out. He doesn't bother with asking me to count the cost. He doesn't question whether my faith is strong enough. He just tells me what to do. The only question that remains is whether or not I will obey.

The man at Bethesda gets up and walks. But I wonder, if he hadn't moved, would he have been healed?

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