Monday, April 04, 2005

What The Unwanted Man Wanted

by Keith Brenton

We don't know which feast it was when Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate, and saw a crowd of disabled people huddled around the pool near the Sheep Gate.

We can't be sure if the pool was named Bethesda, Bethzatha, Bethsaida or Beth Moore.

We don't know if an angel really came down and stirred the waters to heal the first one in the pool; if this was the genuine explanation or a later manuscript copyist's question; or if the pool just occasionally provided relief from suffering through a natural Jacuzzi jet to the poor folks gathered there.

We don't know who told Him that one particular invalid had been that way for thirty-eight years, or what percentage of his life those thirty-eight years represented.

We don't know why this one touched Jesus' heart and stirred his compassion above all the other blind and lame and paralyzed denizens of the five colonnades. Perhaps they had friends or relatives to help them nearby.

But we know the most important thing: We know what he wanted.

Jesus asked him: "Do you want to get well?"

The fellow must have looked up, whether Jesus stood or crouched down. He didn't answer directly, but the answer was implicit: "Sir, I don't have anyone to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I'm trying to get in, someone else goes down into it ahead of me."

Then Jesus by-passed the request. He could have helped the fellow in and then stirred the water Himself. He could have baptized him in the pool. He could have forgiven the man's sins. He could presumably have healed and forgiven everyone around. Instead, He gave a command: "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!"

Now there's an odd moment. The invalid fellow could have looked at Him bewildered; could have protested that it was impossible; could have laughed in His face. But he didn't. He perceived something - perhaps that he had been instantly cured; perhaps the look of deep, genuine, heart-wrenching love in Jesus' eyes - and he took Him at His word. He picked up his mat and walked.

He had a new life. Perhaps he had begged in his old one, playing on the sympathy of others for his plight. Maybe he had worn out that appeal, and had no friends to help him into the pool. Or he might have just outlived them all. Now things would be different. He might have to find a job. He might have been able to go back to his old one, before the incident that left him an invalid. One thing was sure: life would never be the same. He could walk. Someone told him to pick up his mat and walk, and he did.

It was the wrong day for them to do that. There was a law, God's law, that had been parsed by scribes and commentators every which way from Saturday that you couldn't do work on that day. You couldn't heal someone that day. You couldn't be healed and pick up your mat and walk on that day. In fact, there were only so many yards you were allowed to walk on that day, and only so much you could carry. Walking farther or carrying more was against the law. It was wrong. It was a day of rest, not work.

So some of the standers-by told the newly-walking fellow how wrong he was to be walking. Taking a cue from his ancestor Adam, he immediately put the blame on someone else: "But the guy who made me well told me to!"

"Who?" they pressed. "Who told you to pick up your mat and walk?"

Because it was much more wrong, of course, to teach and instruct someone to do something wrong.

The poor fellow must have looked around, but in vain; Jesus had already slipped away into the crowd.

Not for long. Later on, Jesus came looking for him and found him at the temple and told him to do right: "Look at you! You're well again." (He said "again," so we can be pretty sure that the fellow hadn't always been an invalid.) "Stop sinning, or something worse will happen to you." Jesus apparently didn't say what that was; perhaps because He didn't want to hang around. He must have known that what He had done for this one poor soul would be considered wrong because of the day on which it was done.

We don't know whether or why the poor soul discovered Jesus' name, or why he felt obligated to point Him out or tell the ones who had pressed him earlier.

All we know is that Jesus did a strange thing on a strange day for one particular person whom He didn't apparently stop to teach, and that He seemed to have risked His own safety to do so; even to the point of returning and finding him later.

That, and the fact that someone - a fellow that no one else wanted to help - wanted to be well, and believed the One who told him that he was.

- from the account in John 5:1-16


Blogger David U said...

Keith, have you ever heard Mclaughlin's sermon on "Do you want to get well? If not, let me know and I will try and get the tape of it to you. Just like you did with your post, he does a great job with this Jesus story.
Thanks Brother!


4/06/2005 01:44:00 PM  

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