Sunday, May 11, 2014

A second question - about human will (1)

In February I began some posts on questions that Jesus asked. The first in John 1:38 went to the core of discipleship: What do you want?  It's about time (!) I considered another question which Jesus similarly intended very personally and deserves very careful answering !

The scene in John 5: 1-15 is distressing: an open-air hospital ward with no doctors and a great number (verse 3) of disabled people, hoping they might be healed one day.  Around a pool, rows of people are packed, trying to avoid the sun, longing for a miracle.  Some arrived recently, others have lain there for years.  One man has been there 38 years.  We have no idea if he was in continuous pain, but we know he could not walk and he seems a pathetic case.  Extraordinarily (but then he was always doing this) Jesus picks him out from the crowd.
What does Jesus do?  When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time he said to him: Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.  NO!  Jesus gives no short-cuts here. He might have said it, but he doesn't.  Instead he asks a forceful question: Do you want to get well? Literally translated, Jesus asks: Do you will to get well?
Why does he ask that? This is where we need to reflect a little while.  On the surface it seems unnecessary, even cruel, when Jesus has the power to heal to ask what seems too obvious a question.   Of course, this man wants to be well.  Why else would he have been for 38 years in this place with its reputation for healing?  We can imagine all kinds of past disappointments and frustration in his past when others were healed but never him.

Yet Jesus is dealing with him at this particular moment. He knows the heart of men and women (John 2:24) and this question gives a profound reality check. Jesus is asking him whether he really wants to be whole.  Does he have the will to be better? When Jesus deals with people then, and now, he needs full-hearted, whole-life commitment of will-power that says 'Yes' with all we have and are.   At the beginnings we don't know very much about ourselves or about him, but he asks for our wills to be submitted.
This story majors on physical healing but much more is going here as we shall shortly see.


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