Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 104; 149, Judges 16:1-14, Acts 7:30-43, John 5:1-18
If today’s reading from John had happened in the twenty-first century, someone would have captured it on smart-phone video and posted it to the internet with a click-bait title like: “Hundreds of people stepped right over this disabled man, but when a wandering stranger stopped you won’t believe what happened next!”
After arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus encountered a man who had been ill for 38 years. The man was waiting for a chance to immerse himself in a miraculous fountain. When Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be made well, the man talked about all the people who had obstructed him. This wasn’t exactly what he’d been asked, but in the end Jesus commanded him to take up his mat and walk away healed. Even though the man didn’t answer directly, the specifics of the question are important: “Do you want to be made well?”
Circumstances made it obvious the man desired healing. Jesus could easily have made some assumptions and healed him without asking. Instead, Jesus respected the dignity of his ability to choose — possibly the only dignity remaining to him. Only then did he intercede.
Sometimes we want God to just fix someone already. Maybe it’s someone else, or maybe that someone is us. When God doesn’t act on our schedule, we start thinking of ways to fix it ourselves. If Jesus gives us insight to the character of God, it seems God does not impose himself on us, but respects our ability to choose. People have to be willing to change – and that’s not always the same as wanting to. If we want to be made well — physically, emotionally, spiritually — God seems less interested in who we blame than in getting us on our feet. People step over us because they need healing too. Let’s not be so busy pointing fingers at the co-worker who wronged us or the parent who failed us that we don’t get around to saying “yes” to God. We may need God’s coaxing to rise up from our mat, but that first step is all on us.
Comfort: God respects your ability to choose.
Challenge: Say the serenity prayer.
Prayer: Loving God, open my eyes to the possibilities, and my feet will follow. Amen.
Discussion: What do you want to change about yourself? What do you want to change about someone else?
For further thoughts on today’s reading from John 5, visit Stepping Stone.
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