As always, you can find all our previous posts in this series, going through the Gospels chronologically to find the real Jesus, here.
And as always you'll find the scriptures for today are here. (Note that you can change the human-translation version on this scripture page, as suits you. I have NO theological or other tie to the online-bible site I use for this blog – it just lists many human translations to choose from, including the NASB, KJV, The Message, and the NRSV, which are the ones mentioned by those I chat and email with.)
So today's scripture tells the story of the lame man at the healing pool. The ancient world thought there were a lot of these healing pools, and this particular one had been used by pagans before some Jews decided they could use it, as well – though that would irk other Jews who understood that trying to get a good thing from an ungodly thing is never a good thing after all.
Scripture tells us this guy had been unable to use his legs for thirty eight years, which, due to economic and political oppression of that time and culture, was longer than many poor and disadvantaged people even lived.
Jesus picks him out of the crowd of disabled people there, and asks him a very interesting question: "Do you want to get well?"
It's an interesting question because it seems to have an obvious answer. We can imagine that if our legs didn't work for thirty eight years we'd be answering, "Yes! Of course!" Right now, please!" But this guy doesn't say that. Instead, his answer gives his "justification" or excuse for why he's been "broken" for so long, and why he can't be well now.
We do that all the time, to greater or lesser extents, in our lives. God comes to us and says, "Do you want to get rid of that evil heart? That smoking habit? That false 'Christianity'? That love of money?" And so on. And we answer, "Well, Lord, I just can't, see, because I had a crappy childhood and it's made it impossible for me to be whole." Or, "Well, Lord, I've tried to quit, see, but I have a chemical imbalance in my brain that's made it impossible for me to quit smoking." Or, "Well, Lord, I've tried to live Your way instead of the False Church way, but I have family and friends there, see, and it would just be too hard on them if I stopped clinging to them instead of You." And so on.
- Years ago, I was a big smoker, and I was finding it impossible to quit. Then one day I realized that all that time I thought I'd wanted to quit, I hadn't REALLY wanted to quit. I just wanted the bad things of smoking to go away, while I kept the "good" things. That's not really wanting to quit :) But it is exactly what we do far too often. We believe we want to get rid of an addiction, or our false "Christianity", or our ungodly lives – but what we really want is for the bad parts to go away (the damage to our bodies, for example, or the damage to our relationship with God), while we keep the "good" parts (the friends who share our addiction, for example, or our ability to continue believing God's cool with us as we are). What ways are you, like this guy in scripture, like me, like billions of others on this planet, only thinking you want to get rid of something anti-Jesus in your life, but you really only want the bad parts of being anti-Jesus to go away, while you keep the "good" parts?
- What will it take for you to be willing to let those "good" parts go, as well, so you truly can be as free as Jesus wants you to be?
Jesus' answer to this guy was to ignore all his excuses (which were far more broken than his body was), and tell him to pick up his stuff and move. And instantly, despite the guy's previous failure to take responsibility for God's ability to heal him, his body is healed. And when our body is hurt or broken, that's what we focus on almost exclusively. But was that really the guy's root problem, though? We find out in a moment.
First, not surprisingly, we see that the Good Religious People had a cow, seeing the now-healed guy doing what Jesus told him to do: take his stuff and go home. It was the Sabbath, and here's this guy carrying stuff on the day that's supposed to be do-nothing day. So what's the guy's response? He's just been healed by Jesus. Does he stand up for what Jesus just did for him?
Absolutely not. Jesus healed his body, but his character remained unhealed. Just like the guy previously made up excuses for why he was still broken after all those years, now he made up excuses for why he was doing what the Good Religious People didn't like. "Not MY fault," he said. "It was that guy that healed my legs. HE made me do this!" Apparently the guy even tried to point Jesus out to the Good Religious People, knowing that would get Jesus in trouble, because the scripture tells us he couldn't because Jesus had already slipped away in the crowd.
- Jesus healed the guy's body, which is what he and most of us would assume was the real problem he had. But it really wasn't, was it? God's given us a great illustration here that it's entirely possible to ask God for what we think is our biggest problem, and yet completely refuse the real, deep healing we actually need. What healing are you praying for, right now? Is that truly the core healing you really need? Is there something deeper you need healed, not just so your body can be better but also so your soul and character can be healed?
Later, scripture tells us, Jesus found the guy at the temple, and tried to teach him. "Look at God's power in your life!" Jesus told him. "Stop living outside God's expectations for you or something worse than a broken body will happen to you."
And what was the guy's response? Did he realize his ingratitude? Did he start taking responsibility for himself and the consequences of his bad decisions? Did he abandon his ties to the hell-bound Good Religious People and risk all for God and heaven? Nope. He went off and turned Jesus in to the Good Religious People.
What a sad story! Imagine meeting the Creator of the Universe and He heals you, despite your ridiculousness and refusal to take responsibility for yourself. Then later He even comes back and tries to get you to see how much spiritual peril you're in – and all you can do is continue being a jerk and run off to try to get Him in big trouble with those who claim to be His people but really hate who and what He really is. I can't imagine a worse scenario!
- Jesus warns us again and again when we're caught in being in or siding with "Christianity" rather than Him. He gives us healing and counsel, offers us freedom from our emotional, physical, and spiritual pains – and still too often we prefer the human version of "Christianity" that Good Religious People have created, maintain, and promote. Are there ways you are still turning Jesus in to the Good Religious People, preferring their ways to His ways, their healing to His healing? In what ways are you still living outside Jesus' expectations for you? What can you do today to start fixing that?
- Since we see today that the Bible tells us it's entirely possible to receive healing and other blessings from Jesus, yet still be completely rejecting of who He is and what He wants, how should we understand those in "churches" today who show off their healings and such as if they are "proof" of how right they are with God, and yet don't show the real Jesus in their hearts and lives?
Next study, we'll see Jesus getting more blunt with the Good Religious People, and their reaction to that. Does it help, when God pushes more trying to get people to understand how dangerous their wrong religious-thinking is? Or do Good Religious People continue to reject Him anyway?
Until next time!
This article written by Lynne at http://NoJunkJustJesus.blogspot.com/. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.