Letters to the Prison - Week 46

We’re continuing our study of John chapter 5.  We hope you’ve decided to read along with us.  We’re looking at verses 1-18 and last week we began to look at what the healing of the lame man at the pool showed about the knowledge, power, and authority of Jesus.  Jesus knew the lame man before he ever met him, even picking him out of a “multitude” of other lame, blind, and paralyzed people.  Jesus had the power to heal him with a simple command, and had the authority to do so on the Sabbath despite what the Jewish leaders thought.
This week, let’s consider the lame man himself.  He had suffered from his condition for 38 years (vs. 5).  That’s a long time to suffer from anything, let alone something that prevents you from walking.  We’re not told how old the lame man is when Jesus heals him, but there is much to suggest that he wasn’t born with his condition.  So, the lame man started out healthy and then something happened to him.  We’ll discuss that more later.  For now, we see that when Jesus sees the lame man at the pool, he is unable even to move effectively.  
Jesus asks him a profound question:
•“Do you want to be healed?”    -John 5:6
The man’s answer has been looked at a couple of ways.  He says:
•“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”  -John 5:7
Some have interpreted this to mean the man was making excuses for himself.  They talk about “learned helplessness” where the man decides to do nothing about his condition and then blames others for not “carrying him to the pool” –for not fixing his problem for him.  They would accuse the man of lying there and doing nothing while blaming others for not “helping him.”  This might be true of some people --and there’s a valuable lesson to be learned here about our own attitudes and how we choose to approach our problems and whether or not we choose to blame others for the troubles we’ve inflicted upon ourselves…
But it doesn’t seem to be true of this man.  
Here’s why:  Look again at verse 7.  Yes, he says no one will help him.  But he also says that “while he is going” another gets to the pool ahead of him.  We’ll discuss the significance of the pool of Bethesda itself later, but for now it’s enough to see that insofar as the man is able, he is trying to do what he can to be healed.  The lame man is not blaming people for not helping him.  He’s just explaining the reality of his situation.    
We could spend a long time discussing what happens next:
•Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”     -John 5:8
There are so many things to say about this moment.  We are encouraged to pause and consider this:  Jesus is inviting the lame man to forget about everything he thinks he knows about how to get well.  The man thought the pool was where he would find healing.  Not so.  Jesus does not take the man to a doctor.  He doesn’t give him dietary or psychological advice or physical therapy.  He doesn’t even say anything like “look to me for help” or “pray in my name to be healed” or “follow me.”  
Jesus tells the man to do three things:
1)Get up
2)Take up your bed
That simple command can be summed up this way:  Jesus is telling the man to obey him.  All the man has to do is what Jesus commands him to do.  It couldn’t be more simple or more plain.  
And the man had lots of options as far as how he chose to respond to Jesus.  He could have said “But Jesus…”  and said any number of things… like “But Jesus… I can’t” or “But Jesus… I’m weak” or “But Jesus… Don’t you get that I’ve been like this for more than half my life?”  The lame man could have laughed.  He could have said “Well, give me a hand, then!”  He could have said “yeah, right” and mocked Jesus.  He could have asked any number of questions.  Instead, look what the lame man did:
•And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.    -John 5:9
That simple act tells us everything we need to know about the man’s attitude at that moment –whether or not he really wanted to be healed or whether or not he really believed Jesus could heal him—because in that moment, the lame man simply did what Jesus told him to do.
This leads us then to consider the extent of the healing Jesus did.  It wasn’t enough to restore the weak or damaged bones and tissues and ligaments and muscles and circulatory systems.  Anyone who’s broken a bone knows that it takes weeks of healing and therapy to resume any function and then months before they’re back to “normal.”  Muscles get weak when they’re not used for a week or two.  This lame man hadn’t used certain muscles for decades.  He may have even forgotten what it feels like to lift himself up and walk let alone pick up something and carry it.
And before the lame man could even get up, he had to decide to do it.  It took an effort on his part.  The man had a choice:  Believe Jesus or not.  Obey Jesus or not.  It was a decision he had to make.  And he made his choice clear when he stood up, took up his bed, and walked.  How Jesus met with him in that moment of decision is something we’re encouraged to think about.  Did Jesus heal him after he decided to obey?  Or did he heal him first and then it was up to the man whether or not to obey Jesus?  We’re not sure of the order of things here.  One thing is clear, though.  Healed or not, the man had to decide whether or not to believe Jesus and then he had to decide whether or not to obey his command.  He had to respond. And he did.
There’s another interesting way the lame man might have responded to Jesus.  He might have said “But Jesus…  it is not lawful for me to take up my bed and walk on the Sabbath.”  Talk about a lame excuse…
This brings us to next week’s topic:  The unbelief and disobedience of the Jewish leaders.
Until then, keep reading John 5!  We hope you are encouraged by these letters.  We’re grateful for the chance to share them with you.  We love you!  

Dean A.



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