Saturday, April 9, 2011

John 5 – Do You Want To Get Well? (D)

Thirty-eight years.
An invalid.
No-one to help.
The miracle happened for other people. But never for him.
I find this unthinkable. If a thousand years is as a day to the Lord, the reverse is true for people who suffer chronic pain. I do not fear death or poverty or jail or the condemnation of man. I do fear chronic pain. My little taste of it with an infected gall bladder (easily removed, pain gone) felt like torture. The only good thing about it was that it gave me a little more compassion for Diane, who had an advanced degree from the School of Chronic Suffering.
And that’s why it seems like Jesus asks an insensitive and just plain “Duh?!” dumb question of the pathetic invalid who has lain next to a healing pool for 38 years hoping for a cure:
“Do you want to get well?”
But on reflection, maybe not so dumb. John has already established that Jesus knew what was hidden in the hearts of men (and women). Even today, people suffer illnesses related to choices they make every day. To manage inner pain they eat too much (that's me), or too little. They take drugs (alcohol, nicotine, illegal drugs). They sleep around. As a former health care policy advocate, I cannot count the times I have written the phrase “preventable form of death.” But like the poor wretch who could not crawl fast enough into the pool, they are powerless to help themselves.
And then Jesus intervenes. And he asks his question, without condition or qualifier. He does not ask “Do you want to get well without confronting your powerlessness?” Or, “Do you want to get well and I promise you it won’t hurt?” The man has a choice: do it the Master’s Way, or not at all. His admission of powerlessness Jesus takes as “yes.”
I wish all healings were as instantaneous and complete as this man's. Still, it required obedience bred of faith. Jesus gave a direction: “get up and walk.” And the man, believing, complied. All of that, as well as the Spirit at work healing the man, is Grace in action: permitting God to do for me, His way, what I cannot do for myself.  

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