Thought For the Week – 13 May

This encounter with Jesus is one that has long fascinated me. You can read about it in John 5:1-8. It tells the story of a man who has been an invalid, probably paralysed, for 38 years.
That’s a long time! Jesus meets him when he is lying beside a pool in Jerusalem, along with many other disabled people. They spend their days there because there is a belief that every so often an angel will stir up the water of the pool and whoever gets in first after that will be healed. It all seems a bit random, and yet this man has lain there for year after year waiting for his turn. The chances are probably no greater than winning the lottery.
But it is his answer to the question Jesus asks him which fascinates me. Jesus is aware of how long the man has been disabled and so he asks: “Do you want to get well?” Surely the obvious answer is, “Yes!” But that isn’t what the man says. In fact, he doesn’t even answer the question Jesus asked but rather gives him his sob story about how he has no one to help him
and so he can never get into the pool when the water is stirred. Why doesn’t he just say, “Yes”? Surely healing is what he wants? He’s been lying beside a pool for years waiting to be healed and yet… It’s interesting too that Jesus asks the question, rather than saying, “Would you like me to heal you?” or even “Do you have faith that I can heal you?” Instead Jesus asks: “Do you want to get well?” I think Jesus often asks us the same type of question. “Do you want to know me better?” “Do you want to spend your life following me?” “Do you want to pray more?” “Do you want to understand the Bible better?” These are things we all probably claim to want, just as the man
seemed to want healing – after all he was lying day after day by a healing pool. And yet Jesus asks whether that’s what he really wants. Of course, when the man is healed, his entire life will change. He will have to get back into society; he will have to earn his own living; he will have to help others instead of always being the one helped. His familiar way of life will change
– and sometimes (after 38 years in his case!) that is scary. And so he is ready with his excuses.
What about us? Are we ready with excuses too? Of course we’d never say outright that we don’t want to spend more time with Jesus, that we don’t want to pray more, that we don’t want to know the Scriptures better, that we are a bit too tired, or embarrassed, or busy to follow Jesus in the way he asks. So are we also ready with our excuses? Is this the wrong time of our life; are we waiting until we are older/retired/the children have left home/we have less responsibilities? There are plenty of excuses – or even reasons – we can find if we want to, but I don’t think Jesus is impressed by our excuses. And, in case you didn’t realise it, there is never more time as you grow older – just ask a retired person!
The best part about this encounter with the man by the pool is that, despite his excuses, Jesus can see his heart and knows that he really does want to be healed, and so he heals him. And of course Jesus sees our hearts too. He knows our desires and, if we allow him, he will enable us to follow our heart’s desire and to get to know him better. Instead of making excuses next
time he prompts you, just say, “Yes!” and see how he revolutionises your life.

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