August 27, 2020
John 5:1-9 (NIV)
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
Jesus is not doing things right. Nor is he doing the right things. In fact, he’s doing the wrong things in the wrong ways.
Messiah doesn’t begin on the banks of the Jordan with a rogue prophet’s announcement. Messiah doesn’t go to the temple and turn it upside down. Messiah doesn’t lead a first mission trip to Samaria. Messiah doesn’t heal the sick son of the avowed enemy. Messiah doesn’t set up headquarters in Galilee. Messiah does not hang out at the magic fountain of healing with the most marginal people in the world.
Let’s be clear. Despite the fanfare centered around these events so many years later, they were not particularly noteworthy events in the news of their day. They were small, unexpected, unconventional, extraordinary signs—noticed only by those with “eyes to see and ears to hear.”
The same is true still. Just because we read the stories, know about them, and even preach and teach around them does not mean we grasp their significance as signs bearing revelatory significance. I’m not talking about some kind of secret knowledge reserved only for a select few. In fact, these events are on eternal display now for anyone and everyone to observe. It requires a quality of heart, mind, soul, and strength to begin to perceive the meaning of these messianic signs. The simple quality is humility.
It’s why the importance of what Jesus does is only exceeded by the significance of with whom, when, where, and in what manner he does it. We must humble and submit ourselves to the entirety of the whole scene and context. One need not be a scholar to understand such things, though our understanding would be greatly impoverished without the work of godly scholars. Important as they are, these are all penultimate issues. The ultimate concern pointed to by all these matters is ultimately unknowable save by the revelation of almighty God: the why.
Why does Messiah do what he does, when he does, where he does, with whom he does, and in what manner he does? Only God knows, therefore only God can say. This is why we love the Word of God. This why we must be filled with the Holy Spirit. And all of this is to the end that the why of God the Father, revealed by his Son, Jesus Messiah, the Word of God, would become our own all-consuming why and empowered way through the person of the Holy Spirit.
If we would know and do the will of God, as revealed to us by the Son of God, we must release our assumptions, let go of our preferences, renounce all rights to ourselves, become humble like powerless children, and follow Jesus to kingdom come—and all of this under the eternal banner of divine love.
I will say it emphatically, at the risk of offending readers and to the point of indicting myself: anything less than this is less than the will of God and only a passing shadow of the faith once handed down to the saints. It is to this faith we must be ever awakening.
Abba Father, thank you for your Son, Jesus, who upends all our worldly assumptions and reverses all of our native ways. We thank you for the foolishness of the cross, manifest in far more than his death but through his entire eternal life to the present day. Open our ears and eyes to perceive the gospel, grasp the love of God, and give ourselves unreservedly to Jesus. Come, Holy Spirit, and empower our participation in the very nature of God for the glory of kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
1. Today’s reflection took an unexpected turn for me. As I approached the pool at Bethesda I was stopped and struck with what I have written here. How do you react to it?
2. What do you think about this notion of humility being the prerequisite to perceiving and processing the revelation of God in Scripture?
3. Where are you most offended by today’s daily text? Challenged? Encouraged?
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