I walked into a Christian bookstore not too long ago, and on the wall, there was a picture of Jesus sitting on a rock. As I stared at it, I thought, "Why do so many people make Him look so pathetic in their drawings?" This particular drawing of Jesus made Him look like He had some sort of sad and feeble sickness. He looked pathetic and scared. I actually laughed a little bit. It made me think deeply on how people see Jesus in so many different ways.
What do you think about when you think about God? I've found that people have varied answers to this question. For some people, Jesus is a very nice, forgiving man who wants the best for the world. For other people, Jesus is a distant and angry person who wants nothing to do with us. The list could go on and on, I guess. I have often said that He is the most misunderstood person in the history of the world. The most fascinating person to ever walk the earth brings out a lot of different opinions from us mere mortals. The longer I follow Him as His disciple, the more I am pushed to change the way I think about who He actually is. Every so often, I come across a passage of scripture that makes me pause and do a double take. A passage I read the other day caught my attention and made me rethink some things I once believed. I guess our theology is always morphing.
"When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, He asked him, "Would you like to get well?" (John 5:6)
Let's get the picture here. This man had been sick for 38 years; so sick, that he could not even make his way around town. The God of the universe walks up to him and says, "Do you want to be well?" At first glance, this does not seem very nice of Jesus. It actually seems a little rude. That is, unless you believe that Jesus knows something we do not.
Over the past four years, I have noticed that Jesus has been specializing in one thing in my life. That one thing is "Challenge." If you are not careful, you will be left to believe that the message of grace does not bring any challenge with it. Many times over the last few years I have heard people say things like, "Jesus would ever push me in any challenging way because that would be too heavy. His burden is always light." Can you imagine standing beside Jesus when He asked that sick man if he wanted to be well? I would have been tempted to say, "That is not nice, Jesus." Yet, in this passage, we find a key principal of how the Kingdom works.
Jesus will show up on our scene, look at us and ask if we really want what He offers.
Jesus is not afraid of challenge. He wants to know if we are willing to cooperate with the grace He offers. His grace is real but so is our faith. Perhaps this man was so comfortable in his own sickness that he really did not want out. We see this man make an immediate excuse. Jesus pushed him to respond. Jesus wanted the man to express what he was really thinking.
Personally, I think many people who pursue inner healing get caught up in a perpetual cycle of making excuses as to why they can't be whole. Sometimes instead of seeking more and more counsel it is better to simply say, "I have to get over this and move on."
I like the question Jesus is asking here. I like to ask myself when I go through difficult tests, "Do I want to be well?" Our wellness is not just on Jesus. Ephesians 2:8 says that "we are saved by grace through faith." Our faith matters. Our desire to be whole matters. There is nothing more sad than an adult who is still blaming a parent or someone else for his/her troubles when the situation was as many as 40 years ago. At some point, we need to be open to Jesus challenging us the same way He challenged this sick man. There is freedom in answering the questions, "Do I want to be well?" People get offended so easily in the church that I've learned you have to be careful how you ask this question. Yet, we are left with no other choice. You know you are growing in God when the approval of the One who asked that question trumps the approval of man.
A true community is a group of people who challenge each other the way Jesus challenged this man. If I only surround myself with people who always tell me how great I am and never call me out in areas where I need to "pick up my mat and walk" then I will stunt my own growth for years. Jesus was not afraid of challenge. It was for the man's benefit. I do desire to grow into the type of person who does not just worship Jesus but actually lives like Him too. The idea of challenge has to be as important to me as it was to Him.
Three questions I am asking myself right now:
1. Am I open to letting Jesus challenge me?
2. Am I open to being challenged by those people with whom I do life?
3. Am I willing to challenge others when it is appropriate?
Just because a man has a beard on his face does not make him mature. Maturity is a process. I want to cooperate with that.