I have been on a journey of getting to know the person of Jesus more over the last few months. This began with me reading through the Gospel of Luke, and now the Gospel of John, with the intent of learning who Jesus is as a person, not just as God incarnate.
It has been a fascinating journey.
I have loved seeing Jesus in this new light; the way He interacts with people, how He does life and responds to questions, how He is so devoted to the Father’s heart.
I can’t help but like Him more as I read about Him.
He is so sure of Himself and secure in who He is. He is not caught up in the opinions of others and only does what He sees His Father doing; nothing more, nothing less. And He has such a way with people, knowing exactly how to respond to them, even if they and the people around Him do not take it well at first.
We often pray to become more like Jesus. If I am honest, though, I don’t really know what that looks like. But since reading through the Gospels with the aim of getting to know the person of Jesus, I am getting more of an understanding of who He is. I have a better idea of how He responds in situations and to people. So when I pray “LORD, let me be more like Jesus,” I can be more specific in what I am asking for because I have some idea of what it is about His character and nature that I want to embody.
(I write “some idea” because my understanding is barely a scratch on the surface of who He is, but I am holding on to this sliver of understanding.)
I have found that as I focus on the person of Jesus in reading the Gospels, my interpretations of the stories take on new dimensions. During the week I read about the miracle at Bethesda and because my focus was on Jesus and not the man who had been sick for 38 years, I look at that story in a whole new light. Where I used to feel quite condemned when reading that story, I am now so encouraged! Let me show you why.
The account is found in John 5:1-17 but I will quickly summarise it. In Jerusalem was a pool called Bethesda. Many people with various ailments were at that pool because at certain times an angel of the Lord would stir the waters, and whoever was the first to enter the waters after they had been stirred would be made well.
One of the people who was at the pool waiting for the stirring of the waters was a man who had been ill for 38 years. I’ll quote the Bible for this next bit:
When Jesus noticed him lying there [helpless], knowing that he had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to get well?”John 5:6-9 AMP
The invalid answered, “Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am coming [to get into it myself], someone else steps down ahead of me.”
Jesus said to him, “Get up; pick up your pallet and walk.”
Immediately the man was healed and recovered his strength, and picked up his pallet and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.
When I have read this account previously and heard it preached, I would always focus on the man who had been ill for 38 years. There was also always this questioning of whether he really did want to get well, since he did not answer Jesus directly. I would always feel guilty at this point, questioning whether I really want the things I think I want or whether I am complacent in the way things have always been. Don’t get me wrong, it is good to check our motives and make sure we are not complacent in our circumstances when God has so much more for us.
But when I read the account recently, I saw something else.
Jesus asked the man a simple question: “Do you want to get well?”
Instead of answering “yes,” the man responded with why he hadn’t been able to get well in the past.
“Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am coming [to get into it myself], someone else steps down ahead of me.”
I can feel the man’s weariness in his response.
Jesus asked a simple question and the man responded with why he hasn’t been able to get well.
Now, I do not think this man was enjoying his ailment, nor do I think he was enjoying what it brought him. He definitely tried over the years to get well – his response says so – and I think he still has a desire to get well. But I think he was faced with so much disappointment over the years in attempt after attempt to get well at this pool, that he had become resigned to the fact that healing may never come his way.
Every time the opportunity came for this man to get well at the pool, it was snatched away from him. This led him to develop a mindset that his healing is out of his reach
So when Jesus asks him if he wants to get well, he responds with the resignation that even though he wants it, it may never be afforded to him.
But there’s something different about this opportunity for healing: Jesus is here.
And in typical Jesus fashion, He does something totally out of the norm and blows our box of possibilities wide open.
Now, Jesus did not ask whether the man wanted to get into the pool, He asked him whether he wanted to get well.
The man thought the only way for him to get well was by going into the pool when the waters were stirred. This was the only way he thought healing could come to him because that was how he had seen others receive their healing and that was what he knew.
But Jesus isn’t subject to our way of thinking, nor is He subject to the laws of nature, the laws of men or the laws we’ve made up in our heads. (Repetitive, I know, but our ways of thinking tend to get that way).
Jesus overthrows this man’s thinking by simply saying, “Get up; pick up your mat and walk” (John 5:8)
John 5:9 says that immediately the man was healed and recovered his strength, and picked up his pallet and walked.
Immediately he was healed.
This man had spent so many years resigned to the fact that he could only be healed if he goes into the waters after they had been stirred. But Jesus comes along and blows that mindset right out of the water (pun intended).
No sir, you do not need to get into the water to be made well, just pick up your pallet and walk.
Jesus does not follow our norms or expectations. He breaks the rules we ourselves have made and shows us a better Way: Him.
I don’t know about you, but I am looking at the “Bethesda” things in my life with renewed hope. Those things that I have begun to think may not be for me because they’ve been met with so much disappointment time after time.
I feel so encouraged to look away from what I have thought was possible to get these things done, and to look to Jesus and His totally out-of-the-box way of meeting my desires.
These things are probably not going to happen the way I expect them to, nor are they likely to happen when I want them to. But when Jesus comes to meet those desires in the way that only He can, it is going to be wonderful.
And so I pray that I would keep my eyes fixed on Him, not on what I think is possible, but on Him and who He is, and that when He comes to me and asks whether I want …, my response will be a resounding “Yes!”.
Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash