Scripture: "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. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, 'It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.' But he replied, 'The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ So they asked him, 'Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?'" John 5:1-12
One morning, I was praying and singing along to one of my favorite worship songs. One of the lyrics is, "God come with revival, you can start it with me." This lyric was shaping my prayers and has been for months. I continued to pray for revival in my church and community, in the world, and even in specific situations in my life. Suddenly, I felt like the Lord said, do you really want that?
Immediately I got defensive. Of course I want revival, God. Why wouldn't I?
Then this simple revelation came to me:
because revival is uncomfortable.
This moment in my prayer life reminds me of Jesus' words to the man at the pool of Bethesda. Here, people with disabilities and diseases gathered and waited for the pool to get stirred up. At this time, they believed an angel stirred the waters, and that the first person to get into the pool after this happened would be healed. (We don't really know for sure if that happened, it could have been a legend or something that actually happened.)
When Jesus came to this place full of hurting people, He noticed one. He heard that this man had been disabled for 38 years. His entire lifestyle had been formed and shaped based on this disability. And here he was, waiting beside the pool to be healed once the water was stirred.
Jesus asks him, "Do you want to get well?"
At first glance, this might seem like an unfair question to ask of someone who is clearly in a painful situation, and seems to be positioned looking for healing and for change. I mean he's waiting by the pool for healing, right? He seems to be in the perfect position for a change.
The man's answer to Jesus' question shows us that Jesus' question wasn't so crazy after all.
It was actually a really important question to ask that man, and I think it's an important one to ask and answer ourselves.
The man answers Jesus' question with excuses. He doesn't have anyone there to help him, and someone else always beats him to the pool. His answer is basically yes, obviously I want that but there's all these reasons why it won't happen!
Sometimes, we think we want change, we think we are ready for the next thing, but our own mindsets are preventing us from embracing the change, the transition, or the new thing God has for us.
Maybe you can recognize this same mindset in yourself, I know I can have this same mindset at times. When I was praying for revival, I felt like God challenged me to think more deeply about what I was asking for.
If He brought revival, and if He used me,
was I willing to be uncomfortable? Was I ready to take risks and make the sacrifices it required? Did I really want what I was asking for?
In His kindness, I think Jesus was challenging this man in the same way. He asked, "Do you want to get well?"
He knew He had the ability to heal this man, but He also knew it would change everything for him.
Similarly to the saying, "the grass is greener on the other side," I wonder if Jesus thought this man might receive his healing and think life was a lot easier when he was hanging out beside the pool. The changes the healing would bring were positive, but would also present challenges.
When you're praying for a change or breakthrough in your life, are you ready to embrace all the challenges and obstacles that also might come with it?
When God promotes us and moves us to the next thing, it often brings greater blessing and greater opposition.
It requires us to move from a place of comfort and familiarity, to one where we are challenged to do the very things we never thought would be possible. For this man, it was getting up to walk, and picking up his mat.
He was immediately met with opposition. The religious leaders didn't care about the breakthrough he was experiencing, they were too focused on the fact that he was breaking their rules.
I think we should pray for revival, for big moves of God, for the changes we want to see in the world and in our individual lives too. I also wonder if sometimes, Jesus is asking us, "Do you want to be well?"
He knows that He can answer the prayer, work the miracle, provide the healing, and bring the restoration.
Are we ready to face the opposition that comes when we get up and walk?
Are we ready to face the challenges that come with transformation and change in our lives?
Are we willing to walk into discomfort when people start to point fingers when what we are stepping into makes them uncomfortable?
Are we willing to walk away from the comfort of our present circumstances to receive what God has for us?
-Imagine watching Jesus approach this man and ask him, "do you want to get well?" What are your thoughts, reactions, and emotions when you overhear this?
-Is there a circumstance in your life where you feel like God is inviting you to move into new territory, but you feel stuck? How does this passage relate to your life?
-When considering this passage how might Jesus' question and actions change and shape your prayer life?
Is there a situation in your life where you feel stuck? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what it would look like to transition out of that place.
Jesus, thank you for seeing beyond the circumstances that we see as limiting and impossible in our lives. Thank you for calling us into greater things, and for being kind enough to allow us to see how transitions impact us. Give us the courage to step into the new and next things you have for us, even if that means we have to face opposition and get uncomfortable. Thank you for being with us in the midst of it all. Amen.