Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
One of the biggest pitfalls for humans is the tendency to grumble and complain. A financial set back may invite us to complain bitterly to friends. A health crises might incite grumbling about many different aspects of our condition, our doctors, the medicines, or the lack of access to proper care. A broken or ailing relationship might stir up a critical spirit in us whereby we are constantly finding fault with another (or with others). When we don’t have major reasons to complain, we complain about small things: the little inconveniences such as driving in heavy traffic or waiting in a long line somewhere…a small personal slight like the rudeness of a store clerk or inconsiderate behavior from our spouse…unexpected changes to our schedules like a flat tire or a sick child.
Today my husband and I decided to install “complaining counters” for ourselves – we are planning to take note of each time we complain and why. I am afraid to see the results! Unfortunately, we are often reminded of our own shortcomings because we have little eyes watching our every move. Our children see how we behave and imitate us. This is God’s plan – that our children would learn how to live life from us:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deut 6:4-9
Because our children depend on us for their understanding of God, it calls us to a new level of obedience to Him. Here is a chilling reminder of this fact: Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea (Mark 9:42). We are called to be imitators of God so that others, including our children, may learn who He is – this is part of the High Calling. But there is even more reason to forgo our habit of complaining…
When Jesus met a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years, He asked a simple question, “Do you want to be healed?” A simple question deserves a simple answer (i.e. yes or no). Given his situation, what was the invalid’s response? Rather than a “Yes!” He gave Jesus a complaint,“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Sometimes it is very humbling to admit our needs to someone else. It can leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable. But we cannot know others well if we are not able to be vulnerable with them. When I picture this moment between Jesus and the invalid, I see the man sidestep. Instead of entering into meaningful conversation with Jesus, he falls back on complaining. He was too invested in his helplessness to connect with Jesus in a real way. He complained about no help to get him to the healing waters…he didn’t know the this day, the Healing Waters came to him.
Let’s stop right here and think about this…there are a few amazing facts to notice: (1) The Word of God Made Flesh, The Living Water, The Bread of Life, The Holy One came to this man and asked if he wanted what he needed most – and the man didn’t answer Him. (2) In spite of the man’s response, or the lack of an appropriate response, Jesus gave him what he did not deserve, a miracle: Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. (3) Later we see that, though the man was healed, he missed out on something very important – the chance to know Jesus: So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘˜Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘˜Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. (John 5:10-13) (4) Finally, Jesus sought after him, a second time, to make sure that man did not miss out on the most important healing, the spiritual one: Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14)
God does not depend on us to accomplish our own healing, spiritual or otherwise. He, in His tremendous Mercy and Grace, seeks us out and intervenes on our behalf in spite of us. Often we don’t see His offer to us – the opportunity to see Him at work in our lives – or we are not willing to humble ourselves and admit that what we need is help from Him. Jesus is approachable. We must be authentic and see beyond our situation to our most basic need – the need to have close relationship with Him. Complaining puts up a wall of ungratefulness and sin in our lives. When we complain, we complain against Him who orders our life and it keep us from recognizing that He is at work in all things. Instead, when we meet Our Lord, shouldn’t we humble ourselves in order to accept His Hand and know His Voice?
justAgirl…just like you!