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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why we stay stuck (Part 1)

Our text is John 5:2-9

“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 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 38 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. "

Have you ever found yourself in a situation that you thought was absolutely hopeless? It may have been a physical, emotional or financial problem. What was your reaction? Did you dig a little deeper and try to work harder, or did you simply give up? How we react, says a great deal about our personality, and even more about our faith and our view of God.
Picture the scene, there are sick people laying all around. Tradition tells us that an angel would come down from time to time, stir the waters and the first person who could get down into the water would be healed of whatever their ailment was. And, we meet our main character who has been there for 38 years. If you think about this, 38 years is a long time to be doing anything.

Jesus comes into the picture and surveys the situation. By whatever means, He is aware of how long this guy has been there, but rather than healing him, he asks him a question…"Do you want to get well?” What kind of question is this? Of course he wants to be healed. After all, he is lying beside a pool that was is supposed to heal people.

Perhaps. But Jesus has asked this specific question for a reason. On the surface it may seem like a silly question, but there are some issues that we need to look at more deeply...

This guy is an example of 2 different kinds of people. One, is the person who wants things to be different, but is investing in the wrong hope. The second is the person who finds themselves in a predicament and decides that they don’t really want to change.

If we assume that our friend at the pool really does want his situation to change, what plan has he made to make this happen? He starts to explain to Jesus that nobody will help him to get into the water when it’s stirred up. Someone else always gets there first. That is indeed unfortunate.

Let's examine this plan. He’s at a pool which is supposed to have the answer to his problem, but it is also the answer to everyone else’s problem. And, there are probably at least a few other people who are strong enough to get in first. Yet, he remains, with no other plan. For 38 years. How many years do you think it would it take for you to figure out that this is a bad plan? Maybe a bit less than 38? So that leaves this man with no real hope and no real plan to change is condition. His situation is not ever going to change just by hanging around the pool. But still he stays. Presumably because he can't come up with a better plan. This is a good picture of people without spiritual hope.

We see this every day in our family and friends, and, sometimes ourselves. This man trusted in a rumor about a pool and in invisible friends who would put him in when the water was stirred. How many of us continue to trust in things that are doomed to fail? He was trusting in “if only” and so are people today. He trusted that “if only someone would help me”.

Think back to when we were teenagers…“If only I can make that team.” “If only I can get into the right college.” “If only I could date him or her.” Then my life would be better.

But trusting in “if only” is a pointless exercise because whatever we put in the space after “if only” is something that does not really change who and what we are fundamentally.

As teenagers we tend to be easy targets. But there is something wrong with us if we continue to do the same thing as adults. “If only I had that house/car/boat/furniture….That thing…” “If only I had ‘x’ dollars saved for retirement or ‘y’ dollars in my portfolio, I’d be ok.” If only I could find the right person to marry, or get out of the marriage I’m in, or get through my kids teenage years with my sanity…” You get the general idea.

St. Augustine said, “All hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” And, Pascal said, "There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus".

Anything else that we depend on, anything that we trust in beside the Lord who created us will lead to disappointment. Trusting in anything other than Christ is vanity and futility, because only Christ can give rest to a human heart, and this is because only Christ created human hearts.

It stands to reason that our only real hope is to turn to the One who created us to find a proper understanding of how life is supposed to operate. It’s easy for us to point a finger at someone else who isn't following Christ, as if they are the only ones investing in the wrong things. But, what about us? What do we really trust in for our own satisfaction?

If we were really honest with ourselves, I think our list wouldn't look significantly different than the list of those we’d write off as non-believers. We still get caught up in the same trap of trusting in vain and futile things, don’t we? Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”

So...."Do you want to get well?" Do you want to get well? Or do you just want to continue to trust in the things you have been trusting in, the things that will never satisfy you.

It’s a fair question!

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