In Part 1, we discussed the issue of blaming others. Talked about blaming—I guess it’s something we’ve all done; I’ve done it. But it’s a waste of time: you could succeed in making someone feel guilty by blaming them. But what difference, what change does it have? Sometimes we just got to own up.
The Issue Behind the Beggar’s Healing
There’s a wonderful story—that we mentioned in Part 1—in John 5 in the New Testament that brings this issue to the surface. Jesus had come to Jerusalem during one of the yearly feasts. Thousands of pilgrims were there from throughout Israel. While he was there, he paid a visit to a place called Bethesda, ‘the house of mercy’.
There was a pool near the Sheep Gate in the north-eastern section of the city. Five porches were built by the pool. As one writer put it, it was the Jewish Lourdes of that day. The Jews believed that an angel would come and periodically stir the waters. The first person to enter the water after it had been stirred would be healed of his diseases.
So hundreds of sick and infirm people gathered around the pool, waiting and hoping for the water to be stirred. On the day that Jesus passed by, he met a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. When he found out how long the man had been paralysed, he asked only one question, “Do you want to be well?”
Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well? (John 5:6)
On the surface it seems to be a bizarre question. Why else would the man be there? Of course he wanted to be well. Was Jesus insulting his intelligence? No, not at all. He was asking a very serious question. He was asking because it was entirely possible that the man did not want to get well.
So the man says: Do I want to be healed? That’s a crazy question. Why do you think I’m here? You must be new here. You don’t understand the problem. Every time the water is stirred, somebody else beats me to the water. No one will ever help me. They just push me out of the way. Have you ever heard, Jesus, a sadder story?
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The Price We Need to Pay
I think Jesus is probing at the level of his will. I think Jesus’ reply (“Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”) says a lot more. I think he’s saying, Stop blaming others for your problems. I have the power to make you well. But I will not exercise my power until you decide you want to be well. If I make you well, you can’t sit here and gossip all day. If I make you well, you can’t be a beggar anymore. If I make you well, you can’t use your illness to get special treatment at home. If I make you well, you won’t get all that sympathy anymore. There’s a price to be paid for being well. Do you want to pay it?
Jesus is saying to this man, Do you really want to be changed? If the answer is yes, then miracles can take place. If the answer is no, then even Jesus cannot help you.
A man who attended church approached his minister one Sunday: “You’re right. It is hard to change. It’s scary because you get comfortable with the way you are—even if you know that the way you live is not good. Change is scary. It takes a lot of faith to truly want Jesus to change you. Sometimes it’s easier to stay the way you are.”
Stop playing the blame game, and allow God to give you the insight and personal strength to be yourself, and accept responsibility for your own life.