Friday: First Week of Lent
Have you ever been immobile for a period of time?
Able-bodied people seemed to feel a mix of pity and guilt around him. It wasn’t that they didn’t care. They just had a tidy little system of benign neglect, which they dressed up to look like compassion. Someone would pick him up and carry him down to the place where all of the other people who were sick gathered. Twenty-one feet of concrete real estate sandwiched between two trapezoidal pools of water—the only place in the city of Jerusalem where you couldn’t find a fully healthy person if you tried!
He had been coming here for thirty-eight years and he knew the stories. He wasn’t sure if anyone ever had been healed when there was a certain movement of the water in the pools. But to him, it didn’t really matter. Even if he saw the ripples, his legs didn’t work so how was he to get into the healing pools quickly? The whole scene seemed designed to mock him and remind him of the fact that he was an invalid and nothing and no one was going to change that. Or were they?
One day, Jesus arrives on the scene and asks a compellingly complicated question: “Do you want to be well” (5:6)? Our first reaction might be to think of Jesus as horribly insensitive (“of course sick people want to get better”), but behind the question is an invitation to consider the implications of a new identity. At first all the man can muster is excuses, but then Jesus heals him and the pools are no longer his home. His whole identify undergoes a profound shift.
Change is hard, especially when it relates to our identity. Think, for example, when you moved from being a child to a teenager or from employment to being retired. We can cling to our old definitions of self or we can embrace the new identity that Jesus offers. But you have to want to move into this new future.
What transitions in your life have been particularly hard for you and why?
What element(s) of your identity might Jesus be inviting you to leave behind in this season of Lent?
Brad Sumner is Lead Pastor at Jericho Ridge Community Church in Langley, BC.