When I travel to London for my weekly day amongst my work-colleagues, rather than alone in my home office the rest of the working calendar, I often see beggars. People who place themselves at strategic points in pedestrian traffic ways. Almost always they are sitting on the pavement. Almost always they look down without eye contact. Mostly they have a small piece of blanket covering their lower legs. Almost always they have some piece of cardboard on which is scratched a few despondent words.
They are a feature of any big city. And they are a topic for debate like any other. Too many stories of this being a “job” for them. More lucrative an hourly rate than “proper employment”. Too many stories like that to prevent my weighing up (and judging?) if they seem real or phoney each and very time. Mostly I settle for phoney and pass by. And I remember the Lord’s word about being “shrewd” rather than stupid. And I don’t beat myself up for “passing by”. I listen for His inner voice to guide me. That inner voice – as much a part of my daily life as breathing.
Because this morning’s passage puzzled me … John puzzles me …
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. John 5:1-9 ½ excluding 5
Leaving aside the fact that verse 5 is missing, that verse 9 has been truncated in this selection … leaving aside the “who wrote John, when was John written, the chronology is a bit messed up, was that bit added later, is it just a text arranged to counter …” Leaving aside all of that …
The thing I was puzzled by was “Why did Jesus even ask the question? “Do you want to get well?”” And so I meandered into some google territory and back again.
Because beggars are not a new phenomenon. And I am thinking that after 38 years of squatting in the same strategic pedestrian traffic way – most might believe this was the chap’s day job. Someone like me. Someone like the crowd – and noise and hubbub we always forget surrounded Jesus in these little reports of his wanderings and conversations and healings. The Man of Shrewd. Always ahead of the rest of us.
On top of that, what alternatives were there to making a connection with this man? “Hello, how are you, my name is Jesus … what’s your name?” … “Hiya old crippled man, how do you fancy walking today?” … “Guess what … it’s your lucky day today … do I have a surprise for you!”
“Do you want to get well?”
Engaging. Direct. Respectful. Loving. Connecting. Offering nothing. Inviting an answer.
Relationship in six words. And not a mention of God in sight (whilst at the same time allowing observers to this scenario the opportunity to see the same thing as me this morning).
Whether or not the entire exchange was as brief as recorded here? Irrelevant. Were other words and touch and connection forgotten? Doesn’t matter. Not to me. The man is walking after thirty-eight years. I am convinced. A miracle took place. Of God. Not of man. Nor of some inane benevolent master of the universe.
I am convinced that my best bud is consistent, trustworthy, reliable, loving and shrewd. And is God in human form. Is God freely walking amongst us. Is the micro and the macro. And all the stuff that makes my brain explode when I sit back and try and sense the size and scope of God.
“Do you want to get well?”
God wastes nothing. And he didn’t waste these six words either.
And here I am again … that fuzzy, warm, tingly thing that happens inside. Always does. When I think about how He “does it”. How he always does it. Every time. That thing when you love someone? And it catches you unawares. That tingle inside … He is mine! What a guy! I just love Him to bits. He is so “perfect”! That kind of tingle. Just like it happened right there … as I was typing something sensible!
Is it just me – or does that happen to you as well?