An angel went down at a certain season into the pool and troubled the water…
A certain man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, knowing that he had already been there a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”…
Jesus found him in the temple and said, “See! You have been made well. Don’t sin anymore in case something worse happens to you.” – John 5:1-18
Sometimes I sit at the table with my Wednesday evening men’s Bible study group, look around, and just give in to this mixture of awe, pride, humility, and love.
I see men who are all gifted with above average intelligence, all accomplished in particular fields of expertise, all engaged in various aspects of community life, all with beautiful families and interesting life experiences and adventures to share, all people worthy of respect and admiration.
All this, and yet they come – faithfully – to offer one another support, and encouragement, and accountability in terms of their commitment to live as people of faith and to live out their daily decision to follow Jesus.
My role is more facilitator than leader. I am simply a companion on this road less often traveled by. I guess another good word for my role is curator. I listen, I highlight, I reframe, I circle back, I clarify, I dig, I draw out, I catalog. Sometimes – and this is challenging because a dozen guys around the table means a lot of moving parts – I manage to pull together the strands of conversation and offer some closing thoughts that resonate.
Troubling the waters:
This week we talked about the well-known story from John’s Gospel where Jesus asks someone, “Do you want to be healed?” Rather than pulling out well-used standard interpretations, the guys approached our conversation with honest questions and open hearts. Because of that, God demonstrated how willing he is to reach in and “trouble the waters” today.
We all have a built-in potential to engage God in our lives; every human being does – it’s the way we were created. But getting right with God by our own efforts is as likely as being healed by the “angel who troubled the waters.” For the man in the story – and for us – it takes meeting Jesus. But more than that it takes responding to his invitation to live, to really live.
So the question is this: Are we content to sit around and wait for some angel to randomly trouble our waters… or are we going to respond to the very personal, very pointed, very challenging invitation Jesus offers to actually live like we mean it right now?
As one of the guys said, “There’s not a man among us who God isn’t challenging to make a couple of changes after 38 years of carefully nurtured avoidance…”
At the end of the story Jesus makes this seemingly uncharacteristic statement, “Don’t sin any more in case something worse happens to you!”
But the man’s sin, the behavior that had been feeding his separateness from God, was his unwillingness to claim his life. The “something worse” Jesus referenced wasn’t necessarily some harsh punishment from God but more likely the natural consequence of failing to really live.
Now he had the chance to live like he really meant it, like God intends. Isn’t that our opportunity too?
Grateful for this particular group of faithful, thinking, open-hearted disciples – DEREK