Someone once explained to me the value of health in this way: “Health may not be everything, but without it, everything is nothing.” Physical wellness is something we all need but is too often sabotaged by disease, accidents, or poor choices on our part. Even though the American Heart Association has funded more than $4 billion dollars in research since 1949, cardiovascular disease remains the underlying cause of 1 out of every 3 deaths in America. I’m sure more stats can be shared, but the point is that physical illness abounds...even in a land where healthcare abounds. (We'll leave the healthcare discussion for another forum. ;))
Does Jesus care about all this? Is the Master of Ministry concerned with the ailing condition of our bodies as much as we’ve seen Him to be invested in our relational, spiritual, and emotional needs in the last few posts?
As we continue to walk through the opening chapters of John’s Gospel, we find Jesus going back to Jerusalem in John 5. His steps take Him toward a particular entrance of the temple grounds known as the Sheep Gate. It’s easy to imagine Jesus taking a stroll to the temple, wanting to prayerfully meditate on His mission as the Lamb of God. But His quiet thoughts are jarred by a scene of heart-breaking suffering.
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. John 5:2-3, NIV
The scene was likely an unpleasant one, filled with woeful sounds, sights, and smells. But instead of walking away to carry on with His prayer time, Jesus engages the suffering before Him.
When it comes to our physical needs, Jesus doesn’t walk away in disgust. He draws near with compassion.
He isn’t overwhelmed by our suffering. He doesn’t content Himself to let someone else take care of it. As He narrows His compassionate focus to one particularly extreme case, we’re given a glimpse of how Jesus ministers to humanity's physical needs and how we may be able to do the same.
3 SIMPLE ACTS, 3 HEALING GIFTS
1) “Jesus saw him lying there and learned…” (John 5:6a, NIV). Jesus gives attention. Before He offers healing, Jesus takes interest. Those who are suffering physical illness are prone to feel forgotten. They see others milling about, proceeding with their own business while they themselves are stuck in time by the limitations of their affliction. It’s easy for a sick person to not only feel forgotten by those around them, but even forgotten by God. Jesus demonstrates an approach to people’s physical need as one that is personally sensitive, an approach that takes time to see and to know, to understand and to acknowledge. Jesus gives attention, and so can we. Jesus does care about the physical illness all around us, and so should we.
2) “He asked him, 'Do you want to get well?'” (John 5:6b, NIV). Jesus gives a choice. Physical disease and suffering can cause us to feel utterly powerless. Whether the cause of our physical ailments is the result of our own poor choices, the collateral damage of someone else’s choices, or the tragedy of an accidents, there’s a point at which one’s broken body can eventually break the spirit. It's a mental script that says, “There’s nothing I can do about this now.”
But Jesus addresses this bed-ridden man with a question about desire, not to play with his emotions but to restore a sense of dignity and empower him with a choice in the matter.
There IS something you can do about this, i.e. you can trust ME to do something about this. When ministering to those around us in their physical need, one of the best things we can bless them with is to restore and even redirect their capacity to choose. Though some choices have been taken away by the onset of illness, we can help people identify the choices they CAN make in their current situation. Rather than dwelling on the pathology of their affliction, they can identify the choices they can make moving forward. This is where health resources and lifestyle education can be a huge benefit and blessing to others. I remember sitting in a Diabetes Undone seminar with a small group of pre-diabetics and diabetics, and it was amazing to see the light bulbs turn on as they realized that they can actually make simple lifestyle choices that can actually reverse their insulin resistance. Like Jesus, when ministering to the physical needs of others around us, we can ascertain desire and empower people with the gift of choice.
3) "Jesus said to him, 'Get up! Pick up your mat and walk'” (John 5:8, NIV). Jesus gives His Word. If the Word of God expresses the will of God, Jesus is essentially agreeing with the desire of the man’s heart to be made well. Jesus gives His Word to heal and to make whole. That’s His desire, and it’s also His promise.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases... Psalm 103:2-3, NKJV
Whether or not this assurance is fulfilled immediately or eventually in the resurrection when we’ll be given new bodies (cf. 1 Cor. 15:51-53), we can rely upon this Word. Jesus is deeply invested in meeting our physical needs. He values our physical wholeness as much as our social, spiritual, emotional wellness. He paid for our healing with His precious blood ("...and by His stripes we are healed" Isa. 53:5, NKJV.) Jesus gave His Word with the assurance of His own life in order to heal not only this man but the suffering of the entire world. We can give others the assurance of God’s Word and His infinite love.
May the Lord use us to meet the physical needs of those around us. May He make us courageous and compassionate to give attention, give choice, and give His Word!