06 May 2013

Encountering Jesus - "Arise..."

The Pool of Bethesda, by William Hogarth, 1736, retrieved from wikipaintings.org. 
After these things there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a multitude of them that were sick, blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the waters stepped in was made whole, with whatsoever disease he was holden. 
And a certain man was there, who had been thirty and eight years in his infirmity. When Jesus saw him lying, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case , he saith unto him, "Wouldest thou be made whole?" 
The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me." 
Jesus saith unto him, "Arise, take up thy bed, and walk."
And straightway the man was made whole, and took up his bed and walked. 
Now it was the Sabbath on that day. So the Jews said unto him that was cured, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for thee to take up thy bed."
But he answered them, "He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk." 
They asked him, "Who is the man that said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?" 
But he that was healed knew not who it was; for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in the place. 
Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, "Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee." 
The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him whole. (John 5.1-15, ASV)
"Arise, take up thy bed and walk."

Jesus commanded a lame man to do what was humanly impossible. The guy had.not.walked.in.THIRTY-EIGHT.years! I have so many questions:
  • Did he know who Jesus was?
  • Was his "lameness" painful?
  • How withered and twisted were his legs after 38 years of no use?
  • How did he get around? Was he forced to pull himself along using his arms, dragging and scraping his legs along behind him?
  • Did he call attention to himself in the hope of help, or did he shrink back, hoping people would forget he was there?
  • Was he still in his right mind, or had years of lameness messed with his mind?
  • Did he really want to be healed or had he grown so comfortable with the status-quo that he now feared the unknown possibilities of a dreamed-of-future more? Did his current situation suddenly appear more palatable than the what had long been hoped for, but in reality was never considered more than an impossibility?
  • Did he even think about the fact that all of this was happening on the Sabbath?
  • What was it like to be physically in the presence of Jesus? Did the man have to look up at Jesus, or did Jesus kneel down to speak to him, man to man?
I'm a teacher and my teaching degree is in the area of special education. I work with students - many of whom are younger and smaller than I am... and at times, students who would never be able to look me level in the eye did I not come down to their level.

So, as I try and visualize this scene, I easily imagine the God-man, Who had already lowered Himself so far as to become a man, who had already shown honor in His manner of speech to this man when He asked him if he wanted to be made whole, kneeling down to speaks with him face to face, eye to eye. 

The man responds, giving all the key reasons why his healing could never happen. I see his despair and hopelessness, but that isn't my focus this time through the story.

I find it hard to take my eyes off the Son of Almighty God squatted down, gently speaking to an old, lame guy, and saying to the man, "Arise..." It doesn't take much imagination to picture the look of surprise on the man's face at that first word and so I did some research. According to Strong's (both Greek and Hebrew), arise is found 235 times in the Biblical text. In the New Testament, there are ten different words used. The specific Greek word used in John 5.8 is ἐγείρω, (eg-i'-ro)... There are some places where this word translated "arise" means someone else is doing the lifting up. I actually hoped that would be the clear situation. Jesus not only said "Arise...;" He also placed an arm around this man's back and another one under his elbow to help lift and steady him as he bore weight on legs weak from 4 decades of no use. Yet I cannot claim that that is clearly the situation in this case. I'm no Greek scholar, but the fact that several translations of this passage use other words, an imperative verb where Jesus commands the man to "Get up!" or "Stand up!" makes me think that Jesus possibly never touched that man. Instead, I'm picturing him watching from His hunkered down position as the man stood tall on his feet, actually higher than Jesus for just a moment until Jesus joined him, once again eye to eye, face to face. The more I think upon it, the more this second scenario speaks to my heart, today, as one seeking to serve God in full-time ministry. Jesus has completed His work; the work of the man was to listen, hear, trust and obey. My job is exactly the same.

So yes, it really seems like Jesus might have been asking this sad, hopeless man to, of his own strength and ability, stand up. It goes against most principles I know of "good" teaching, motivating or leading. The man already knew he couldn't. Did he even have a reason to try? Anyone watching would have known Jesus had asked the man to do the impossible. Jesus required this man to become a living definition of miracle, "an event not ascribable to human power or the laws of nature and consequently attributed to a supernatural, especially divine, agency." 

I know how badly I feel when I'm simply asked to do something I know I have no capacity or hope of actually succeeding at doing, so the fact that the man doesn't begin to argue or give additional excuses still amazes me. 

I also tend to believe miracles ever and only things considered wonderful at all times and from all perspectives. After all, how could they ever be considered anything else? I've never considered that it might be only slightly less than petrifying to allow Jesus to work this sort of miracle... any sort of miracle... in me... Considered how this man might have felt, what he might have thought in those brief, terror-inducing moments before he began to understand that his legs would indeed hold him as he stood. I keep thinking of the first time I went rappelling - that horrible, terrifying, almost paralysis inducing moment as you slowly back over the edge of a cliff, praying those ropes really are secure.

Once you know that the ropes are holding, however, the thrill really is amazing! 

The man had no way of knowing, until he first agreed in his heart, to trust and obey, that Jesus had already given him everything he needed. He may have had no way of knowing even as he gingerly pushed himself off the ground and onto feeble, unworthy legs... until those legs actually stood, stable... firm...

... and then? The amazement! The thrill!

What miracle has Jesus performed in you recently... 
and now He's asking you to obey and to arise.... 

Will you?
I'm asking myself that very same question.

-further thoughts inspired by a post from the archives:
original post

this week's gratitude list

(#'s 3803 - 3827)

a week of testing behind us

day off in the middle of the week!

more reports finished

more sorting done

working ahead

great fun with visitors for the weekend

finally finding something we'd been looking for locally for months

watching favorite shows with my Wrightling cohorts

Anna's continued great progress in her math work

enjoying our kitties - and being amused by their unique personalities

pixie haircuts that fit

a day off in the middle of the week... oops! Already said that, but it bears mentioning again 'cause I'm more than doubly thankful!

leftovers amalgamation resulting in chicken pot pie

Charlotte's Web

kiddo fascinated reading The Arabs in the Golden Age

another practicum test done and gone and this one went so much better than the first

Calculus study sessions

the season finale... been waiting for a long time for this one

sleepy giggles from a dark corner of the bedroom as she listens to big bros and sisters yatter about in the morning while they get ready for school

reading late by the light of the closet with soft kid snores from sleeping sound and deep in air conditioned coolness gently reverberating all around me 

harem pants - so comfy

dinner menu planned for another week

a friend from afar, helping to quickly provide helpful information and good advice as far as the next step to take

a really yummy, mouthwatering-looking recipe to try on a day off

making our own root beer... (not like the stuff from sassafras, but using root beer flavoring)... like for real. It tasted like the real thing, too!

Ten most recent posts in this series: 

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