This Sunday we Begin our Lenten journey with the theme of “Gifts of the Dark Woods” following the book of the same title by Eric Elnes available here.
The book, like the Lenten Series explores the seven gifts bestowed in the Dark Wood of life, the times of trial and change we all experience. Curious about how times of trial can be a gift? Walk this journey with us, or pick up the book, and find your way through alongside us. This week we focus on Uncertainty.
Scripture: John 5:1-9a
1 After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath.
Background on the Text:
- In the Gospel of John, Jesus challenges the Sabbath rules in very direct ways. This story is one of those “Sabbath challenging” stories, but that won’t be our focus.
- In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes three trips, not one, to Jerusalem. He is shown to be very faithful to the practices and rituals of his Jewish faith.
Exegesis (close reading) of the Text:
- The pool at Beth-zatha existed, and people believed the waters, when they were stirred, would cure the first person into the pool.
- People relied on the kindness of strangers to help them into the waters at the right time.
- A man staying at the pool for 38 years (i.e, a long time) would have had issues with being proactive about healing.
- The crux of the text is the question: do you want to be made well? This may seem like a no-brainer, but given the length of time the person has been there, it is definitely unclear why he is at the pool.
- The man gives excuses rather than an answer. He is perhaps uncertain about what his life would be if he were healed.
- Jesus heals him anyway.
Questions the Text Asks of Us:
- Sometimes we stay in difficult situations because we are afraid of taking steps toward healing. A healed, whole life is one big uncertainty for us. What situations of healing have you avoided because you were more comfortable with remaining unwell?
- How has God used your uncertainty in a situation to prod you to trust God?