- Religion and Philosophy
Wanting to Believe
Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! John 5:1-9
In this story, there is a pool that has a reputation for healing anyone who can go into it first. Crowds of people gather there in the hopes that the water is stirred. Being out in the open, the sun beats down on the sick and causes a dilemma: do you move into the shade, which is far from the pool, or stay near the pool but stay under the hot sun with no shade? These people are miserable not only with their illness, but their circumstances.
For those who are able to move, there is a mad dash to get into the pool as soon as the water stirs. When you’re sick, being trampled and pushed by a crowd doesn’t make you heal any faster—in fact, perhaps more injury is caused. There must have been many bitter questions, perhaps resentment that God would choose to heal them one by one in such a manner; sporadically and capriciously.
But we know that God is not capricious, but exacting. "He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end." Ecclesiastes 3:11 There are many miracles that are performed in the Bible, but everyone who has received a miracle had a personal interaction with God. This was the work of the devil to deceive the people. "And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light." 2 Corinthians 11:14 "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." 1 John 4:1
Jesus comes upon the pool, and there is a crowd of people who’ve been there for days, months or years. He wants to save all of them, but he sees one person in particular whom he feels compelled to help. He asks a ridiculously redundant question, “Do you want to get well?” Obviously the man does, because he is at the pool. Anyone there would say, “Yes!” The man looks at Jesus and sees a poor man. No rich clothes, no healthy complexion. Jesus can’t offer him money for a doctor, or food for strength. The man doesn’t see any other solution except the pool. He answers that he has no one to help him into the pool.
So Jesus simply tells him to stand up, pick up his mat, and walk. The man hears this and his desire to be healed is so great, that he believes Jesus. He feels his body strengthening, and immediately he gets up. The bible says, instantly or immediately, depending on the translation.
This man did not know Jesus (And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. John 5:13) It is only later, that he meets Jesus again and learns who He is (verse 15) This man’s desire to believe Jesus was so great, that he received healing. He had no reason to have faith in Jesus, he had no reason to do what Jesus told him. He could have scoffed or cursed this stranger to get away from him, but he wanted what Jesus told him to do.
We Need Faith, Lest We Fall
God desires us to have faith in Him. Eve didn’t and ate the fruit from the forbidden tree. Abraham didn’t and slept with his servant girl in order to conceive a son. The Israelites didn’t have enough faith to go into Canaan, and wandered in the desert for 40 years. There are so many people in the Bible who lost faith in God. But they are not made-up characters to show us what not to do. They are real people who had a loss of faith…like us.
But thank God, He is quick to forgive us our lack of faith. "Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand." Psalm 37:24 It isn’t how many sins we do or don’t commit, it’s how many times we seek God and His forgiveness. "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief." Proverbs 24:16
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 "Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." Matthew 18:22 Jesus is not saying God will only forgive 490 times, He is assuring how God will forgive infinitely if we only ask. We have to keep seeking the Lord, even when we sin over and over again. Choosing to return to God proves we believe in His promise to forgive. Believing in His words reaffirms Jesus’ faith in us—which is the how we gain faith.
Not Our Faith, But Christ's
God knows the struggle to believe in someone invisible, to have faith in an unknown quantity. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1 "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10:17
It is not our faith that works miracles and salvation, but the faith of Jesus Christ in us. His faith works in us to give us strength to have faith and cling to Him. "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Hebrews 11:6 And He provides our solution: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:" Ephesians 2:8 "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified...I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:16, 20 "For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith." Galatians 5:5
We need to die to self and let Christ and the Holy Spirit work in us, to increase our faith in them. The sick man did not know Jesus, did not have faith in Him, but when he wanted to believe in Jesus’ word, he allowed the Holy Spirit to work in him to have the faith to believe that Jesus’s words would come true.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16 All it takes is to believe in Jesus. You have to choose to believe in Jesus, and God will take care of everything else. "Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." Matthew 9:23, 24 Pray to Jesus, “Help me overcome my unbelief.”
- Being a Disciple of Jesus
As a follower of Christ, you know intellectually what he requires of you. But to do it whole-heartedly is another matter. How does Jesus expect us to love everyone?