Firstly - why does John’s Gospel share this particular healing with us, with this particular person? For the man is not especially likeable, or honourable, is he? When Jesus first comes to him, he complains about lack of assistance. Jesus also says 'do you want to be well?' Now we begin to understand. Maybe, for most of the thirty-eight years he had been coming there, people had been avoiding him because he was so churlish and obnoxious. Being cured doesn’t seem t have made much difference either! When the authorities came to him to seek information, when he found out Jesus’ name he reported it to them. So much for gratitude?
What do you make of all of that? My sense is that this story is told precisely because the man was a boorish, ungrateful, turncoat and informer, Yes, we can have compassion for him, as Jesus clearly did. It remains true to say that he was closer to an enemy than a friend, never mind a disciple. There is no sign in the story of a stirring or coming to faith, if anything the opposite. So we are forced to confront the uncomfortable reality that, for Jesus, healing, at least that of the body, is not dependent on anyone’s faith as such. Rather, Christ’s healing is gracious and undiscriminating, and, seemingly, gratuitous. What difference should that make for our ministries do you think? We will alos meet people for whom the question 'do you want to be made well?' is relevant. How far are we prepared to go in loving and helping to heal others, knowing that they may strike back at us even after we have helped them? What demands, restictions, or requiremnets do our church communities sometimes seem to put on this work of God’s healing?
Secondly, why is there opposition to this healing? That is a question which has been on my heart for some time in relation to other healings, and journeys of healing taking place today? Why is it that some religious people do not want some other people to be healed? Worse still, they sometimes try to put barriers in the way. It seems that, not only is an ‘eligibility’ criteria sometimes applied to God’s healing, but it must always be conducted according to certain assumed principles. In Jesus’ day, this included kepeing strict Sabbath rules, irrespective of need and the movement of the Spirit and compassion. Today, for some, there are still gatekeepers to persuade and hoops to jump through. If certain people’s healing does not fit others’ ideas of order, they can be rejected, or turned aside. Perhaps part of the secret lies in today’s final verse, where we are told that Jesus was being targeted for death, not only because he was breaking the human-constructed bounds for healing, but also because he was calling God his own Father. In oher words, he was appealing to a greater authority than the religious forms and orders of his day. Healing and compassion not only make God’s love manifest, they also declare God’s sovereignty and freedom.
So, thirdly, what does God want to do with us in healing today? There are at least two sides to the answer, aren’t there? The first is that we ourselves can open ourselves to, and experience, healing even if we feel ourselves to be undeserving. It would be best however if we could allow that undeserved love to transform our own churlishness, defensiveness and self-seeking behaviour; mirroring the love which brings that healing. For ee have all been blessed in some way. How well do we respond with praise and thanksgiving, with care, support and healing for others? The second aspect is the call to look to God’s authority, not merely received rules, even treasured religious community rules. God’s freedom is greater than our perceived ideas of order and disorder. God always has the power and authority to re-create even the most surprising of people and situations. How far do we gratefully receive what God offers so freely, instead of complaining or demanding that God plays by our own rules?
Let us seek, and share, God’s amazing powers of healing, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
by Jo Inkpin, for Tuesday 13 March, St Francis College Brisbane