Wednesday, October 29, 2008

everlasting punishment or everlasting redemption?

This week's lesson, filled with inspiring stories, also includes the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda. This was a gathering place for those 'impotent folk' with chronic illnesses. They waited for a disturbance in the water that they attributed to an angel. Whoever got in first was healed. Jesus was walking by there when he noticed a man who had been bothered by an infirmity for 38 years.

Most of us start working in our early twenties and will probably do so until our sixties, a good 40 years. Imagine if you choose some wrong path at the beginning, made some poor choices. It might have involved an ethical decision, some dishonesty or cheating. That might have been part of an educational experience. It might have involved drugs or drinking or smoking Whatever it was, once done it was harder to resist the temptation to repeat it and over the years things just got worse. It eventually ruined your health.

A by-product might have been that it cost you your friends and even your family. That man was alone beside the pool. When Jesus approached him and asked if he wanted to be whole, the man blamed his misfortunes on the fact that he had no one to help him. He felt discouraged because someone else got to the pool before he did. This implies that he had been coming to this pool for healing on other occasions.

What needed to change was his thought that this healing was going to have to come from the efforts of someone else. He needed to change his own thought, about himself, about his past, about what awaited him in the future. With the Christ beside him, he was able to follow Jesus' command to rise, take up his bed, and walk. He needed to arise, stand up, straighten up. He needed to feel his strength. If his problem had been sensual, he even needed to purify his thoughts about that bed. He was to walk, to move forward. Jesus didn't tell him to go home, just to walk.

But this was not the end of their encounter. Like the woman who was healed of a long-standing issue of blood, this man needed to see the real source of that healing. She had been healed by her faith, not by touching Jesus' clothing. Next time she needed help, he might not be available, but her faith was there and that would do it. Jesus sought out the man and found him in the temple. That is encouraging. Maybe he was there to give thanks for his healing, maybe he was making amends for his behaviour. Jesus reminded him that he was whole....but he must not sin again. A healing of something that was the result of wrong thinking or acting did not give someone permission to repeat the offence. We are to recognize the wrong and keep it out of our life.

I beleive that man heeded Jesus. How wonderful it must have felt to be freed after so many years of suffering. It was every bit as dramatic as if he had stepped into the pool and been made whole. He had been face to face with Christ and that must have changed him. We all have the same opportunity. We can stop dragging around, or being dragged around by, something that occured long ago. The change just needs to take place in our thought. And then, we must choose never to go that way again. We need to see the truth about who we are as God's beloved idea. We need to recognize how wonderful divine Love is. Rise. Take up. Walk.

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