Crippling faith- Tuesday, 4th Week of Lent- John 5: 1-16
Announce a ‘healing service’ in your Church and you will have to provide for many more chairs. Lead your congregation in prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and you may have to take away a couple of benches. Ironic but true! The gospels don’t mince words, “its a wicked generation that wants a sign.” The gospel of John teaches us that Jesus’ words are the real source of faith and not the signs (John 4:50).
Let’s look at some of the issues that this Gospel raises. Why did Jesus choose this cripple? Why not the rest? We are told that ‘many invalids’ lay there (5:3) and there were great ‘crowds’ (5:13). What about the intention of the cripple? He does not seem to even want to be healed! To Jesus’ question, “do you want to be made well”, he launches into his problems (sounds like us) rather than a direct yes that should have been on the lips of one suffering for “thirty eight years”.
Clearly this cripple was ungrateful, if not a coward. He does not know who Jesus is, but does not care to ask. When confronted by the Jewish authorities, he blames Jesus; thus deflecting and absolving himself from breaking the law, by carrying his mat. On being found by Jesus who cautions him not to sin again, he rushes to the Jews to tattle that it was Jesus who healed him, thus revealing his identity and consequent ‘persecution of Jesus by the Jews.’
So why choose an ungrateful, un-cooperative, scheming cripple when there was so many that Jesus could heal. The miracle narrative is part of a greater text (5: 1-47), and serves merely as an ‘occasion for a discourse on Jesus’ relationship to the Father and His power to give life.’ In simple words, the ‘sign’ or miracle as we would call it, is merely a tool to discuss a larger issue, namely the divinity and nature of Christ’s words and actions. In this case, the Lord is calling us to believe in HIS WORDS AND NOT LIVE FOR MIRACULOUS ACTIONS!
Looking at the life of Jesus, we see that as in this case, He picked this man and no other; a man who is ungrateful. Jesus does not heal everyone. In the scriptures, Jesus heals so that ‘God may be glorified’. Healing is an exception, not a rule. So it is ‘disheartening’ to some faithful who are upset that they were not healed over some ‘undeserving cripple’.
It is sad that often healing is linked to a lack of ‘sufficient faith’; a pet justification of ‘faith healers’ for a failed miracle, leading to an undue guilt on the part of the one seeking a healing. Jesus chose some and not all to be healed. In today’s gospel He chose a betraying cripple. He broke the Sabbath to do good to one who cared little for the consequences that Jesus would face. Perhaps a bad choice in the eyes of man, but to God…..
Written on behalf of the Holy Spirit- References from the Jerome Biblical Commentary.
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