Then Jesus told him, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.”
Immediately the man was made well, and he picked up his mat and began to walk.
Jesus could be very direct. Yes, he was compassionate and merciful. But there were also many times when he simply laid out what needed to be done. “Follow me” is one of his most well known direct statements.
God’s the same way. I’m reminded of the time when Elijah was having a pity party in a cave, saying, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of Hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant. . . I am the only one left, and they are seeking my life as well.” (I Kings 19:14)
God didn’t commiserate with Elijah. He just told the prophet, “Go back.” He instructed Elijah to leave the cave and resume his work.
So it wasn’t out of character for Jesus to tell this invalid man, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk.” In fact, it was probably what the man needed.
I remember when I was in labor with my son Max, and I was losing it and screaming. The doctor came into the room and told me firmly, “Calm down,” It might sound callous that he said that, but it was actually very powerful. I saw the doctor as the leader taking control and getting us to the point of the baby being delivered. I needed that.
Sometimes our pain or fear is so great that we need someone to tell us the way. But there are also other situations that call for direct statements. Sometimes we can dither endlessly, looking at all of the extenuating circumstances. We need someone to tell us to quit equivocating, and just do it!
And then sometimes we need to tell others to just do it. I studied the Bible with a woman this week. She told me she would be willing to do anything for God. My reply was, in a nutshell, “Then make these changes you need to make.” I wasn’t being insensitive to her. I was cutting to the chase, and telling her what she needed to hear.
I was also telling her what God needed her to hear. I want to do this more. I’m too often held back by people pleasing. I think things like, “They’ve had a difficult past. It’s hard for them right now. It might shame them if I say anything. It might turn them away. They’ll think I’m self righteous. It could hurt our relationship.” But God needs people to hear the truth that will get them moving.
We need to be so grateful that we serve a God who gets us moving. Over the past few days, I’ve experienced several unexpected disappointments. One was severe enough that my heart was weighed down and I needed time to get over it. It’s important to allow space to grieve and acknowledge the hurt.
But it’s also important to not give into self-pity, or the temptation to wallow. I wanted to say, “I tried so hard and then this happened.” It was just like when Elijah said, “I’ve been very zealous for the Lord, and now I’m the only one left.” It became about me, and my efforts, instead of being about God.
And God, like a father, with love, compassionate and firmness, simply said, “Pick up your mat and walk. Shake it off, and go back to serving me.”
Wait. But. Oh, okay.
So I did.