The Thing That Changes Everything

Afterward, Jesus found the man at the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you.”  John 5:14

It makes you wonder.  Why would this guy continue to sin? He’d been laid up for 30 years.  Jesus picked him out of the crowd and made his life radically better.  Wouldn’t this man be so grateful that he would honor God with his life?

Either he didn’t realize how much had been done for him, or he didn’t appreciate it.

We want to say, “How blind can this man be?”  But we forget the foibles of human nature.

I remember a time when we had a group of young men over to dinner.  I bought special food from the store and spent hours preparing it.  They were unavoidably delayed, but when they did arrive, they basically ate and ran.  It made me feel bad, because their actions didn’t demonstrate a recognition of the time and money I’d spent on them.  It wasn’t that they were being deliberately rude.  It just didn’t cross their minds that someone had gone to a lot of trouble for them.  It didn’t occur to them that they should be so grateful as to stay and visit for a while.

In the same way, maybe the former invalid didn’t fully see what it meant that the divine representative had singled him out, taken time for him, and expended power to heal him.  Maybe he didn’t realize that gratitude should be expressed in action.

It like this video I saw recently.

In the video, everything we take for granted is gift wrapped, and the man treats it all like amazing presents.  He’s excited, and marvels that he’s alive, that he has a wife and children, and that he has electricity, running water, breakfast and a car.  It’s pretty convicting in a way, because around the world, may people don’t have these basic things.

When we look at this, we see that we all can be like the invalid man who was healed.  We forget that God has given us what we have.  We don’t act out our gratitude.

And we have been saved, so this should motivate us to action more than anything else.  II Peter is always convicting.  “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life . . . For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge (etc) . . . But whoever does not have (these qualities) is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.” II Peter 1:3-8

So let’s get back to the words of Jesus, “Stop sinning, or something worse will happen to you.”  If Jesus took out the time to heal this man, he took even more time to search until he found the man, and warn him about the consequences of his sin.

I might have been like, “The guy’s not grateful.  Now it’s on him.”  But Jesus sought him out and tried to turn him from his path.  Jesus had to really care in order to do that.  He showed mercy.  I love it.

And Jesus told him that thing that he needed to hear most.  He’d been physically healed, but spiritually, he was still stunted! He needed to repent.

Surely Jesus shows mercy on us as well, by giving us chance after chance to repent.  This is another thing that we don’t need to take for granted.  Any of us could die today.  Or God could turn his back on us, because that is what we deserve.  But he’s given us another day to make changes and give our heart more fully to him.

Here are some takeaways from today’s red-letter passage:

  1.  Will we see how fortunate we are that God has given us what we have?
  2.  How will we express our gratitude to God?  Will our gratitude motivate us to address our sin — our pride, selfishness, worldliness, etc?
  3.  Will we appreciate the mercy shown to us as we have another day to repent?  What will we do differently?

The man who had been healed thought that he now had everything he needed.  He didn’t realize that he’d been given the one thing that could really give him what he needed:  the opportunity to be grateful.  It was gratitude that could motivate him to repent.  It was gratitude that could keep him faithful and get him to heaven.

May we realize that the same is true for us.

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Filed under Grace, Gratitude, John, Red Letter

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