Expecting the Unexpected
At the beginning of John chapter five, Jesus was in Jerusalem. During his time there he paid a visit to Bethesda, a pool (or, probably, several pools) surrounded by five roofed colonnades.
It was there that many believed they might find a miracle cure for their condition. The local disabled – the blind, lame and paralyzed – each hoped to enter the waters at just the right time (“when the water is stirred up” v 7) to receive their healing. We are told that one man, who had been an invalid for 38 years was still waiting.
Somehow Jesus knew that the man’s wait had been agonizingly long and so his question to him might sound shocking to us. He asked, “Do you want to be healed”? (John 5: 6). Why would he ask such a question? Let’s hold on to that and come back to it.
It strikes me that if Jesus knew the man had been hoping for a miracle for almost 40 years, then he knows about the prayers I have continued to pour out to Him day in and day out; month in, month out; year in, year out. Prayers that haven’t yet come to pass. He knows my disappointments, frustrations and heartaches of apparently unanswered prayers.
When Jesus asked the invalid if he still wanted to be healed, the man told his heartbreaking story of zero help from any family or friends to help him get into healing water, and of others getting into the pool before him. He had an idea in his mind of how he might find his miracle – someone will help him in, and he will sink into the water first, but that’s where it remained, a picture he yearned for in his mind’s eye. For decades.
I wonder if that’s what lay behind Jesus’ question, ‘do you want to be healed’. Perhaps what Jesus was really asking was, ‘are you prepared for a completely different solution to your situation, one not limited by how you imagine it will pan out?’
And maybe Jesus asks the same question to us too – do you want an answer to your prayer, or are you limited by how you think God should answer it? Are you open for God to do a miracle in a completely different way from what you think?
Jesus’ answer to the paralyzed man did not involve him being placed in the waters, he would receive no applause or attention for getting there first. He would have to let go of any hopes he might have had in absent friends and family who had failed to help him (if that was the case), and he could no longer feel sorry for himself that others beat him to it every time. For healing to take place, the man had to put any unforgiveness, self-pity and his own expectations of others behind him and simply obey Jesus’ instructions – “get up, take your bed, and walk” (v 8).
We don’t know, of course, if the man struggled with these attitudes but we do know from Jesus’ comments to him later that there was sin in his heart: “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (v 14).
Do you have expectations from others for your prayer to be answered? Is there unforgiveness in your heart? Do you feel sorry for yourself when others receive their miracle while you remain waiting? Are you ready for an answer to prayer that might look very different to what you imagine? Are you ready to obey Jesus and go for it, whatever He may say?
Do I hear a ‘yes’? Then get ready for a miracle!
Suggested prayer: “Lord, I bring to you again prayers that I have prayed before. I ask you for an answer but let me not be limited by what I imagine might be the outcome. You are the sovereign God and so I trust you to carry out your will in the way that you think is best. Amen”