Forgetting Why

1After these things there was a Jewish feast and he went up to Jerusalem. 2Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool which is call Bethzatha in Hebrew, which has 5 porches. 3In these were lying a crowd of sick people, blind, lame and withered. 4 5And there was a certain man there who had been sick for 38 years. 6Jesus saw him lying there and he knew that he’d already been there for a long time. He said to him, “Do you want to be healthy?” 7The sick man answered, “Sir, I don’t have anybody who can throw me into the pool when the waters are troubled. When I get there, someone else has always gone in before me.” — John 5:1-7 (TFBV)

(This is Henry, writing for Jody.)

Today I visited a Sunday School class and the teacher (Ken Autrey, minister of Evangelism at First United Methodist Church, Pensacola) taught on this passage and asked a question: Do you think this man had forgotten why he was there?

Now I’ve heard this passage discussed before with the question of whether one wants to be healed. When that healing is from our sins, our bad habits, or even something we have gotten used to, that’s an excellent question. But I had never thought of the question in quite those terms before. (I’m just stealing the question from Ken. Don’t blame him for anything weird I might say from here on!)

Now you may think that the man obviously hadn’t forgotten. Obviously he wanted to get into the water, and the only reason to do that was to get healed, wasn’t it? But look at the way he answers Jesus’ question. He doesn’t! He talks about getting into the water. Based on his answer, it looks very much like over the preceding 38 years his purpose had become getting into the water. He may truly have forgotten, or lost sight of why he was there! He was going through the ritual, not because he expected or hoped for healing, but because that was what one did!

One of the things Ken applied this to was to church. We can certainly attend church just because that is what one does, or we were taught it was a good thing, but forget about meeting God there, getting recharged, and going out to be carriers of God’s grace.

I’ve found in going to churches that I can quickly tell whether I’m at a live church or a dead one. At the live churches you find a pastor, staff, and membership who are aware of the mission of that church. I don’t mean the generic one we like to repeat. “We’re here to learn to love Jesus more”, or “We’re here to carry out the gospel commission.” Of course you’re there to carry out the gospel commission! Every church is supposed to be there to do that. The question is what is your particular church charged with in carrying out the gospel commission. And if you’re there to learn to love Jesus better, he’s sure to send you off to carry his love to some other people—who are they?

Today, however, I took this a step further. What about my life? Do I know the mission statement of my life? Again, I could answer generically. Love Jesus more. Fulfill the gospel commission. But the same comments apply. Obviously I’m supposed to be carrying out the gospel commission. I’m a Christian! (If you don’t agree, I’d suggest a long conversation with God.) But what specifically am I to do?

More particularly, at my time of life, have I forgotten what it is that I’m supposed to be accomplishing? Am I doing “stuff” because I understood it was good at some time in the past and now it has just become a habit? If Jesus came up to me and asked me if I wanted to accomplish my goal, you know, whatever goal I had years ago that was prayerfully chosen, would I say, “Yes! Help me do it”? Or would I ask him to help me carry out the rituals of my day, the ones I do because I have always done them?

If the great physician was standing by me, asking me what I want, would I ask for his healing, or would I ask him to help me get into the water?

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