Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Questioning motives

Early in Jesus' public ministry in Galilee, a leper come to him and begs for healing and this exchange between them takes place;

"If You are willing, You can make me clean." Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed." (Mark 1:40-41)

This sick, poor, outcast man is unafraid to reach out and ask. He longs for healing, and to be restored to society. 

Later when Jesus is on pilgrimage in Jerusalem he sees a paralysed man who has been longing for a cure most of his life. (John 5:1-8) He lies alone near a pool reputed for its healing power, without help to benefit from the opportunity of a miracle when it arises. He's not going anywhere, just stuck there despairing, not asking anyone for anything. Jesus approaches him and asks; "Do you want to be well again?" The man makes an excuse for himself, but Jesus orders him; "Get up, pick up your sleeping mat and walk.

Not for the first time Jesus says this to someone, a man obeys and is cured. (Mark 2:11). The other instance is in Galilee, where the paralysed man has help from his friends to reach Jesus. Immediately the contrast is evident between life with disability in a great urban centre of piety, and in a rural village.

John 5:8-16 reports that the action of Jesus, whether in healing him or in telling him to walk away carrying his bed, is regarded as contentious because it occurs on the Sabbath, as this breaches Sabbath observance rules. The Gospels report seven instances when Jesus heals on the Sabbath, and in three this provokes the same argument. His action is given as one of the reasons why the religious authorities set out to destroy Jesus and his reputation as a teacher and healer. Jesus made it clear that the edicts of the law could not be set aside, yet in this matter the healing imperative took precedence over established pious practise. Later in the day, Jesus sought him out and said to him;

"See you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." (John 5:14)

Although it might appear superficially to be the case, Jesus would not have associated his physical disability with sin. It was paralysis of mind and spirit that caused him needless suffering, led him to abandon hope and stop asking others for help. He he been asking in a way that invited rejection? In writing about prayer, St James reminds us;

'When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.' (James 4:3)

This is as true in asking of others, as it is in asking God's help. Examining and purifying our motives is essential in the search for wholeness and healing. If asked, God will help us to deepen our self understanding on this journey.

'Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.' (Psalm 26:2)

'Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.' (Ps 139:23)

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