Photo: Ken Treloar
I wish Jesus would fill in the details!
God often gives us very limited snapshots of His interaction with people. I find myself wishing the story were longer – more details, telling us what He knows that are unknowns to us.
I don’t think it’s because Jesus’ truth-writers were short on time or didn’t notice the who-what-when-where-why of the event. I have to believe the rest of the story simply isn’t necessary for us to know.
Jesus can get to the point fast, whether we like it or not.
My cousin, who has been a broadcast journalist her entire, distinguished career, understands seeking the details. She is full of questions – as a good journalist would be. She married a man who is quiet – very, very quiet. As their three sons came along, Karole realized they all took after their Dad in this way. When her boys were in grade school, I asked how she kept up with them, learning both their joys and struggles. She shared her method with me.
“When I get home from work, I ask each one how his day was. The typical answer is, ‘fine.’ Then my journalism kicks in. I say something like, “After you grabbed your backpack and headed down the driveway, you stepped onto the bus. Then what did you do?” She led them to notice, remember, and tell.
I laughed… and I related. I was also married to a quiet man. The poor guy was probably asked millions of questions in our 37 years of marriage.
Recently I had lunch with a friend I hadn’t been with for a couple years. Actually, we started with lunch, but we didn’t end until the restaurant filled with the dinner crowd. I love the details of friends’ lives, and this one shares easily. No quiet existed between us. Some find my questions a loving gesture, others consider them intrusive. I try to read the signs of both, but probably fail more than I succeed.
Honestly, I also like to know the upcoming details in my life. Jesus knows that about me, but that doesn’t mean He accommodates my bent to know.
Photo: Austin Chan
In John 5, we read the story of a man – blind, lame, or paralyzed – who waited on one of five covered porches at the pool of Bethesda, near the Sheep Gate. (Lots of good detail here, by the way!)
“One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked, ‘Would you like to get well?’”
Jesus gives us only two more statements He spoke to the sick man – who received healing.
Stand up; pick up your mat and walk!
Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.
Really? That’s it? Excuse me. I have some questions:
What was wrong with him?
Was this his first day at the pond, or was this his daily hangout for thirty-eight long years?
Didn’t he have anyone in his life to help him to the water? Not even one merciful stranger?
Why the question about his desire for healing – had he spent his years in wallowing? Doubting? Pity-seeking? Was he considering giving up all together on this day?
Did Jesus give no words of mercy or hope or physical touch?
And why this curious “pick up your mat” as the first instruction?
What sins had become common occurrences for this poor man?
Worse things may happen if his sin prevailed? Worse than decades of illness?
Has Jesus ever asked you a couple simple questions plus one strong directive… and left all else unanswered? Or perhaps some version of that progression?
Photo: Nick De Partee
Questions. I find them a fascinating part of human interaction.
On a couple of occasions, I have led women’s groups that decided to read the Bible through in one year. Not just read – but journal as we go. Within the first few weeks, usually the first, one girl will come with this genuine comment: “I really didn’t understand….”
Photo: Jon Tyson
Questioning as we study has great value. It’s often how we get to the deeper truth, the one that can transform us. But sometimes, at least for me, it can be a distraction, an intentional avoidance.
In a week’s worth of Bible reading, perhaps 20-30 pages, a curious person who is taking the time to go slowly, can easily face a dozen questions. Rather than focusing on the unknown, I challenge myself – and others – to ask:
“Lord, what do you want me to do with what I do understand?”
Photo: Marcos Luis
As I linger on the Bethesda pool story, I seek the grace and courage to ask Jesus:
Do I want to get well?
Am I willing to follow the simple next step?
What obstacle is hindering me from a fruitful tomorrow?
TO CONSIDER: Find a few minutes to read this event or another and ask for grace to personalize a truth today.
“The most important question is not “What does it say?” but
“What does it mean and how can I live it?”
- Eugene Peterson