Do you want to get well?

Jesus had gone to Jerusalem for a festival, but instead of going to the temple, or going to celebrate with his friends, he’d gone to a place where vast numbers of people with disabilities—the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed—hung out. There was a pool there whose waters, some believed, had healing properties. Jesus found a man lying there who’d been an invalid for 38 years. 

“Do you want to get well?” Jesus asked.

What Jesus said next set off a chain of events that culminated with the crucifixion.

“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

Jesus was ushering in his new creation. But instead of being overjoyed, the people were disturbed. The healing had taken place on the Sabbath, and even worse, Jesus had told the man to pick up his mat. Observant Jew wouldn’t carry anything on the Sabbath.

Now, God himself had commanded the Jews to observe the Sabbath. Jesus could have come back the next day; what’s one more day when you’ve been disabled for 38 years? Instead, he deliberately provoked the controversy.

Why?

Jesus was out to deal with a kind of disability that was even more devastating than being blind, lame, or paralyzed:

The legalism of those who appear healthy.

Seven Stanzas at Easter

American novelist, the late John Updike, was greatly influenced in his writing by his Catholic faith. He wrote this poem while he was still in his twenties.

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

Stuck on Good Friday

Some time ago, Gary Scott Smith, then chair of the History Department at Grove City College, wrote a book called Heaven in the American Imagination. He said our ideas of heaven come, not just from religious tradition, but from the culture and current events. He said people’s view of heaven has changed over time.

Prior to 1800, people viewed heaven as a place of worship and service to God.

After the civil war, ideas about heaven shifted to images of service, education, and personal growth.

Heaven now is viewed as “a place of comfort, enriching entertainment, self-actualization, robust relationships, and bliss.” Heaven is seen as a haven from the ills of the world, a magnificent home, a vacation resort, a perpetual playground, a therapeutic center. Some are afraid that heaven could be boring, hence an emphasis on great entertainment.

Dr Smith wasn’t trying to make a religious point. He was simply saying that people tend to project their ideas of heaven and the resurrection onto God. It’s been going on for centuries.

But our ideas are too small.

Our faith is stuck on Good Friday, and so we fail to grasp the significance of Easter.

Why stuck on Good Friday? Because nothing moves us quite like the idea of someone laying down their life for another. It’s powerful. So, it’s not so hard to believe that Jesus died for us; that our sins have been forgiven.

We can grasp the idea that the slate has been wiped clean. God cares. It all fits into a therapeutic world view. It’s all about what God does for us. 

Of course, God loves us; that’s what God is for.

Of course, we deserve another chance.   

So, the Good Friday story is one we can kind of imagine. 

But the resurrection is where our worldview and our experience fail us.

Nothing prepares us for the God who rises for us.

Death is not the end!

This is way more than therapy; more than self-actualization; way, way more than entertainment.

We can walk with God again. 

Our actions in this life have eternal consequences.

God is making all things new. Time to get unstuck.