Our Questions for God – God’s Questions for Us

Our Questions for God – God’s Questions for Us

Easter Time
Pastor Mitch Coggin May 22, 2022 Easter 6C

Most of us have many more questions than we have answers. Our fast-paced, results-oriented world works on supplying the right answer and doing so in seconds. We don’t usually do well if our questions persist and appear unanswerable.

Is there a God? Why does God allow suffering? Where is God and does God care at all? Why didn’t God intervene to reverse the terrible outcome? Is God as powerful as I think? Our questions about faith are not easily answerable and have, in fact, caused many to curse God when we don’t get an instant answer.

The root for the word “question” is “quest”. To be on a quest is to be about discovery. We want the assurance that God is alive, present, and conscious of our dilemmas enough to come quickly to our rescue. We want information and then we want immediate and powerful action. But a quest is about discovery, not easy answers. It opens our minds and hearts to discover what we may need to learn about God and about ourselves.

Today’s scripture from John calls us to this kind of discovery. The pools of Beth-zatha in Jerusalem were where people gathered who were blind, lame or paralyzed. Legend held that the water was stirred by angels. When that stirring occurred the first person to immerse themselves in the water would be cured of whatever infirmity they suffered. Many came daily; some came for weeks, months, or even years in hopes of being first into the water so their lives might be free of their suffering.

Jesus came to Jerusalem for the festival and passed by the porticos where the invalids came to be healed in the waters. He saw the man who had been ill for thirty-eight years and knew that the sick man had been there a long time. Jesus asks this man an unusual question, “Do you want to be healed?”

It seems absurd to ask a sick and disabled man who has dragged himself to a place known for its curative powers, and had waited there, “a long time.” Does logic not lead us to believe that he wanted to be healed! But to hear his response to Jesus’ question, we wonder. He doesn’t immediately say, “Yes, of course.” Rather he begins explaining that he has no one to help him and that others keep pushing ahead of him.

Why didn’t the sick man answer Jesus? We can want and not want at the same time, we can seek healing and resist it, we can drag ourselves right to the edge of the healing pool and then find a thousand different reasons for not getting in.

Healing can bring radical change. It can be difficult, frightening, and challenging. At least the man by the side of the pool knew what to expect every day, as bad as it was. He was both shielded and depleted by his illness. No one expected anything of him, there were no demands, no surprises. Why should he risk losing this familiar routine for the unknown world his healing would bring? What might be expected of him, what might he expect of himself?

Indeed, if we read on, we discover that the healed man is in big trouble. The religious authorities confront him about carrying his mat on the Sabbath and question him about his healing, as if he has done something wrong. Perhaps he wished for that predictable life by the pool again. Why didn’t I just play it safe and leave things the way they were?

Barbara Brown Taylor asks, “How will we have it? You can stay where you are. Sit with what is familiar, where all the edges are rounded off so you won’t hurt yourself, where you need only concern yourself with what is within your reach. You do not want to make a spectacle of yourself, after all, and getting up and walking probably won’t work anyway. No sense getting your hopes up. Stay with what is familiar, with what you know. Or you can spring up, cry out and ask for your heart’s desire.”

That’s why Jesus asked the question. “Do you want to be healed?” He needed to remind the man that indeed he had a responsibility in the outcome. If he believed only in a magical miracle that would heal his life, then he was not ready to assume the responsibility where healing would take him. He was hesitant to embark on a quest. You see, Jesus has as many questions for us, as we have for God. Those are ultimately the questions that lead us to discover not only who God really is but who we are as well.

How do our faith questions lead us to new discoveries? Is God teaching us a lesson and are we willing to learn what that might be? Is God powerful enough to heal us? To say that God heals, teaches, leads, and guides describes the things that we do that we project onto God. That is OK for it is the only way that we understand God by using human language.

Our questions are not answered in the sterile environment of stained glass but rather by walking by faith in areas of suffering and hearing the still, small voice of God reminding us of the promise to never leave or forsake us in any circumstance.

Our question is how we respond to that offer of a deeper discovery about ourselves. Do we want to remain stuck, or do we want the terror of a new life and the faith that will continue to be filled with more questions than answers? Only we know the answer if our response is to take up what has held us captive and begin to move toward God’s exciting quest of new life. Do you want to be made well?