In Gospel passage (John 5:1-16), Jesus faces an important decision when he notices a man who’s been sick for 38 years. Should he protect himself from being rejected, ridiculed, and persecuted for breaking the religious law about not working on the Sabbath? Or should he respond to the man’s suffering and work a healing?
The lame man did not ask Jesus for a healing. It was entirely Jesus’ decision. Apparently, the poor guy hadn’t heard of Jesus yet, as evidenced by his reply about needing someone to put him into the pool.
Why did Jesus focus on this man amidst a crowd of many who were ill, blind, lame, and crippled? Maybe he’d been sick the longest. Maybe he had more love for God than the others did. Maybe the Father had a special plan for his life. We don’t know, but whatever the reason, Jesus recognized his need and readiness to be healed, and so he decided to take the initiative and reach out to the man.
We don’t know why Jesus picks any of us out of the crowd. When he takes the initiative to give us any gift, healing, vocation or other blessing, all we can do is trust in his wisdom and accept what he does and praise him for being so good to us.
Jesus knew the ramifications of inviting the lame man to receive his healing gift: Both he and the man would be condemned as sinners. Have you ever been in that kind of a situation? Jesus helps you but it creates a reaction from others that ruins your joy? Or being the hands of Jesus, by responding to the needs of others, backfires with stinging criticism?
This is compassionate love — being united to the Passion of Christ. In compassion, we contact the authorities when we see children being abused, even though their parents might retaliate. In compassion, we take meals to a sick neighbor, even though his illness is making him cranky and he’s likely to lash out at us. In compassion, we speak up for someone who’s been misunderstood and rejected, even though we’ll become the next target of condemnation. In compassion, we advocate for employees who are being ill-treated by their bosses, even though we’ll be disdained or fired or blacklisted for stirring up trouble.
Right? Well, never think that God won’t take care of you if you work this hard for his kingdom!
To do less is unChrist-like. When we get nailed for doing good deeds, we are truly being like Jesus. We’re taking our compassion all the way to the cross. Actually, it’s Christ’s compassion. Our compassion is his. Our crosses are his. We are intimately united to him when we suffer for the sake of love.
Dare to follow your heart to where others need the caring touch of Jesus. Look for opportunities to be Jesus for others in ways that you’ve avoided before. Stretch your ability to face the cross, because you love others that much.