The Details of Your Life Matter to God
Felicity O’Brien, May 9, 2010. All rights reserved. PDF
Today’s readings from John and Acts have some great messages for us!
We see three main themes coming through our readings: we have Jesus noticing the lame man, and then healing him on the Sabbath. We have in the Acts reading obedience to the Holy Spirit, followed by Lydia’s family being baptized. We see God using all sorts of people, women, business people, the disabled.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus meets a lame man. Imagine the scene – there are probably dozens of people waiting by a pool, for something to happen. There is an air of expectancy. The crowd is made up of people with varying ailments and disabilities, and some of them have people to help them. Why are they there?
This pool was a traditional place where people would seek healing. Every so often, the surface would be disturbed by an angel, and the first person in it would be healed. This had been going on for many years – our fellow had been there for 38 years! That’s almost as long as I’ve been alive! Well, not quite. He must have seen miracles there, or he wouldn’t have stayed so hopefully.
Jesus comes along, and sees one man. He is alone, there is no one to help him. He asks him what he wants, and I think this is very significant. He doesn’t assume that the man wants healing, after all, having a disability would guarantee him some sort of livelihood as a beggar, and even in modern-day India we see children deliberately damaged so they can beg.
There were many disabled people there, but Jesus spoke to this one. Why I wonder? Why not all of them? We see a very personal ministry – Jesus spoke directly to the man, he didn’t pray over the whole crowd. In this way, Jesus speaks directly to each one of us, and is deeply concerned with our needs.
There is no universal waving a blessing over the whole crowd. The man didn’t say to Jesus, yes Lord, heal me. He just answered with the natural problem that he couldn’t access the healing water because no one would help him get in.
Jesus saw his faith in God’s healing power, and he saw his humble desire to get well. When Jesus told him to stand up, he did so immediately. This is interesting too, he didn’t stop to argue or pray or tell others, he just followed Jesus’ instruction, and was immediately healed. Obedience gets results.
The last phrase of the reading is very significant. ‘Now that day was a Sabbath.’ There was a law against working on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees were very particular about what sort of activities could be called ‘work’. You could only walk a certain distance, you couldn’t cook, but here is Jesus healing! This theme comes up again when the Pharisees directly challenge Jesus whether one should heal on the Sabbath, for after all, it is a form of work. Jesus replies by putting human needs before the law,- he ignores the ‘red tape’ and shows God’s love and care.
The same themes come up in our Acts reading about Paul’s trip to Macedonia. Paul heard the Holy Spirit commanding him, and he didn’t hesitate, but set off on a journey by sea and overland. The Sabbath was the day when they wanted to gather for prayer, so the apostles found a place that seemed likely.
They meet Lydia. And we are given lots of rich detail about her – it was unusual for a woman to hold a position of importance in those days, so it is significant that she is in the Acts story. She must have been well–to-do, as purple cloth is expensive, and having her stock would have cost a lot of money. She is described as a worshipper of God, and God opened her heart more. She was obedient to the Holy Spirit, and let God lead her. I love the way the writer gives us such a clear picture of this woman – after all, women were not regarded as leaders or important people in those days.
Lydia’s whole family was baptized and became believers. I wonder what their ministry was after that – maybe they could spread the message through their community. After all, she was a business woman, who would have had a lot of contacts. This reading tells us that God uses women, who were not important in leadership outside the home, to advance the Kingdom. In the Gospel reading we have a lame man being featured, here a woman. Even the powerless are important to God.
I think it is also important that Lydia’s occupation was mentioned. These details are important to God, they talk about our situation in life, and show that we can have a ministry from where we are. Lydia had a ministry of hospitality, which was able to bless the apostles.
We have seen in these readings that God cares for you, individually, that your concerns and situation interest God. Your needs are important to God. May you know that you are important to God, whatever your situation, and greet Him with praise.