On stupid questions and missing the point

The questions we ask say a lot about who we are. Think about it for just a minute. Questions reveal concerns. We rarely ask questions about things that do not concern us. They expose our understanding of things. We have all sat in a classroom where someone raised there hand and asked a question only to reveal how incredibly little they understood about the subject at hand. Fact is, most all of us have been that person.

Furthermore, I am not so sure the old adage, “There are no stupid questions,” is all that true. Honestly, there are some really bad questions out there.

The gospel of John contains one such instance. In it some people ask a really bad question, and in doing so, reveal that the contents of their heart are rather ugly. It is found in John 5.

When Jesus heals the man by the pool of Bethesda, Jesus commands him to get up, take his bedroll, and go. The narrative is clear that the man had been sick for many years, 38 to be exact. He had been waiting by the pool, hoping for healing, but was disadvantaged. As the waters were stirred, he could not get to them to receive healing.

Jesus had compassion on this man and healed him. He made the sick man well! As a sign of his restoration, and for the purely practical matter of cleaning up his stuff and leaving the pool, Jesus tells him to pick up his bedroll and walk.

As the man does this, he is confronted by the Jews who chastise him for carrying his bedroll on the sabbath. In their mind, this equated to work. Their tradition had long since measured and weighed all activities that were permissible as work on the sabbath. Yet, this tradition equated to mere legalism under the guise of holiness.

The man’s reply was great. He explained, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your bedroll and walk.'” (John 5:11)

Now, upon this assertion, the response of these Jews is telling. Their heart was so encrusted in the legalism of their tradition that they completely missed the big picture. They ask, “Who is this man who told you, ‘Pick up your bedroll and walk?'” (John 5:12)

Notice, they did not ask, “Who is this man that miraculously healed you!?” Instead, they asked, “Who is this man that told you to pick up your junk?”

Now that was a stupid question.

Do they note the main point of his response? Do they hear the amazing claim made by the man? Do they marvel at the miracle? Do they then rejoice at the restoration that has occurred as sickness is conquered?

Nope.

They pass right over the fact that this guy just told them that there was a man who could overcome sickness with the power of his word. They skip right over that and notice the fact that somebody told this guy to do something their tradition considered work. They give no creedence to the miracle and simply want to know who this healer is so they can rebuke him. They were more concerned about the guy carrying his sleeping bag than the fact that he was an invalid only a moment before.

Instead of rejoicing in what really happened, they seek to take the yolk of the law (more precisely, the yolk of their tradition) and crash it down on this man and his healer. How blinded they are by their self-righteousness!

But before we sit here and make fun of them for being that dumb kid in class, let us turn the tables. How often do we miss the gospel in favor of our traditions?

It happens all the time. It happens when we are too concerned about getting stains on our new carpet in the sanctuary to let the little kids from the projects come to our church. It happens when we are more concerned with someone removing piercings or covering tattoos than getting them into the Word of God. It happens every time we are more concerned about some other Christian seeing us with “bad people” than the fact that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners.

May we gaze past our traditions at the beauty of the gospel. May we not be the dumb kid in class asking the stupid question. Instead, let us shout for joy when Jesus makes someone well and not gripe at them for carrying their sleeping bag.

 

Keelan

Keelan Cook (@keelancook) is working on a PhD in Biblical Studies at Southeastern and works in the Center for Great Commission Studies. He spent time as a church planter in West Africa with the IMB and doing ethno-graphic research in Washington, DC with NAMB. Keelan is currently one of the pastors at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC.

 

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