googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Believers in the 1 in 1,000,000

Monday, February 25, 2013

Believers in the 1 in 1,000,000

John 5:1-9, Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

For anyone not familiar with this story, there was a tradition about the pool of Bethesda. Each year, at the Passover, it was believed that an angel would come down and stir the waters of the pool. The tradition claimed that the first person who stepped into the water after it was stirred would be healed. As a result, a great multitude of people would wait by the pool every passover, watching for the stirring of the water. I can imagine the mad rush that erupted every time someone saw any disturbance in the water.

From John's account, we know with certainty that many people believed in the tradition but the Bible doesn't necessarily validate the belief. I don't know if an angel really came down and stirred the water. Nor do I know if anyone was really healed by stepping into the water.

There's something, though, that I've always found curious about this event. Let's assume, for a moment, that the tradition was true and some lucky soul was healed every year at Bethesda. The fact of the matter is that it was only one person out of the multitude. One person out of hundreds, maybe thousands, was healed and all the rest went home with only a desperate hope that they could try again next year – if they lived that long.

The withered man in this account was in a worse situation than most others. He couldn't walk and he had no one to help him. Year after year he was waiting at the pool. When the water stirred, he would try to drag himself to the water but, because of his condition, he was too slow and someone always went in before him. He had virtually no chance of ever being healed. Here then, is what I think is curious: why didn't any of these people go to Jesus for healing?

Consider this passage from Matthew 4:23-24, Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.”

So, we have Jesus in the wilderness healing people by the thousands and we have a multitude of people waiting by the pool for a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of being healed. What's wrong with this picture? How foolish is it for these people to forgo certainty and and cling to improbability?

This is the way I see unbelievers in general. Psalms 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” When we see the complex and wonderful creation, it's entirely reasonable to believe there is a God. There is design and purpose everywhere we look yet unbelievers look at it and see nothing. They forgo the reasonable and cling to the improbable. They believe in organization without design. They believe in order without purpose. They believe in existence without cause.

Perhaps I shouldn't call these people, “unbelievers.” Instead, they are believers in the impossible. They are believers in the 1 in 1,000,000!


Anonymous said...

Well done my friend.

God Bless!

Steven J. said...

I'm thinking of starting a minor biblical characters' anti-defamation league. We have no way of knowing how widespread Jesus' fame was -- or, for that matter, how well publicized his itinerary was (if this poor fellow couldn't make it into the pool, how was he supposed to wander all over the Judean countryside hoping to run into Jesus?). Jesus himself doesn't seem to have taken it amiss that this man hadn't sought him out.

I note, by the way, that you believe in existence without cause: God is, in your theology, the uncaused Cause of the universe; He exists without having been caused Himself. You believe He was not designed, yet He is apparently able to have thoughts, desires, goals, emotions, and other attributes normally possessed only by entities exhibiting extreme "specified complexity." He is said to have a nature, and hence regularities of that nature, although no super-Lawgiver made the laws of His divine nature. How is the assumption of an uncaused nature and and natural law that don't exhibit omnipotence, omniscience, and immutable omnibenevolence less parsimonious that the assumption of an uncaused infinitely-powerful Creator?

Note in passing, though, that even granting the validity of inferring a supernatural Creator from the apparent design of the universe, it is quite a leap from "a Creator" to "the specific Deity of (your version of) Christian theology." Muslims, Deists, etc. can all use the argument from design; it is not by itself some validation of the inerrancy and supernatural inspiration of the Bible.