Our kids were part of the Sesame Street generation. Maybe you can hear the theme song in the back of your mind. They grew up watching what was then the most creative, groundbreaking children’s program of its time. And Sesame Street always has had an interesting cast of Muppet characters to make learning more interesting. I mean, who could forget Bert and Ernie, and Mr. Snuffleupagus, and Big Bird (Who I guess he looks sort of like a canary on steroids)? And, of course, that epitome of poor hygiene, Oscar the Grouch. In case you’ve been culturally deprived, Oscar is this hairy creature with his big eyes and a bad attitude who lives in a garbage can. He even sings a song called, “I Love Trash.” Oscar doesn’t have to live in a garbage can. He chooses to. No wonder he’s got a bad attitude!
No one would choose to live in the garbage, would they? Well, in a way, a lot of people do just that, which leads us to what I consider the most curious question Jesus ever asked. He is at the pool of Bethesda, which many in that day believed had healing powers when it was stirred by an angel. Jesus sees a paralyzed man lying there who had been an invalid for 38 years. In our word for today from the Word of God, beginning in John 5:6, “Jesus asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?'” That is a curious question. “‘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.’ 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.”
Now why would Jesus ask a paralyzed man if he wants to get well? The Bible doesn’t tell us, but I have a guess. He had been in his paralyzed condition so long that he might have been almost afraid to be well. Which is like a lot of us when it comes to the baggage – let’s call it the “garbage” of our lives. When you’ve experienced pain in your past, maybe abuse, betrayal, tragedy, it’s easy to begin to define your role in life as “victim.” You may very well have been the victim of some person or situation that hurt you very much and over which you had no control.
But continuing to dwell on the pain of your past; continuing to define yourself by the pain of your past is, in some ways, like following the Oscar approach to life – sort of living in the trash can, dwelling on – or dwelling in – the garbage of your life. You hate it, but you keep returning to it mentally and emotionally. And you start to get an Oscar outlook on life: negative, grouchy, thin-skinned, pitying yourself too much, and spilling garbage on other people.
And Jesus comes along and He asks the question, “Do you want to get well?” Living amidst the garbage of your past is a choice. Jesus has been setting people free from their emotional trash cans for 2,000 years! It will mean facing your issues instead of running from them, maybe working through them with a trained counselor, it may mean doing some forgiving, a lot of praying, and letting Jesus be Lord of the corners of your heart that have been off limits to Him before.
You see, when Jesus was born, the announcement was, “He will save His people from their sins.” That is all the garbage and junk of our past – the sins that we have done and the sins that have been done to us. And the Bible says that “Jesus came to rescue us from those” so that those don’t ever have to be a part of our life again.
Whatever you’ve done before today, doesn’t ever have to matter anymore because Jesus died; He took the rap – paid the penalty – to remove it and forgive it. This day would you say to Him, “Jesus, I’m yours. I want to start over with a clean heart and a new beginning.”
Sure the trash of your past is real, but you don’t have to live there any longer! Leave the past where it belongs and follow Jesus to a brand new beginning!