I’d been preparing my argument for six months, and now it was time to deliver. I was precise, winsome, and articulate. Honestly, my delivery couldn’t have gone better. The conversation went back and forth as I continued to make point after point. My opponent had no ground to stand on, and I had tactically and tactfully shown him just that. To my surprise, he still did not want to change his mind. How could this happen? I had done everything right.
There are times when we are prepared, respectful, and gentle with our apologetic approach, yet it still doesn’t convince or convert. Although the goal of every conversation is to put a stone in someone’s shoe—to leave that person with something to think about—it would be nice if our well-executed arguments were received and believed.
When we face this common problem, it’s comforting to know that Jesus himself encountered the same thing.
In John 5 and 9, there’s a contrast between the two different men Jesus heals. These two men respond to Jesus in opposite ways.
The first man (John 5:1–18) had been sick for thirty-eight years and was completely helpless. He couldn’t move quickly and had no one to help him with his ailments. Jesus asks him, “Do you wish to get well?” The man replies that he doesn’t have anyone to help him into the pool of Bethesda, which he believes has healing powers. Jesus then says, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” The man is miraculously healed and obeys what Jesus said.
This is great. The miracle shows that Jesus is the healer, not the “magical” water. Jesus does the work, not the quickest person into the pool. Jesus expresses compassion and love toward the helpless. He reveals the truth about who God is to this man. You would think Jesus’ method of communicating and evidencing the truth would compel this man to believe in him. Sadly, no.
After being healed, the man is peppered with questions from his fellow Jews. They want to know why he is unlawfully carrying his pallet on the Sabbath. The man blames Jesus. He tells them that the man who healed him told him to carry his pallet, but he doesn’t know who this mystery healer was.
It gets worse. Later, Jesus finds this man in the temple and tells him to stop sinning so that nothing worse will happen to him. Immediately, the man goes and tells the Jews that Jesus was the man who healed him. He tattles on the man who cured his 38-year-long sickness. The Jews then persecute Jesus because they believe his act of healing broke the Sabbath.
The second man (John 9:1–41) was blind from birth. On the Sabbath, Jesus notices this man, spits on the ground, and makes clay that he applies to the man’s non-functioning eyes. He then instructs this man to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. Once the man washes, his eyesight is restored.
Once again, Jesus shows he can restore the most severe physical defects. This man is also asked who healed him, and he tells his inquirers it was Jesus. The Pharisees get wind of this and come to question the man and his parents. During the inquisition, the healed man stands up to the Pharisees and defends the idea that Jesus is from God. This frustrates the Pharisees, and they kick him out of the synagogue.
Jesus, hearing that the formerly blind man has been kicked out of the synagogue, seeks him out. “[Jesus] said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.’ And he said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshiped Him” (John 9:35–38).
These two men were both healed by Jesus. They had both been healed on the Sabbath, which incited the Pharisees’ anger toward Jesus. They were both questioned by the Jewish authorities about who had healed them. Both had a choice in how to respond to the Pharisees, but this is where their similar stories diverge.
The first man sold Jesus out. He blamed Jesus for telling him to carry his pallet, and after he discovered Jesus’ identity, he immediately told the authorities. There was no gratitude shown for his healing.
The second man stood up for Jesus and claimed he must be from God. After discovering Jesus’ identity as the Son of Man, he believed and worshiped. Two similar stories, two different outcomes.
What can we learn from this? Jesus was consistent with both men. He healed them both regardless of how they would respond to him.
We are called to be ambassadors for Christ, which includes modeling how he expressed truth and compassion. Some people will respond to the evidence we present; others won’t. We still share, we still love, and we still defend.
Don’t let potential negative outcomes keep you from sharing the truth with compassion. Be like Jesus.