John 5:2 ¶ Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes.
John 5:3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.
John 5:5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
John 5:6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”
John 5:7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”
John 5:8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.”
Here is a well known story from the gospel of John. Jesus makes his way to the pool of Bethesda of Beth-zatha which is surrounded by people who are ill. They are waiting for the water to be "stirred" believing at that moment that they can receive healing if they are able to make it first into the pool. Here Jesus becomes acquainted with a man who has been ill, or possibly a paralytic for thirty-eight years. One could presume that this was his entire life. Jesus comes over and begins a conversation with him and asks him a question that we might think was obvious. "Do you want to be made well?" Interestingly he does just answer "yes." Instead, he gives an excuse for the fact that he has never been healed. He is able to move very slowly and he remains a paralytic because he can't get into the water on time. That wasn't really the question Jesus was asking, and it's interesting that his response would be an explanation. Jesus, however, knowing the man's need instantly heals him, and the healing is in a moment of taking up his mat and walking! His healing is revealed in the faith of the man who is ill who believes what Jesus says, rolls up his mat, stands up and walks home.
There are many lessons to be found in this story, not the least of which is the significance of Jesus healing on the sabbath -- which really ticked off the religious leaders! But I'd like to take a few moments to look behind the scene and at this one who had been laying beside a pool for thirty-eight years. Here was a man placing all of his hopes in one way of salvation. And at the same time, he was making excuses for why he had not been healed.
While we may not encounter this exact situation in contemporary society, I'm afraid that we do encounter something similar. There are many around us who are suffering from spiritual and/or emotional paralysis. Something happened back in their past and they just can't seem to be able to move beyond it. They have been spiritually paralyzed because of some form of suffering that happened in the past and now they have been laying around for thirty-eight years or so waiting for a miracle to suddenly make everything better. Jesus asks them on a daily basis, "Do you want to be healed?" For Jesus can bring about that spiritual and emotional healing. But instead of saying a wholehearted "yes" the excuses begin to flow. Instead of truly seeking the healing that can make us able to take up our mats and go home -- we want to hang around with the rest of the sick folks. They have become our crowd. We enjoy lamenting together over the problems that we face -- all because of something that happened to us thirty-eight years ago. Why aren't you healed? Well - no one ever comes and helps me into the water. You see, it's always someone else's fault. If only others would be more kind. If only others had helped me get into the water. (I think all my life I have wondered why the guy didn't lay right on the lip of the pool so he could just roll over and plop in when the water was stirred. Maybe he wasn't allowed to do that -- but it's always bothered me a bit. Really? Thirty-eight years and he'd never had his turn? )
There are many walking wounded in the world today -- those who have been hurt and/or damaged by those who were supposedly practicing their Christian faith. Yes -- there have been terrible things that have happened and they have caused damage emotionally and spiritually. But instead of seeking Jesus as the healer, we have walked away from the faith altogether. We have found others with whom we could commiserate and we have found great excuses to lay around for thirty-eight years and complain that no one has ever come to help us find healing. Jesus had to come and be physically present for the man at the pool of Bethesda to be healed. Today Jesus has sent us the Holy Spirit and the Spirit is present and ready, willing and able, to bring about our spiritual and emotional healing, if only we will be willing to ask him and then respond in faith. It's time to move beyond the spiritual paralysis -- one which may be prolonged by our own inaction, and participate with Christ in our own healing. Then, it's time to pick up the mat and head back home!
Lord, please help us look to you for our spiritual and emotional healing. The time has come, we should move on. Amen.