John 5:2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 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?” 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.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
There are numerous opinions regarding the lame man who was laying beside the pool. Some think that his response was rather snarky. Jesus asks him if he wants to be made well. He has no clue who Jesus is and his response is probably laced with sarcasm. His only understanding of how to get well has to do with the water being stirred up. Therefore he takes the time to explain to Jesus how healing should happen. He has to be the first one into the water but the problem is that he’s been there a long time and he has never been first. So sure, he’d like to be healed, but as far as he knows, it’s not going to happen.
He doesn’t really answer Jesus’ question. He probably thought the question was absurd because he would only be lying there if he wanted to be healed. He is exasperated and may have had his heart crushed as a result of his long and extended illness. Hope was not something that he lived with and instead, his illness got the better of him. Day after day he watched others get into the water before him and he allowed anger and bitterness to work its way into his heart.
Suddenly the Messiah was before him but he’s so frustrated with life, he can’t see who he is. Jesus asks him a question and he’s exasperated but maybe hoping that this man will help him get to the water first. It is in this moment that we see God’s prevenient grace at work — reaching out to the one who is feeling hopeless and very sorry for himself.
He really doesn’t see that there is any hope that he will ever be healed. Jesus sees him and all of his needs. In grace he approaches the one who has come to his wits end and holds out a hand of hope. Instead of grasping the hand the man continues to complain. Jesus doesn’t give up and doesn’t argue with the man. He simply tells the man to get up and walk. Can you imagine that the man was overwhelmed when suddenly he was able to get up and walk. In his place of exasperation, this unworthy man received a great gift of healing.
I think that sometimes we have a hard time understanding or accepting God’s grace. We may even convince ourselves that God can’t reach us in our current condition. Interestingly Jesus didn’t expect anything of this man who couldn’t even answer his question in a simply way; yet, Jesus healed him.
The beauty of the story is that Jesus did not turn away. There are days when we find ourselves in the place of the lame man. Life will have gotten us down, and even when Jesus reaches out to us we will give some kind of a snarky response out of our exasperation. Jesus knew the man’s need, and he knows ours too.
The hymn by Annie Flint invites to remember that his great love and grace will always be enough.
He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength as our labors increase; To added afflictions He addeth His mercy, To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance, When our strength has failed ere the day is half done, When we reach the end of our hoarded resources Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision, Our God ever yearns His resources to share; Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing; The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men; For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
Relax and live into the grace of God extended to us today.
Lord, thank you for your overwhelming love. Amen.
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