He has never walked. There are no wheelchairs. The pool is not ADA compliant. All that exists here is the mercy of others. We know of no family members making daily visits. Perhaps they were around buy perhaps not. Day after day, year after year, he shares in the suffering with others hoping one day to win the angelic lottery.
Today we travel to Jerusalem, to the Pool of Bethesda, a.k.a. the pool of the sheep-market. When we arrive at the rectangular shaped pool, we do not notice the glistening water as the sun reflects upon it. What we notice are different levels; parcels surrounding the pool. What we hear are the faint moans and groans of the terminally ill. Following the sounds, we become fixated on a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, lame, paralyzed, withered, diseased folk. As we try to access what is taking place here we sense a certain level/degree of anticipation. Further research tells us that all of these infirmed people are waiting for “divine intervention”…a certain moment that takes place at a moment no one can predict. At that moment, an angel supernatural arrives in this environment and “troubles” stirs the water. Rumor has it that the first sick person to step into the water after this “stirring” would be made whole of whatever disease they had.
Our eyes well up with tears as we experience compassion for the sick, empathy for those feeling what we have felt, sympathy for the pain that we have never sensed.
All of a sudden, the Son of Man; Jesus walks into the frame. Unnoticed, he walks into the middle of disease and doubt. We watch as he is drawn to the man we have been watching. We move closer. As Jesus gets closer to the man, he pauses, looks at him as if he knows exactly how long he has been there. Then it happens – we can hardly believe our ears – Jesus asks him if he wants to get better! This paralyzed man – that man who has never been well – and Jesus says do you want to be healed?
As we watch the drama unfold, we are equally taken back by the sick man’s response – rather than shout “Yes”! He starts to explain why he is still lying on the porch. He even blames others for his condition – “no one is here to help me – while I try to get into the miracle pool, someone always gets there ahead of me.”
We think “God helps those that help themselves.” That’s biblical right? Then our spirit re-checks the thought and points out that what we are thinking is not biblical at all. In fact, it’s opposite of that in God’s world…God helps those that cannot help themselves.
Why then the question, “do you want to get well”. Then we get it. God doesn’t ask questions because he lacks information. The question is a gift to lead our thoughts in the right direction. If the man is healed, what then? Let’s consider the impact of the Lord’s question.
Do you want to leave all your dependencies? Do you want to work all day? Do you want to leave all the excuses behind and take full responsibility for your life? You see, our desperate prayers to God have a price in their answer. Do you really want that new and harder job, or is it more convenient to just complain about the money? Do you want to leave loneliness behind, and take on the joy and responsibility of a relationship with a person that will heal your isolation but also force you to give up your selfish lifestyle? Do you really want to get well? Saying “yes” will lead us to a new revelation – healing is not in the stirring water at all – being whole comes from living wholly for the Lord. Though this man never said “yes”, Jesus knew something about him that we could not see. “Stand up, pick up your mat & walk!” Instantly, the man was healed – he rolled up his mat and started walking. This man could not help himself. Only Christ could make the difference.
Today, each one of us must decide for ourselves if we want to be made well. It’s a huge decision when you truly consider the cost. The good news today is that God doesn’t help those that help themselves; God helps those that cannot help themselves. God offers grace – undeserved favor. By taking up our mat, we walk away from illness with a constant reminder of the miracle, rolled up under our arm. Let this be the day you decide that it is time to get well.