I really do try to avoid putting character labels on people. I don’t know their past heartaches…but I know they all have stories of pain. I don’t know their present struggles…but I am aware that trouble is part of life. And I certainly don’t know their future. So I don’t want to judge this man’s character but…he baffles me. I have so many questions that I want to ask him.
I know Jesus found him at a pool in Jerusalem. The pool called Bethesda. His story is recorded in John 5:1-15.
Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for 38 years.
What a disturbing, heart-breaking sight it must have been. So much suffering and misery gathered in one spot on this planet. So much brokenness.
In that time, disabilities were tantamount to social exclusion. This group of people knew rejection. Usually, the only way they could make a living was begging.
I hope this man had someone who carried him to the pool because without help, he would have had to resort to dragging his atrophied legs as he slowly pulled himself along the dusty road. And if I might add one more thing that we take for granted, there were no bathrooms nearby. Close your eyes and imagine the sight, sounds…and smell.
Jesus stopped here and took it all in.
When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
I think there are times when we should all ask ourselves this question. Do we really want wholeness? Do we really want to be healed of our addiction? Do we want to be healed from our lust for material things? Do we want emotional healing when we’ve been wronged? Do we really want to leave our grief behind and move away from our loss? If we are totally honest with ourselves, sometimes the answer is “No. I’m comfortable here.”
”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.”
Water stirring? Local legend. But at least something that one could try.
This is where I want to ask the man: Did you humbly admit that you needed help getting to the source of healing (that would preach!) or did you typically respond by blaming your failures on other people?
Then Jesus said to him, “Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.”
Jesus challenged the man to believe the impossible and the man obeyed.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”
Wow! No joy expressed over a miraculous healing. No astonishment that useless legs had new purpose. Instead…outrage that a law had been “broken.” But you won’t find this law in the Old Testament. It was an oral law created by religious leaders who decided that they could best interpret God’s command to “remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11). God said to rest and not work on the seventh day so these men decided that carrying any object was work. And healing someone would also fall into the category of work. A total distortion of the intent behind God’s law!
But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.”
My question for the man: Were you intimidated by the Jews confronting you or were you afraid of their penalty for breaking the law? Or were you once again quick to blame someone else?
Later Jesus found him at the temple.
Another question for the man: Why were you at the temple? Were you seeking a holy space where you could praise God and thank Him? Is this the first place you wanted to walk? Or were you following another law, one that required you to confirm your healing with a priest?
Jesus said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
My question for the man: Why? Why did you tell the Jews the name of the One who healed you?
A lot of unknowns but my questions aren’t really important. I’m just curious. What is valuable is observing Jesus and His heart for the outcast and marginalized. This story reveals that He sees…He cares…He asks probing questions…He heals…and He warns us that there may be serious consequences for continuing to live with sin.
For me, I can see the beauty of God’s heart in this story. The holy One stepped into a world of brokenness, helplessness and despair. He offers healing and relationship. To those with a legalistic mentality, He reveals the true intent of God’s commands. Some respond by following Him. Some don’t.
Questions to ponder:
Do I need healing? Do I want healing in that area of my life?
Do I seek to know God’s heart behind His commands?