EXPLORING THE WORD
The Healed Man of John 5:1-17Denise M. Kohlmeyer
All around the five colonnades lay "a multitude of invalids." The lame. The blind. The paralyzed. The sick. The disabled.
He was just one of many. Nameless. Laying prone. Sheltered from the hot Mediterranean sun. The stone wall behind him cut into his back. He shifted to a different position, never taking his eyes off of the water. Ever watching. For a sign. The first stirring.
It was the Sabbath. A day he should've been home resting. Replenishing his spirit. Worshipping Yahweh. But he was here at this pool. A place he had been coming to frequently. For years, in fact!
This pool was his last resort. He'd tried every known medicine and technique of the ancient world trying to get well. But nothing had helped. Nothing had cured him. He remained in this debilitating state. An invalid. Both physically and emotionally. For 38 years!
Then he'd heard about these mysterious "stirrings" at the Pool of Bethesda near the Sheep Gate, just outside Jerusalem's walls. Rumor had it that someone had once been healed here. It made sense, after all, since in Aramaic, the pool's name means "House of Mercy."
After all his failed attempts to find a cure, mercy was exactly what he wanted. What he needed. A mercy healing. Even if these "stirrings" were superstition, it was still worth trying. He was willing to try anything at this point!
So, here he sat. Surrounding by all the others — some worse off than himself. All waiting. All eyes were on the water. All with the same hope. Of being healed.
But there was one caveat: the first one in was the only one who was healed. It was a one-and-done type of healing. So, he needed to be first one to get down to the pool. If he could only touch the water. Even if it was just a hand. Or a foot. He would be healed. He just knew it.
But time after time, he'd been too slow. His broken body just wouldn't — couldn't — move fast enough. The healing he so desperately wanted eluded him. Someone else always got there before him.
But he wasn't about to give up. This was his last hope. It's what kept him going. Kept him alive, really.
Then a lone figure stood over him. He looked up, shielding his eyes from the glaring sun. There stood a Stranger. He looked like every other Jew who'd come to Jerusalem that week to worship during the Feast. There was nothing remarkable about His appearance. But there was something about His presence that captured the invalid's attention.
And His eyes. There was no hint of disgust as they looked upon his fragile frame. Not like the others who looked on him with either pity or repugnance. Most actually went out of their way to avoid him. For in his infirmity, he was unclean. Religiously "dirty." And if anyone so much as brushed up against him, they too would be unclean.
But this Stranger's eyes only held — what was it? Concern. Compassion. Love!
Then He spoke. "Do you want to be healed?"
The others around them suddenly hushed. Leaning in. Listening.
"Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up," the invalid answered, his voice choked with despair, and perhaps a touch of self-pity. "While I am going, another steps down before me."
Then a thought occurred to the invalid: Maybe this Stranger will help me — carry me — down the steps into the pool! He looks strong enough. But that thought was quickly replaced by another: Why is He asking me? Why has He singled me out from all the others? Why not someone else, someone worse off than me? Why me?
But he couldn't know that this Stranger knew of his 38-year-long affliction. He didn't know that this Man knew how hard — in his humanness — he had tried to find healing, and was now at the end of himself...and his misplaced hope. He didn't know that this Man standing over him knew everything about him, down to the very number of hairs on his head!
All the invalid knew was that here was Someone asking him a question. And a strange one at that! For, of course, he wanted to be healed. Why else would he be at the pool? His only dilemma was getting down to it.
"Stand up!" the Stranger said in an authoritative tone. "Pick up your mat and walk."
Without missing a beat, the invalid did as the Man bid. He stood up, mat in hand, and walked a few faltering steps away from Him.
He stood still. Amazement creeping over his facial features. He was walking! Upright. Not dragging his body around like dead weight. Standing! On his own two feet.
Those who had been listening and watching stared at him in disbelief. Pointing. Whispering.
The invalid looked down. The mirror-like stillness of the pool's water reflected his erect, sturdy figure. It was too much to comprehend.
When he finally turned around, the Stranger was gone. Vanished into the crowd.
No matter. He was completely well. His physical ailment gone. His mercy healing had happened. And he hadn't even touched the water!
Carrying his mat, he left the colonnade and headed for home. On the way, he passed a group of devout Jews. One called to him, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed."
He replied matter-of-factly, "The man who healed me, that man said to me, 'Take up your bed, and walk.'"
The devout Jews exchanged glances. "Who is the man who said to you, 'Take up your bed and walk'?" one asked. All eyes were on him. The man shrugged his shoulders, for he didn't know. He went on his way, leaving the devout Jews speechless. And suspicious.
Later that day, the man went to the temple. For 38 years, he hadn't been able to cross its threshold because of his uncleanness. Now, healed and whole, he could. This was a day he had longed for. He couldn't wait to worship God, pay his alms out of gratitude, and make purification. Finally! After all these years. What a merciful blessing.
"See, you are well!" a Voice said to him.
He turned and saw the Stranger. This time face-to-face.
A glorious smile spread across the man's face. It was answer enough for the Stranger.
Then He said, "Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you."
Immediately, the man knew to Whom he was speaking. Who had healed him.
Jesus of Nazareth!
The Man everyone was talking about in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. The Miracle Maker. The One who claimed to be God's Son.
The Living Water!
Oh, the blessed irony of it all. While the invalid hadn't been able to get himself down to the "healing" water on his own, the healing Water had come to him. Liberated him physically. And now here He was liberating him spiritually: Sin no more, that nothing worse — eternal damnation — may happen to you.
It was Jesus! The Son of God.
When all else had failed, it was the Great Physician who had healed him. Because of Jesus, the Living Water who had lovingly singled him out from all the others, the invalid was now wholly healed. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually.
Image Credit: Zach Maddox; "Bethesda"; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Hardships | Jesus-Christ
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