John 5:1 – 11
I’m pretty sure the guy didn’t even know what day it was or that he cared to know. See, all days feel the same when you’re stuck and brother he was stuck. Paralyzed for 38 years, the man was carried each morning out to the pool by some caring soul. But they couldn’t spend all day waiting with him. Because today might not be the day that the waters stirred. But they did leave him as close as possible in hopes he could craw the last few feet. Day after year after decade, this was his life. After the morning pleasantries had passed, he was then left alone with his thoughts. He needed an edge, a champion, a hero that would simply scoop him up and run him into the waters as soon as they began to stir. Legend had it that the first one in received their needed healing. Legend also stated that there was no discernable pattern for the stirring. It could occur today, maybe next week, might be a month or even a year from now. Legend said to just keep watching and beat everyone else in and poof you’re healed. Legends, stories passed down, repeated so many times that they take on the ring of truth even though they aren’t. And we all have these in our lives. Stories that we’ve been told and maybe even told ourselves that simply aren’t true. Yet we believe them as if they are. A careful look through historical records (and the Israelites kept great records) shows not a single person had ever been healed in this manner at the pool. Then one day a shadow came over the man.
Looking up he saw Jesus, unable to seek him out, Jesus came to him. The question Jesus asked is strange “Do you want to get well?” Surely it took our friend by surprise. Thoughts like “Surely you see me here poised for the slightest movement of the water”. “What more can I do to show my desire?” I love the question: it wasn’t do you want to BE well but do you want to GET well. The difference is passive verses active participation. I would love to BE in shape and yet without effort on my part, I will never GET in shape. Jesus asks him are you ready to participate in your healing or do you still want to lay there in misery.
I meet a lot of folks new in recovery. Too many want to BE sober and yet are unwilling to GET sober. They love the concept and can see the benefits of the lifestyle but are unwilling to put in the necessary work to obtain and maintain the lifestyle. It’s a question I believe Jesus asks all of us at one point or another. Do we want to simply BE a certain way or do we want to GET there.
Notice that the man doesn’t answer the question instead, he presents the problem as he sees it. “I have no one to help me!” “I’ve tried my hardest to no avail, every time someone else gets in before me.” I firmly believe that the man is hoping that Jesus will tell him that He will wait and help when the time comes. It comes down to how in my own life I have asked Jesus to do something for me, not through me. I too often want the easy pill or way or legend as does this man. That Jesus will participate in the legend with me. But Jesus isn’t in to legends, myths or lies. Jesus IS the truth!
Bending down, Jesus looks the man in the eye and commands him “Rise, take your mat and walk!” Rise, action required by the man. An action he hadn’t performed in almost 4 decades. The man has a choice, wait for the legend or obey the Truth. Our friend responds to the truth and immediately three miracles occur as the man obeys. Muscle strength, balance and gait were all immediately available. Verse 9 states that “At once he picked up his mat (stooped without falling over) and walked (strength and gait).
Have you ever wondered why Jesus specified that our friend was to pick up his mat? Was Jesus worried about public sanitation? Did He want the man to have it just in case the miracle didn’t “stick”? I believe Jesus told him to rise off the mat that had so defined his life and then reach down and proudly walk with it through town. Did it elicit comment yes, but it also gave his testimony validity. I wear the scars of my past proudly for they give my testimony of Jesus validity. This story always forces me to look at my own life. What areas of my life am I wasting away, waiting for Jesus to come do it for me instead of through me? What areas am I believing in a legend instead of the Truth? And when/where do I try to hide my past when it gives credence to my testimony of His work in my life.