1-6 Soon another Feast came around and Jesus was back in Jerusalem. Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there was a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, with five alcoves. Hundreds of sick people—blind, crippled, paralyzed—were in these alcoves. One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?”
7 The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.”
8-9 Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off.
9-10 That day happened to be the Sabbath. The Jews stopped the healed man and said, “It’s the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll around. It’s against the rules.”
There were hundreds of us, surviving in our own personal man-made hell. We were the blind and the lame; simply dropped off by our families here to exist, to somehow make it on our own. We were a desperate lot, but there was a strange camaraderie, we all understood that our condition was hopeless. We were just marking time–and my 38 years was a lifetime for some. It’s a very long time to be sick.
None of us were whole, not by a long shot, otherwise, why were we sitting here waiting to die?
It’s said by some that an angel would venture down from heaven, and stir the pool–and the first to get in the water would be healed. It was one of those strange things that kept us from going crazy–a mental mechanism that bruised hearts often carry deep inside. It was a necessary way to keep from being lost.
I lived with my friends on these hard stone steps all these years, I’ve seen some live, and many more die. Banding together we became a community of survivors. We understood each other, and we knew everyone’s story–what else was there to do but talk?
It’s funny how some ideas get started–a silly dream, or a fairy tale of leaving this pool and becoming normal again. We developed the knack of a gallows kind of humor, a bond that condemned men shared with each other. We bantered these in order to cope with this slow-motion death. These were inside jokes, mixed with hefty dollops of half-believed hope and odd humor that only dying men learn to appeciate.
But maybe it kept us alive for just one more day. Perhaps it helped us to survive this hell.
That day started like 13,879 days before, and there was nothing unusual about it. There was nothing but the growing heat, the flies, and the sour smell of unwashed bodies. But in an instant, my life was going to be decisively interrupted. And at the time I never saw it coming.
Jesus threaded His way through the sitting bodies to find me.
When our eyes met he stopped. All He did was to ask me simply— “Do you want to be made well?” That question cut through the many years of accrued pain. I mumbled something about the angel, and the pool, and not having anyone to help me into the water. His question pretty much unraveled me. It seemed like it was just Him and me, staring at each other.
He told me to stand, to pick up my mat, and walk.
All of those half-baked days of a wasted life crashed in on me then. I saw all the emptiness and sadness of 38 long years. But in an instant, He healed me. I stood and picked up my mat, I shook my head and cried. Through my tears, I saw my friends looking at me in shocked and total amazement.
I simply walked out of there, carrying the only thing I owned.
“Then the lame will leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy,
for water will gush in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert.”
Isaiah 35:6, CSB
Art: Free Bible Images, text used is from The Message, a translation by Eugene Peterson