When these events were completed, Jesus led His followers to Jerusalem where they would celebrate a Jewish feast together.
In Jerusalem they came upon a pool by the sheep gate surrounded by five covered porches. In Hebrew this place is called Bethesda.
Crowds of people lined the area, lying around the porches. All of these people were disabled in some way; some were blind, lame, paralyzed, or plagued by diseases. In the crowd, Jesus noticed one particular man who had been living with his disability for 38 years. He knew this man had been waiting here a long time.
Jesus (to the disabled man): Are you here in this place hoping to be healed?
Disabled Man: Kind Sir, I wait, like all of these people, for the waters to stir; but I cannot walk. If I am to be healed in the waters, someone must carry me into the pool. Without a helping hand, someone else beats me to the water’s edge each time it is stirred.
Jesus: Stand up, carry your mat, and walk.
At the moment Jesus uttered these words, a healing energy coursed through the man and returned life to his limbs—he stood and walked for the first time in 38 years. But this was the Sabbath Day; and any work, including carrying a mat, was prohibited on this day.
Jewish Leaders (to the man who had been healed): Must you be reminded that it is the Sabbath? You are not allowed to carry your mat today!
Formerly Disabled Man: The man who healed me gave me specific instructions to carry my mat and go.
Jewish Leaders: Who is the man who gave you these instructions? How can we identify Him?
The man genuinely did not know who it was that healed him. In the midst of the crowd and the excitement of his renewed health, Jesus had slipped away. Some time later, Jesus found him in the temple and again spoke to him.
Jesus: Take a look at your body; it has been made whole and strong. So avoid a life of sin, or else a calamity greater than any disability may befall you.
The man went immediately to tell the Jewish leaders that Jesus was the mysterious healer. So they began pursuing and attacking Jesus because He performed these miracles on the Sabbath.
Jesus (to His attackers): My Father is at work. So I, too, am working.
He was justifying the importance of His work on the Sabbath, claiming God as His Father in ways that suggested He was equal to God. These pious religious leaders sought an opportunity to kill Jesus, and these words fueled their hatred.
This is such a moving story. How can someone not be moved by this scene. I like the way The Voice put this. It paints the picture very well. I can just see the pool and people with all kinds of disabilities setting in the shade from the covered porches. As Jesus scans the crowd, he sees someone he recognizes. Apparently, this man has been disabled for all of Jesus’ life.
Jesus approaches the man and asks him an interesting question, “Are you here in this place hoping to be healed?” Isn’t that odd? Why would Jesus ask if the man wanted to be healed? I mean, he was there with the rest of the people. The pool is known for it’s healing properties. So why did Jesus ask him if he wanted to be healed?
I’m not really sure. There’s a lot of speculation (to see if the man had faith, some people don’t really want to be healed, etc.), but, frankly, I find them all a little shallow. I mean, the man doesn’t need to have faith. There’s that one story where the faith of some friends healed a man who was also crippled. And I have never met someone who was disabled who wouldn’t want to have their disability healed. There might be some people that are like that, but, as I said, I’ve never met them. The people I know would give just about anything to be made whole.
Whatever Jesus meant by his question, the man seemed to interpret it as an offer to help him get to the pool when the waters are stirring. But Jesus tells him something else, “Stand up, grab your stuff, and go home.”
Isn’t that shocking? I mean, if I was lying there, would I think he was telling me I was going to be healed or I was faking it?
I like how The Voice explains it, “At the moment Jesus uttered these words, a healing energy coursed through the man and returned life to his limbs—he stood and walked for the first time in 38 years.” Granted, this is all read into the text. But it paints the picture of what happened in a fresh way, especially the last part, “he stood and walked for the first time in 38 years.” That really struck me.
For those who don’t know, I’m legally blind in my right eye. When I was a infant, I had some sort of allergic reaction and my eye swelled shut. When the swelling went down, my eye had crossed so severely that one could barely see the iris (the colored part of the eye). Surgery was done to correct the problem. Some of the muscles that move the eye were shortened and the eye was realigned. But there was another issue. The retina (the “screen” on the back of the eye where the images are displayed) had some scarring on it. The eye turned to find a “clear screen.” However, since my right eye couldn’t move to the left, it wandered to the right. And stayed there. The furthest my right eye turns to the left is to the middle.
I got my first pair of glasses on my second birthday. I’m not sure if the corrective surgery happened before or after that (I think it was before, but things like that get fuzzy as I get older). And I’ve worn them every day since then. Because of the inability to see properly from my right eye, things like sports were pretty much impossible for me. And 3-D movies? Until recently, they were like looking at bad reception on a color television.
So, while I haven’t been disabled like the man in the story, I can relate to having a disability for quite a long time. And the process to heal me would be nothing short of a miracle. Talking with one of my doctors, he told me, “Even if we could replace the entire eye, it probably wouldn’t work. In fact, it might be worse. Your brain would say, ‘I haven’t needed that eye for over forty years, so why start using it now.’” My healing, then, would need to be a complete rewiring of my brain in addition to the total restoration of my eye. Plus, there would be a huge learning curve as I had to adjust to seeing things that most people take for granted.
I say all of this to say that I might just be like the man carrying his mat. I might be so moved by what G_d did for me that I might break a few “doctrines” or “church rules.” Heck, I do that now so I’m quite sure I would do so even more!
But look at the response he gets. As he’s walking home (he might have even been dancing and singing!), the Religious Elite accost him for breaking a Sabbath law! They don’t even ask him what’s going on or why he’s carrying his belongs. They don’t take the time to find out his situation. They just assume that he should know better. Can you imagine? It’s only after he explains that he’s been healed do they know part of his story. And what do they do? Do they celebrate with him? Nope. The only want to know who it was that told him to break the Law! Their concern is not for the man or his healing. Their only concern is for the religious traditions and the power and positions they hold over the people, as the last part of the story shows.
I pray that we take the time to get to know people instead of judging them. We might find that by listening to their story we, too, might act the way they acted.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC
The Voice Bible. Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.