1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When 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?”
“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.” 8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The pool colonnade at Bethesda was always a crowded place. And dirty, with the dust of 1000’s of sandals– the sandals of 1000’s of nameless faces, many just travelers passing through looking for mindless distraction. But there were many locals here too, regulars hoping for a changed life when the pool waters stirred. Some came daily; others practically lived by the pool. Many were crippled in one way or another. They wanted to be whole again. They wanted to be normal- no longer the object of staring eyes and hushed laughter. The healing waters of the pool called to them. The first one in the water when it stirred would be healed! The waters would give them new life, a fresh start, like being born again.
The colonnade had been especially dusty that day. The light filtered through the dust, casting rays upon those gathered in anticipation of the water moving. The columns cast long shadows across the crowd in the morning sun. Hundreds of voices filled the air. Laughter and sorrow mingled through the crowd. Beggars calling out in desperation, merchants promoting their wares, the livestock lowing, and birds seeking a morning meal all joined in a noisy chorus. One man was silent in the commotion. From his mat on the floor, he could only watch the water. For 38 years he had put up with the daily babel. He didn’t even notice it anymore. He had seen the waters stirred many times. He knew the healing power. But his crippled body could not reach the water in time. There was always someone else. Another selfish someone. Why could they not see him, help him? He wanted to be whole, and the waters, it seemed, were the only way for that to happen.
He was mesmerized by the waters, by the thought of escaping his crippled life. Then he noticed that the crowd had parted. A man was staring at him. “Surely another gawker,” the man thought. They would look briefly, and then turn away in disgust. But this man kept staring at him.
Finally the man spoke. “Do you want to get well?”
“What kind of question is that?” the crippled man thought. “Not only do I lay here crippled, now I get mocked too?” But there was something in the stranger’s eyes. His question had seemed genuine. There was no look of disgust, but one of compassion. Looking up at the stranger he replied “I cannot get to the healing waters in time, someone always gets in before I can. No one will help me.” His voice faltered, partially filled with anger, partially with self pity.
No one will help me. The words rung in his ears. He had long ago given up on getting help from anyone. He had become bitter, resentful of the crowd. He was willing now to just wallow in pity, having given in to the pressing ambivalence.
The stranger continued to look at him. He seemed to see through the pain and bitterness to a place the cripple had long subdued. “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!” Immediately the cripple felt a surge of power run through him. He looked down, amazed to see legs that had been stunted and gaunt now straight. He stood up, his broken body now whole. He turned to thank the stranger, but the man had vanished into the crowd.
Do you want to get well? We all face struggles in life. Some are physical; many are emotional. We do what we can to ease the pain, but the suffering we face will not truly be over until we leave this life. If we try to “fix” everything, we will only fail. But there is one who will not fail. He may not take away every pain, but he will carry us through it. There is only one with the power to heal you–body and soul. Seek out the stranger, Christ the Lord.