Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 22
Reader: “Would you like to get well?”
Response: “Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”
Scripture: John 5: 1-9
Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”
“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”
Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”
Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, . . .”
Have you ever asked someone a question and their answer had nothing to do with what you had asked? Sometimes that happens with little children or with adults so focused on some problem. Such is the case of Jesus’ healing of the man crippled for many years.
From his childhood, Jesus always observed the Jewish holy days. Such is the case here. He has come back to Jerusalem from Galilee for another festival. Jesus often got into trouble with the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem. This miraculous healing was no exception. This particular pool, (there were several in the area), by the name of Bethesda was alleged to have supernatural healing powers when the waters were stirred by angels. Some translations have included a few verses to this effect, but most scholars do not believe these few added verses were part of John’s original manuscript. At any rate, they help explain the situation for the man who had lain there thirty-eight years and his hopes to get healed. You know the story.
I would like to address the question Jesus asked, which I find curious, and the answer of the lame man, equally intriguing. Jesus’ simple question was, “Would you like to get well?” It’s a straight “yes” or “no” answer. Jesus is asking the lame man as to what his desire is. The answer that comes forth is about a process based on a superstition. His answer is an explanation of what he sees as necessary to get him to the pool. He doesn’t answer Jesus’ question but gives reasons and excuses as to why he hasn’t been healed. Having stayed in the same place for thirty-eight years, I have to wonder if he’s that stubborn or that hopeless. He clearly had no idea who Jesus was or claimed to be. The core of Jesus’ question didn’t even register.
Did you notice that Jesus did not respond to his answer at all, but simply told him to get up, pick up his mat, and walk? Not only did the miracle include leg strength, but the instant ability to walk. Of concern to the Jewish leadership who were present, was not the miraculous healing of a hopeless lame man, but the fact that he was now carrying his mat on the Sabbath, something strictly forbidden by the Mishnah Shabbat. To do so was considered work, (the exception was unless a man was lying on the mat!) So the leaders’ question to the miraculously healed man, “Who healed you? That man broke our Sabbath and you are breaking it by carrying your mat!” The truth is, Jesus broke their Sabbath, he did not break God’s Sabbath.
My question is: How often are we that lame man? God has confronted us about some situation in our life and we give excuses that avoid a direct answer to his question. We are good at explaining that such and such was not our fault. There were extenuating circumstances after all. We ran out of time, or we were just about to do it (not quite true). Rather than giving God a direct answer, we deflect, we dilute the response, we fudge on clarity. I’m impressed by how Jesus goes right to the man’s heart at the deepest level: “You’ve been in this pattern for thirty-eight years. Do you truly want to get out of it? Then do what I ask you to do.” Jesus asks each of us the same question. Do we truly want to get out of those patterns that trap us? If so, do what he says.
Bonus: Jesus heals the man by the pool. Clip from “The Chosen” Don’t miss this!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMj1ggINLe4 It is a fantastic portrayal of this pericope! If you are not familiar with “The Chosen” series. It is by far the best portrayal of Jesus I’ve ever seen in any film. Check it out, it’s free. www.thechosen.com
It seems water is an integral part of many events in the Bible. Certainly the parting of the waters and the crossing of the Red Sea is a central story, parting of the Jordan River as the Israelites moved into the Promised Land, and the legendary “troubling of the waters” at the pool of Bethesda are notable stories in the Scriptures. Today’s song draws on those accounts in the form of an underground railroad song from the Civil War days in the States. Wading in the water did not allow the slaves to be tracked by dogs as they made their way north to freedom via the underground railroad.
Music: “Wade in the Water” University of Pretoria Camerata
Lord Jesus, may I never be so engrossed in my troubles and stuck in my ways and patterns of living that I can’t hear the questions you ask me. Help me to listen to what you actually say or ask. I spend so much time in my own thought world that sometimes it’s hard to think differently, let alone your thoughts. Help me to get to know you better and better and treat each conversation as a new endeavor. Help me to get out of the rut of “me.” In answer to your question of, “Would you like to get well?”, the answer is yes!
Make me more whole and more holy. I pray this your name Jesus, who reigns on high, with the Father and Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. ―Daniel Sharp