John 5:1-16 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus Heals on the Sabbath
5 After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew[a]Beth-zatha,[b] which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.[c] 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Now that day was a sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in[d] the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath.
In the second half of Lent we become aware of the gathering forces arrayed against Jesus – and all of us as we follow Him.
This passage of John paints a horrific scene that Jesus had taken the disciples to witness: we find a large crowd of people, all severely disabled in some way clinging to random hope that a magical stirring of waters will heal them. They are desperate, burdened with all manner of ailments from lameness and blindness, to even full on paralysis.
Our attention rivets on a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years. Thirty-eight years! We can easily imagine his question “Will I ever be healed?” has long since morphed into a statement of fact: “I will never be healed.”
Foreshadowing Judas, it’s to this man Jesus approaches, probably knowing full well the betrayal that would result in spite of the healing He is bringing. Notice that Jesus initiated contact and He did so with a question: “Do you want to be made well?” I’m sure those within earshot must have thought this an odd question. Of course he would want to be made well, but he can’t make it to the waters on his own power. Perhaps this is why Jesus chose to approach this particular man?
Notice also how this man didn’t answer the question directly but with an explanation of why there is no way for him to be made well. His own hopeful question of whether he would ever be made well had long since settled into a reality many of us are all to familiar with – the that’s-just-the-way-things-are version of the world.
Kingdom reality isn’t that’s-just-the-way-things are as much as that’s-just-the-way-things-were-because-Jesus-makes-all-things-new.
This man’s eyes were still on the pool even while Jesus stood right before him. In fact, even after he had been healed, this man couldn’t say who healed him. Had he really seen Jesus?
In the fog of our helplessness, in the tangled thicket of our challenges, Jesus always initiates, always comes to us by the pool, and asks, “Do you want to be made well?” This question, however, is the same question Jesus always asks us, only disguised this time as a question about healing. Even this question of healing is really asking this man, “Who do you say I am?”
If this man could have seen the answer to this question was more about Lordship than healing, the pool would have faded into irrelevancy and the later challenges from the Jews an opportunity to proclaim Jesus instead of an opportunity to advance his standing before the Jews.
To answer the question of whether or not we want to be made well, we must first lift our eyes from the pool that can never make us well spiritually. We must broaden our vision to include seeing Jesus standing right in front of us, always smiling, always with open arms inviting us into an embrace that heals our souls. And when we lift our eyes from the long-since settled, but still false, belief that we can never be healed in such and such of an area of our lives, God’s love meets our exposed vulnerability and the Kingdom comes into sharper focus.
This man, unfortunately, was unable to see the reality of Jesus or the forces arrayed against Him. But Jesus saw everything and healed him anyway.
As we lift our eyes from our version of non-reality to glimpse Jesus,
the reality of the Kingdom becomes visible.
Where is Jesus initiating conversation in your life where you may be tempted to respond there is no way for you to change, be healed or make it to the pool?
What would it look like to move your eyes from the pool to Jesus?
Is it time for you to be healed in a particular area?
Would this mean enduring forces arrayed against you?