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! John 5:2-9
There he was, lying by the pool of Bethesda, hoping for a miracle. History tells us that the name Bethesda means House of Mercy and that tradition indicated that an angel stirred up the waters of the pool and that those fortunate to reach the waters at that time were healed. And so the crowds gathered in search of healing.
And there he was, in the midst of the crowds of those who were blind, lame, paralyzed, hurting and in need of healing. Waiting for his turn. Waiting to be healed. Waiting for a miracle.
But when the waters moved, he never made it. Thirty-eight years he waited for a miracle. Can you even imagine? In this insta-culture of texting, tweeting and Insta-gramming in which we live today, can you even imagine someone waiting 38 years for something?
Did he spend all 38 years at the pool? Maybe it was his first day or week or month there, but I’m guessing maybe he’d been there for a lot longer. If there were no one to help him into the pool when the water bubbled up, could there have been anyone to help him get back and forth to the pool from somewhere else?
And can you imagine how discouraging it must have been, watching others come and go, getting healed, celebrating their miracles right there in front of him? Maybe he tried to be happy for them, you know? To celebrate with them in their victory. But don’t you think that a small part of his heart muttered his continuing disappointment to God?
Because 38 years is a seriously long time to wait, to yearn for something and not lose faith, to not lose hope in a miracle.
Or did he? Did he lose hope? Did he lose sight of God and his promises? Had he become so discouraged or so numb from the wait that when God showed up and offered him healing, he didn’t recognize the offer?
Do you want to get well?
Rather than a resounding, Yes! Oh, Yes, I do, I do, I do want to get well. Help me! He explains why it’s not possible, why it’s just not going to happen for him.
I have no one to help me.
Someone else is always gets there first.
Yes, but do you want to get well?
I’ve been here for so long.
I’ve given up hope that I will get well.
I don’t think it’s in the cards for me.
But do you want to get well?
Are your finances so tight and bills piling up that you don’t think it’s possible to get out from under it any longer?
Is your marriage so broken, your relationship so screwed up, your heart so shattered that you don’t think it’s possible to redeem it?
Does your dream seem unreachable, too big, too hard, too far away?
Jesus has but one question for you: do you want to get well?
I know I do. And I’m tired of giving him excuses, tired of plying him with a long list of reasons why that’s just never going to happen.
Jesus isn’t asking you something that he can’t deliver on; he’s already told us that: With God all things are possible.
You can’t? God will.
You have no one to help you? God will help you.
Someone always gets there first? Not today they don’t.
Maybe the man had been waiting so long he didn’t recognize God when God showed up. But God knew him, didn’t he? Jesus saw the man and knew that he’d been sick for along time. And even when the man offered excuses, Jesus offered him healing.
Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!
And the man did. Immediately he was healed. Not several hours later. Not 38 more years later. In that moment.
Because there were no more excuses, no more reasons why he shouldn’t. Jesus stood before him and said, Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!
If he didn’t recognize Jesus before that moment, he definitely did in that moment. Because without another moment of hemming, hawing or hesitation, he walked away from the healing pool having never set foot in the water.
Instead, he has an encounter with the Living Water, with the living God. And what could be better than that?