Thirty eight years. It was a long time to wait for healing. The invalid lay on his mat and didn’t even move when the waters stirred. Why bother? Someone else would always get there first. “Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked. In other words, “You’re not even trying.”
“There is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids – blind, lame, and paralyzed.” Tradition maintains that an angel would periodically stir the waters of the pool, and the first to step into the water would be healed.
But this man had given up hope.
He doesn’t tell us why he stayed by the pool. Perhaps he had come thirty eight years ago on the chance he would be healed, and now he had nowhere else to go (and no way to get there). Perhaps he liked being surrounded people suffering from infirmities – it made him feel like he belonged or like he was better off than somebody else.
In any case, here he was. And he couldn’t do a single thing to save himself.
What’s your pool of Bethesda? Where do you find yourself hanging out in hope of salvation?
Is it the Internet? Social Media? Novels? Movies? Food? Drink? A particular person? Your own good works? Your “niceness”?
Maybe it’s a habit that started years ago, and now you can’t stop even though you know it won’t do any good. Maybe it’s the thing everyone else does, so it can’t hurt to try, right? Never mind that all the other people doing it are still just as infirm as they were to begin with.
Even those of us who claim we are trusting in Jesus alone are quick to turn to counterfeit saviors when we face day-to-day sins, failures, and hurts. We keep hoping that next time the water stirs, things will be different.
And then Jesus finds us.
“Do you want to be healed?” He asks. Do you want real change? Do you want real help? Do you want real salvation?
And he won’t give it until we admit we’re completely desperate.
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” In other words, “There is no hope for me. I will never be able to save myself.”
That’s when Jesus speaks. There is no trying, no self-motivation, no competition. Just Jesus’s words: “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”
“And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.” (Scriptures from John 5:2-9, ESV, emphases and paraphrases added)
I don’t want to spend thirty eight years chasing false hopes or wallowing in self-pity.
I just want Jesus.
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