I was reading about Bethesda and the man beside the pool. Please have a look here if you are not familiar with it. As a basically bitter and twisted person, I have often looked on the man as a kindred spirit.
The story says that the man had been ill for 38 years. That’s a long time – a lifetime and I wondered what was wrong with him.
I am only slightly ashamed to say that I have identified with the man, who, unable to rouse himself from whatever ailed him, lay there and watched others get into the water. These people were probably not as sick as he was; they were able to move forward and get into the water under their own steam. The blessing was there and they would skip past him and take it. How tempted was he to try and leg them up as they went past? (You are right, probably not at all but you are much nicer than I am)
A few things I have noticed about him.
- He complained that it was everyone else’s fault. “No-one will stop and help me get into the water” My default thinking has always been that he needed to help himself or, at least, go to Jesus and not expect everyone else, who, after all, had problems of their own, to carry him. In the end, he didn’t need anyone else. He asked Jesus for help and help arrived. There were conditions and he had to be obedient and do what Jesus had told him but it was his own faith that made him get up. (However, just thinking. If someone else had helped him. If someone had stopped what they were doing and carried him, then he wouldn’t have been there as long as he was).
- When Jesus asked him what was wrong – he told him. Jesus doesn’t request false cheer or pretending all is well. There was no “I’m not so bad thank you – how’s yourself?” There was an honest answer to an honest question. It may not have been a cheery answer – coloured as it was by the man’s general fed-upness and despair – but he didn’t pretend anything else was going on.
- Jesus wasn’t scared off by how messed up the man was. “I have been ill for 38 years. I have lived among the invalids for all that time. My only possible hope is this pool and that isn’t working. No-one will help me. This life is nailed down for me now.” There isn’t a hint that Jesus thought “Blimey, what a miserable crow. He’s right, there is no way back for this man.” No pit is too deep and Corrie Ten Boon nearly said.
- Then, what came first. The faith or the healing? As the man began to move, despite there being nothing to say that he should, did he feel the healing course through his veins, giving him the strength to get up? Or, as he lay in despair, did he feel the change as he heard Jesus speak and knew that he could move. I am hoping that you don’t expect any definitive answer from me – we don’t often do that kind of thing round here. Maybe both approaches are right.
I have been challenged by this: our responsibilities to others, our responsibilities to ourselves, the necessity of responding – either to what God asks us to do or the support that others provide us. Or just to flamin cheer up sometimes. Mainly though, it is the compassion of Jesus, the understanding and the depth of knowledge he had, the lack of judgement (even though there is a hint that there might be stuff to be judgemental about) and the fact that Jesus is able. I am, more often than I would like to admit in mixed company, the man on the bed. This is a strong reminder that there is plenty to be hopeful about even in that position.