Plans and a Pool
Meditation on John 5:2-8 by Cris Cramer
John 5:2-8 (NIV):
Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”
Today I'm looking at the story of a lame man, a long-term invalid. When the story begins we find him sitting beside a pool named Bethesda, which was believed to be a healing place, though this story doesn't explain exactly why. Regardless, it was a place where many sick and disabled people gathered, hoping that the pool would provide something none of them expected to receive otherwise: a chance at a normal, healthy life.
No wonder Jesus went there, drawn as he was to the sick and ill and weak, people who had little hope for salvation from their physical conditions. He sees the invalid man, learns that he has been disabled for nearly four decades, and asks him the vital question: "Do you want to get well?"
It's a very simple, direct question, but the man doesn't answer it directly. Instead, he offers all of the reasons why he hasn't been able to receive healing in the past. There's a sense of desperation in his words over this issue of reaching the pool: he needs to get into the water in order to be freed of his infirmity, but his infirmity prevents him from doing it.
How touchingly human he is. It seems like this man had real faith he could be healed; his answer to Jesus demonstrates his belief that healing is available and he wants it, but just can't ... quite ... get there ... to receive it. He "knows" how God can help him, and it's all wrapped up in that impossible, unreachable pool. So when God-in-the-flesh walks up to him one day and asks straight out, "do you want to get well?" what tumbles out is his own plan and his own frustration, his desperate hope and long-borne failure. When really, the best and simplest answer to the question would be "Yes, please. I want to get well."
I can relate to the invalid man; I'm so full of plans, and so busy asking God about my plans, that I don't always hear what he's trying to tell me. At least I know I'm talking to God, which I'm not convinced the poor invalid ever figured out, but I still forget to listen to what God is really saying, what he's asking me, what he's offering. I pray about my own desperate hopes and my long-held blocks and frustrations, and I miss that a lot of the time he's just trying to ask me, simply and gently, "Do you want to be well?" Without hearing the question, I can't give him the best, simplest answer: "Yes, please." I can't give him the answer that gives him free rein to work; the answer that opens the door for me to be touched by the impossible, unimaginable power of God.
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