It all happened at Bethesda pool, between the temple and the sheep market. My father is the manager and he lets us kids in anytime, “But don’t annoy other patrons - they may be more important than they look!”
People who call in from the temple are usually friendly. Some might splash us as they sit beside the pool; but visitors from the market hardly ever smile.
I accidentally splashed one of them one day, and he got so mad he grabbed my ear and hauled me to Dad’s office. He was yelling about our ancestors and if we knew them. I couldn't understand him, but he calmed down after dad and I apologised.
It was scary, but afterwards Dad explained how grownups can get mean if they’re not sure about being forgiven.
A lot of sick people stay at Bethesda, waiting for when an angel comes and stirs up the water, so they can be healed by being first in. Nobody’s ever seen any angels; they’ve only seen the water bubbling. I don’t know why only the first one should be healed; but I’m just a kid.
Asaph was a long-term camper. He could not walk, but he sure could talk! He was named after Asaph the psalmist, but his song was sour and it never changed…
“Thirty-eight years I’ve been here, but everyone else’s friends help them in every time the water moves. They all splash back out; healed and happy; but I just keep waiting. Everyone knows,” he’d say; glancing in Dad’s direction, “but nobody cares…”
Nobody could know when the water would be stirred, but some pilgrims almost blamed Dad.
Other campers just wished Asaph would keep quiet, and one day my friend Isaac told me their poem:
“Thirty-eight years, waiting by the pool;
Thirty-eight years – life’s so cruel!”
We laughed, but only until we started getting lectured by a rabbi who’d overheard our little joke.
Our family never realised how much pressure Dad was feeling. Until one afternoon he raced in through the door with big hugs all around. He kept shouting: “Wow! Asaph’s gone!”
“Asaph’s gone?” my mother demanded, “And you are pleased at his death, Jonas?”
“No Martha, he’s much alive; and last seen at the Temple! But let’s eat and I’ll explain!”
The table was ready in no time. And we were all ears.
“This morning, Asaph started his story on some Galilean visitors who were just sitting there, cooling their feet. Everyone knows it by heart, so some tried to quieten him while the rest joined in.
“But the Galilean rabbi interrupted everybody when he asked Asaph: ’Do you want to get well?’”
I thought this might be one of Dad’s ‘are you listening?’ tricks, but I had to ask: “Why would he wonder if Asaph wanted to get well?”
He just smiled. “Jacob, imagine being crippled for nearly forty years. Asaph has got used to blaming everyone else including me for his troubles. But if he got better he’d have to stop begging and find new things to talk about. Maybe get a job or start a business and accept some responsibility; maybe helping others instead of soaking up all the attention for himself. These are big changes after so long!”
His smile widened. “But you’ll never guess what happened next! This rabbi – they call him Jesus – told Asaph to get up and get walking!
“Really?” we all chorused.
“Yes, really!” dad replied. “And that’s exactly what Asaph did! He picked up his mat and off he went, straight for the Temple!
“Everyone was amazed. In fact they looked just like you do! But the Galileans just grinned. It seems they’ve seen him heal people before. Jesus moved among the others, speaking and praying with them. And a lot of them got up and left as well.
“Eventually the Galileans got up and stretched, and went off to the Temple. The rest of us sat there, trying to grasp the miracle we had just seen!
“We’re so happy for Asaph. He’s healed, even though he’s been inviting anybody and everybody to his pity party for thirty-eight years - and we have peace at last! I won’t miss how he kept making pilgrims suspicious of me. But now he’s gone. He’s a new man, and I’m happy for him. And for me!”
And like Bethesda’s pool, our home is calm again. With only a few occasional ripples.
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