As a child, I lived near the river Verai, and like the pool called Bethesda in Jerusalem, it was said to heal upon the stirring of its waters. I had no interest then in the waters of Verai, no mind to test the legend of its powers. Freely my arms danced through air; effortlessly my legs propelled a lithe, vital body. I knew nothing of pain, nothing of paralysis and, despite my home’s proximity to Verai, I viewed yet did not see the blind and lame that gathered there.
But when the illness came, it overtook my body without mercy, leaving me among the disabled waiting and watching for a stirring of miraculous waters. A myriad of wounded souls camped about the river, praying to be the first to respond to the genesis of activity at the surface. Time after time, I recognized it too late, moved too slowly and laid back on my mat, digging deep within to find enough hope to endure the promise of the next stirring.
In time, there came talk of a Galilean named Jesus, a prophet who spoke of living water. Many thought his words bore witness to the miracles effected at Bethesda and Verai, but others left the banks of the healing pools in search of a carpenter’s son considered more than a man. Some called him rabbi. Some messiah. Some the Son of God.
I knew nothing of such matters and, sans the luxury of transport, awaited healing with countless others at Verai. Mercy often exists without prayers for its coming, and one morning I overheard swelling whispers about the approach of the prophet from Galilee.
A crowd of disciples and the curious encircled the one who seemed as much myth as man. Many hobbled to him, others were carried. Unable to join them, I watched from my mat and prayed his presence might distract others from the river, and any stirring go unnoticed just long enough. Yet, throughout his visit, the waters of Verai remained as glass.
Hope flickered in me as a hand, strong yet gentle, found rest upon my shoulder. With a sideward glance, my eyes engaged those of a man I had never met. But somehow I knew, by the intensity of his form, by the love in his gaze, he was the one they called Jesus.
“Do you want to get well?” he asked.
Puzzled, I glanced over at the multitude, still mulling anxiously around the man who somehow now knelt beside me near the river’s edge. How can this be?
He smiled warmly as if reading my thoughts, and repeated his question.
I recommitted to the lure of his eyes and nodded, “Yes.”
“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”
Instantly, my bent limbs unfolded, released from paralysis, and I rose with strength as the prophet commanded. Looking up quickly to thank my healer, I realized he no longer stood beside me. I danced on the bank of Verai that day, fully enjoying what I’d long sought from the waters yet found in a most uncommon man. I never saw the prophet again, for he and his followers left soon after my transformation, but tales of his capture, death and resurrection reached my village and beyond. And I believed. For years, I waited for healing beside the stillness of Verai, until, bringing living water with restoration, the River came to me.
[Words of Jesus from John 5:6, 8 NIV]
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