Friday, November 18, 2011

The third miracle from the gospel of John.

I promised a few months ago to look at the miracles in the Gospel of John and to retell them. This story can be found in the fifth chapter of that gospel. First, I will explore the background; then I will tell the story.

On the outskirts of hustling bustling Jerusalem, there was a pool called Bethesda. It was a crowded place, filled with broken people, whose only hope was in the water. The story went that an angel from God would come down occasionally to stir up the water and the first person into the water would be healed.

I do not know if this was true or not. To me it seems somewhat cruel for God to send an angel down to stir up the water, and then sit back and watch these people, with their broken bodies, stumble and fumble their way down into the water, on the hope that the first one that stepped into the water would be healed. Cruel, yet there was hope.

One of the people waiting beside the pool was a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. This brings up two things. First, had he been sitting there for thirty-eight years? I do not know, but I think he had been waiting to get better for that long time. John does not say he had been lame since birth, just for thirty-eight years. This leads to the suspicion that he once was not lame.

Next, why do we refer to people who have some physical limitation as invalids? Does their limitation make them less than valid? Do doctors validate people when they assist them into good health? Are people 'parking passes' that get validated?  It seems to me, whoever invented the English language ought to be invalidated.

I digress, so let me do the opposite and regress back to my story. This man is lying by the pool, when Jesus walks by and speaks to him. “Do you want to get well?”

After thirty-eight years of disability, countless years of waiting by the pool, innumerable numbers of insults and insensitive remarks that were meant to be kind, but which actually hurt, the man thinks to himself, “Is this guy for real? Is he joking? What does he think I am doing sitting by the pool?”  Many angry and bitter things raced to explode from his mouth, but with just a snippet of sarcasm he responded, “I try to get into the pool first when the water is stirred, but someone else always gets there first.”  He looked at the man that spoke to him, gauging him and his reaction. A strong man, hands rough from working as a carpenter, muscles toned from carrying lumber and walking across the countryside. Perhaps, just maybe, this man would stay and help him into the water. This was the simple wish of the man waiting by the pool, as he looked expectantly.

Then he heard the words, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” The man did not hesitate. He knew the feeling; he knew he could walk. He stood up, picked up his mat, and walked. He walked straight into a gaggle of members from the Jewish Rule Clique.

“Hey! You cannot carry your mat! It is the Sabbath! That is work!”

He replied, “All I know is, the man who healed me said, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’”

When the Ruler Clique found out it was Jesus who had healed the man, they threw him a party. They festooned with streamers and broke out the party hats. They ordered cake and ice cream. They were thrilled that someone was going around healing the lame people. NOT! They persecuted him. They were angry. “How could you heal on the Sabbath? That is work! There are rules and rules MUST be followed. ”

Their response, an epic fail, rendered them invalid. Invalid to the rules that hobbled the spirit of joy in the man’s healing, blind to the miracle before them, and deaf to the joy in the man’s voice.

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