After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids — blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. (John 5:1-15, NRSV)
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The pool of Beth-zada.
Traditional manuscripts write that this body of water had healing capabilities that surpassed the natural cleansing power of certain minerals.
It was thought that an “angel of the Lord” would periodically come and stir its waters, creating a bubbling of sorts. When this occurred, the first to get in the water was thought to receive a complete healing of any disease or aliment.
As you can imagine, the place became heavily populated with the sick, the lame, the blind, and the diseased. And as this tradition spread - whether true or false - it created a culture of competition, of selfishness, and of situational hope.
With the promise of healing, people waited. With the hope of being made clean, people focused their attention on these pools. And with the desire to “live again,” they gave all of their “life” - their time and energy - to gambling for a cure.
This was the place for the hopeless to literally fight for hope. Yet at what cost for all of the others who “failed?”
At the closing of a “festival of the Jews,” Jesus is found being drawn to the gate of these waters. And His sight could have easily felt overwhelming to any one of us.
People by the dozens. All hurting. All sick. All hopeless. All in need. And all banking on the same supposed promise.
And what He does is so shocking to me. It is so provocative. So confusing. Yet so telling.
His attention is given to only one. And as it is written, Jesus moves past the dozens, to make His way to a single man.
This was one man who was no longer banking on situational hope. One man who had spent years trying and trying, yet was now at his wit’s end. One man who finally came to the humble understanding that he was hopeless on his own. His fantasies where just that - hopeless.
Unlike all of the others, we know that he had been at this pool for years - probably so long that he now considered it his home; his reality; and the very place that he would die.
We know these inner thoughts because of his dialogue with Jesus. It is obvious that he had tried over and over for years to make it into the healing waters. Yet each time, he was met with obstacles.
But now, standing in front of Him was the Creator of healing waters. In front of Him was the One to whom all hope is found.
So, in overcoming this man’s hopelessness, Jesus tells him to stand. In overcoming this man’s reality, Jesus tells him to move. And in overcoming this man’s inability, Jesus grants him complete ability.
In an instance, the man adheres to the commands of this stranger. And in a way so different than any one of his fantasies, he received a full and complete healing.
He didn’t have to fight and strive for it, for it was freely given.
Regardless of if these waters really did get stirred by an angel, what Jesus does is huge. It shows us that His miracles are found close to those who are no longer striving on their own. They touch the lives of those who come to an end of themselves; who are needy and desperate.
And each time, they are not something to fight for, they are something to receive and be changed by.
In my heart, I know how similar my life has been to this invalid. I have tried striving for a cure to my fears and hopelessness. I have attempted the war to be someone more; to have a life that this world “fantasizes” over. I have fought the battles of comparison, and much like this man, I have lost time and time again.
But every time, it is when I come to my wit’s end that Jesus’ closeness and His work are made known to me. And it is always in a way so uncommon, so unconventional, and so anti-cultural.
When Jesus tells this man to pick up his mat, He is telling him to do a work that was “unlawful” and completely looked down upon.
To the culture, this man was working on the sabbath - a clear “no-no.” It deserved a reprimand. But to Jesus, this man was obeying Him completely.
In the same way, He tells us to pick up our mats and move forward, even if the culture says otherwise. He tells us to forgive when others would harbor bitterness. And He tells us to move away from old places of strife; praying for those we once felt inferior by.
Today, may we recognize Jesus’ call to stand and move. We pray that you are led away from false promises and led into a real hope.
Thank you for joining us today. We do pray that the Lord has met you right where you are. If you have enjoyed today's devotion, we would love your help sharing it! Also, feel free to read any of the previous miracles by using the tabs below!
Greg, Declare Glory