“After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” (John 5:1)
A good portion of Jesus’ ministry was healing people. Jesus had healed the royal official’s son before going up to Jerusalem (that was the “after this” proceeding this passage). As someone who has all manner of illnesses, I pay special attention to the healings in the New Testament.
“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.” (Verses 2 – 5)
If you, beloved reader, say “I cannot begin to imagine being ill for 38 years!” then you are not well acquainted with chronic illness. I must tell you, however, if it were me I would not be sitting/laying in a portico hoping to get well. I would be out living life as best I could. Even if it meant doing only a little bit every day, I would be doing as much as I could as long as I could. It could be that Jesus asked this the man the following question because there is the appearance that he had spent 38 years of his life focusing on the negative, what he cannot do.
“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.” (Verses 6 – 7)
What you may not realize, beloved reader, is that verse 4 is missing and it would tell you more about vignette at this pool; legend said that the waters of the pool are stirred up by an angel at intervals and the first person in the water gets miraculously healed. Now the source for this detail is unreliable enough that most translations have omitted this detail. It seems to me that if something like that was going on during the time of Jesus’ ministry – that is, an angel stirring the water – Jesus might have been more aware of it and done some stirring himself. Perhaps that is why verse 4 was omitted, and why Jesus makes no comment on the legend but instead intercedes with a more direct miracle.
“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.” (Verses 8 – 9)
Setting aside the tale of the angel stirring the water, I do have several questions about this passage. Was the man’s answer enough? That he wanted to be healed and was putting for the effort with all his energy and ability? Was Jesus’ heart moved because obviously the man had no friends or family to help or support him. And while there is a presumption that the man might have been by the pool for 38 years, maybe his illness only recently became chronic enough that it lead him to “reach for a miracle”.
I am reminded too of the blind man who comes later in the gospel of John (ironically) and who Jesus said was blind “so that God’s works can be revealed in him.” Now, I don’t know if that is the same situation here. But it certainly seems that Jesus was on a mission to heal those who were in need. And then I think of myself – my illnesses – and I think how I could use some healing too. As I said previously (here and other places) that I am not waiting on healing but moving forward as best I can. Not exactly taking up my mat and “walking”; but neither am I waiting for the waters to be stirred so that I can regain the health I lost. Jesus may have not healed my body, but my spirit – beloved reader – soars!
I hope and prayer beloved reader that what ever illness may be in your life, the Divine lifts you and leads you to wholeness. Selah!