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I love the story in the Bible, in John 5, of the man who lay helplessly by the pool of Bethesda. Apparently, this wasn’t just any pool. It was rumored that angels came periodically and stirred the water, and whoever dove in first received miraculous healing. Needless to say, people flocked from near and far for a chance to participate in the phenomenon.
However, this one man, sick from the same disease for thirty-eight years, couldn’t ever make it to the pool fast enough. It was a bit of a hopeless situation for him.
But Jesus, as always, changes everything. “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”
If you read this quickly, it’s almost a “duh” moment. Like, “Um, no disrespect Jesus, but of course he wants to be healed.”
It’s fascinating that when the sick man answered Jesus, he didn’t give a simple yes or no. He offered an excuse. “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”
Think about it. This man has been sick for thirty-eight years. He’s comfortable in his disease by this point. He’s resigned himself to being the victim and blaming others. He’s having a pity-pool-party. And I probably would have too, after so many years of suffering and rejection. Think of the years’ worth of hopes that flared every time the water stirred, how that hope immediately choked and drowned as another person inevitably made it into the healing waves first.
“Do you want to be healed?”
The sick man could have understandably laughed at the question. Maybe he did. Maybe he had to cough to hide a sarcastic snort. Or maybe he was so numb from the decades of futile attempts that he just shrugged and offered the only answer he could muster.
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Resignation is a dangerous thing.
Jesus, in all His grace, gave the sick man a double blessing. He healed his body, but He also awakened his heart. He gave this man back a sense of purpose. He freed him from the bonds of self-pity, pride, fear, discouragement, hopelessness and resignation, all in one amazingly-effective command.
“Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”
What? How? He hadn’t even gone into the water yet.
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That’s why I love Jesus so much.
He didn’t pacify this guy. He didn’t pat him on the shoulder, say “there there” and offer to piggy-back him into the pool. He didn’t give up on him, either, and say “well, better luck next time.” Nor did he bring down a dozen angels from heaven in grand pomp and circumstance to perform a gaudy performance.
Jesus did something so much more powerful.
He invited the man into his own healing process.
Now think about your sickness. Your emotional wound. Your scar. Your grudge. Your bitterness. Your unforgiveness. That disease that you’ve formed around you like a wall, effectively keeping out any additional pain and suffering. You’re used to it. It’s like a security blanket at this point. It’s scratchy, and a little damp, but it’s your blankie now. You talk about getting rid of your blankie, how it’s awful, and stinks, and you’re so desperate to be free of it. But when anyone tries to tug it away, you hold on tight.
Do you want to be healed?
Notice how the sick man had resigned himself to lingering near the healing, but not participating in it. How often do we do that? We still go to church, but we sit in the back and refuse to talk to anyone. We still respond to our friends’ texts asking how we are, but we say “doing great” and refuse to be vulnerable. We might even still read our Bible, but we skip the passages that convict and read the ones that make us feel safe instead.
Understandably in many ways, the sick man had given up—yet, he was still enticed enough by the pool and the potential that he couldn’t let himself get too far away. Maybe some rogue hope still resided deep inside, even after all that time. Maybe that’s what Jesus recognized and responded to.
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Maybe that’s why Jesus asked him “Do you want to be healed?” He already knew the answer.
But the sick man needed to know the answer.
He needed to participate in his own healing. He needed to face the fact that sometimes, healing can be dangerous. It can even hurt worse than the original wound. Broken bones have to be set. And that setting can first mean re-breaking.
It’s easy to pray and ask God to heal us, to strengthen us, to remove this issue in our life, to free us of our infirmities. But are we truly willing to be healed? Are we ready to let go of the security blanket and give Jesus access to those scabbed, wounded places? If so, it means we have to get up and walk. It means using sedentary muscles not used to exercise. It means allowing blood to flow into places long paralyzed. It could hurt. Most likely, it’ll hurt a lot—at first.
But it’s the difference between living your life pool-side, and swimming freely in the abundant life God has for you as His child.
Betsy St. Amant has a heart for three things - chocolate, new shoes and sharing the amazing news of God's grace through her novels. She lives in Louisiana with her adorable story-telling young daughter, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. A freelance journalist and fiction author, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is multi-published in Contemporary Romance. Her newest novel LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES releases via Zondervan Fiction in June 2015. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to the Tangled soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing and can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. You can read more from Betsy at www.betsystamant.com and ww