“There is in Jerusalem near the sheep-gate a pool surrounded by five arches, which has the Hebrew name of Bethzatha….One particular man had been there ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there on his back—knowing that he had been like that for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to get well again?”
“Sir,” replied the sick man, “I just haven’t got anybody to put me into the pool when the water is all stirred up. While I’m trying to get there somebody else gets down into it first.”
“Get up,” said Jesus, “pick up your bed and walk!”
At once the man recovered, picked up his bed and walked.”
– from John 5, Phillips paraphrase –
Thirty-eight years. That’s how long he had been hoping. Everyday, his body lay, with its withered legs, near the holy pool that some people said was touched by angels. He’d seen some of these healings. The water would swirl and agitate, shouts and delighted screams would rise up all around the rocky ledges of the pool where others like him sat and waited on angels. A fortunate blind woman with a guide or someone who had just arrived leaped into the pool. Their tears and laugher were answer enough. He’d seen blind eyes open wide, no longer milky and opaque–healed.
He’d rehearsed the moment again and again. Adrenaline surged in his veins when he thought about it. Next time…maybe next time he could drag himself into the pool in time. Maybe next time, he could be the one laughing and crying with joy.
Then a stranger comes walking through the bodies of the suffering. “Don’t you want to be healed?”
“There’s no one to help me get in the water,” the cripple replies. Maybe he scowled, wondering who would ask such a dumb question. Duh. Of course he wanted to be healed. Why else would he park himself next to the healing pool, waiting for a chance to be well?
This is the good part! The stranger doesn’t say, “Okay, well, I’ll stick around and help you in next time an angel touches the water.” He doesn’t say, “Here are some crutches–these will help you get to the water faster.”
The stranger says, “Get up and walk.”
What? I wonder if the lame man was confused. Walk? But what about the Healing Pool? What about the way healing had always been done?
Can you hear the expectations shattering?
But he got up and started walking on legs that were no longer twisted and weak. He rolled up his waiting mat. He was done with the pool by the Sheep Gate. He was healed, no angel-water involved!
My favorite thing about this story is that Jesus, the powerful stranger, defies expectation. His solution to the problem was on a completely different level than the crippled man’s default solution. Who would have thought that someone could just say the word to straighten crooked limbs? Who would have thought that no holy water or angelic visitations were needed?
Who would have thought that all he had to do was encounter Jesus?
I make the same miscalculation as that lame man did. I get used to one way of thinking and imagine it is God’s only solution. I set my expectations, calibrate my reality, and think that I’ve got the ways of the Lord just about figured out.
But then, I wait in vain for the heavenly visitations or the stirring up of something miraculous that I can grab hold of on my own.
When Jesus comes by, I don’t always automatically think, “I want to be well.”
Often, I’m thinking, “I don’t have any help getting to the pool” and “This plan isn’t working out. Everyone beats me to the miracle.” Like the cripple, I’ve sometimes looked at my own problems so long that I can’t see other ways of escape.
But then Jesus presents an alternative: “Get up and walk.”
Oh. You meant, just get up? Just walk? No water gushing, no magic wand or swooping angels, no ritual to perform? Just get up and walk?
I wonder what preconceptions are keeping us from getting up and walking? I wonder how many solutions we need to put aside in favor of a God-given solution?
Our dear Father God is more than happy to hear our cries. He doesn’t always answer right away–after all, this lame man waited 38 years for that moment of healing, when the perfect time had come. And physical healing is not always His plan, either. This lame man could best glorify God by getting up and walking. A modern-day quadriplegic, Joni Eareckson Tada testifies to His faithfulness another way. In her book A Place of Healing, she says:
“Little did I know…that in due time, God would heal me–but on a level I would have never dreamed….I found the very peace and contentment that had eluded me. I also found joy, simply because I had embraced His will for my life.
And what is His will?
That you and I be in the best position, the best place, the timeliest circumstance in which God can be glorified the most.
For me that place just happens to be a wheelchair.
That happens to be my place of healing.”
What I learn from this story of the crippled man is that we dare too little. We think too small. We plan and theorize and, in the end, God staggers us with His wonders.
Sisters, we don’t have to be anxious about all the pieces of life that don’t seem to be falling into place. We have such a tiny perspective. From our view, we can’t see any way for our needs to be met.
But the One in control doesn’t have the same view as we do.
He has plans so wonderful that we can’t imagine them. He doesn’t need matter to speak a world into existence. He doesn’t need our help to meet our needs.
We don’t need perfect plans. We need to encounter Jesus, expecting glories that we cannot imagine.
He won’t disappoint.
“I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement—that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ—and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself!
Now to him who by his power within us is able to do far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine—to him be glory in the Church through Jesus Christ for ever and ever, amen!
– from Ephesians 3:14-21, Phillips paraphrase –