Knowing the Healer

In John 5, Jesus is on his way back in to Jerusalem when he comes across a colony of blind, lame, and paralyzed people. The colony is centered around a pool called the Pool of Bethesda and everyone believed that angels would occasionally stir the pool giving it healing powers. They thought that the first one in the pool after the stirring would be healed.

Jesus walked up to a paralyzed man laying on the ground who had been that way for 38 years. Jesus knew that he had been paralyzed for that long and asks him, “Do you want to be well?” The man replies, “I can’t sir because I have nobody to put me in the water.” The man was fixated on the pool and thought that it was the only cure for his illness. Jesus taught him better by saying “Pick up your mat and walk.” So, the man did and without a word, picked up his mat and walked out to the temple grounds.

I can only imagine the scene. To hear that Jesus healed someone does not seem to stir any emotion in us anymore because we know that Jesus went around healing a lot of people and we tend to take this for granted. This event, must have been something amazing to witness, however. The man was frozen in one position and probably couldn’t even move his head very much. So he is staring up at the sky all day, every day for 38 years. Blue skies, grey skies, rain, thunderstorms, this is all he sees. Who knows what the weather was like that day, but I picture a blue sky with a few clouds. The man is lying there staring at a cloud as it passes by his field of vision and he imagines what shape the cloud resembles.

Just when the cloud was almost past where he could see it, a shadow fell over his face and a man who was covered in dust from his long journey stood over him and looked down on him with pity. After staring at each other for a few minutes, the dusty traveler speaks. “Do you want to be healed?” What did the man think about this wanderer? He most likely had a feeling of contempt. How many times had peope stood over him and teased him by asking him that same question? How many times had mockers made a false offer to take him to the pool just to walk away and leave him there? Who was this man? “Do I want to be healed? Dang this prankster for toying with me!” But somehow, this man with dirty feet but gentle eyes was different. The look on his face was one of genuine compassion. He may have been an escapee from the adjoining psych ward, but he genuinely wanted this man to be healed.

So, why not give it a try? Maybe the man was a joker and when the man made an effort to stand up nothing would happen just like every other time. The man would have a good laugh at his expense and go on his way. But something felt different this time. Felt? Oh my God, he could actually fFEEL for the first time in 38 years! This wasn’t just the simple healing of nerve endings and muscle motor response – this man had been on the same bed for 38 years in the same position. Imagine the sores he must have had all the way down his back and legs. Imagine how atrophied his muscles must have been. Expecting those muscles to support him would have been like putting a brick on jello and expecting it not to sink. He was used to having to rely on people to feed him, to carry him out of the rain, to come and stand over him in his line of sight so they could be seen. But this time, it was different! There was no laughing or mocking grin. THIS time, he could feel his limbs and they felt great! His limbs responded when he placed his hand on the ground to push himself up and he stood face to face with a human being for the first time since his youth! No longer was he being carried around on his mat, but this time, he was rolling up that mat and carrying it.

The man went to the temple grounds where all of the crowds were for the upcoming holiday. He walked by the Pharisees and in their typical fashion, they rebuked him for carrying his mat on the Sabbath. Why did he go to the Pharisees in the first place? Did he just happen to wander past them or did he have a purpose? I like to think that he went there to gloat. I like to think that he danced a little jig and said “Check THIS out! For the past 38 years you have been stepping over and around me and were unwilling and unable to do what this stranger has done for me. And now, I stand before you on my own two legs!” We do know that when he was scolded by the Pharisees he told them that it was the man who healed him who commanded him to carry his mat. The Pharisees asked, “Who is this man who told you to do such a thing?” They didn’t say, “Wow! Who has this power to heal like this?” Instead, they just wanted to know who was commanding people to break the law.

What is this mat that the man had to carry? I think it represented everything that carried him along in life. It was his complacency, his fear, his lust, and everything else that paralyzed him. Don’t we all have our safe little beds that we make to lie in so that we don’t have to take on the world? Why do we even bother? Sometimes the world brings us down when we are called to something great and so it is just easier to give up and wallow in our complacency. Plato said that “Complacency is the refuge of those who have lost the dream.” I repeat this quote often because I think it is so important. Do we still have a dream or have we lost it somewhere along the way?

The interesting thing is that the man didn’t know who had healed him. He replied to the Pharisees when asked that he didn’t know who the healer was because he had disappeared into the crowd. Jesus found him again, though, and said “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” Sin? What sin? We don’t know for sure, but perhaps it was the sin of not kowing the healer. Sometimes we think that we can solve our own problems and deal with everything ourself so we forget that we have been healed and who did the healing. All the while the man thought the pool was his only hope to get well when in reality, Jesus was the only true healer. Don’t we sometimes forget the healer and then when the going gets too rough, we give up and go back to our mats to be carried around and left in paralysis from doing anything of substance or meaning?

“Stop sinning or something even worse may happen to you.” During that time, illness and sin were thought to be directly connected. Remember when the disciples asked Jesus about the blind man in John 9:2? “Why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” We tend to think of this as ridiculous today, but is it really? Don’t we get caught up in sinning and doing things that we don’t need to be doing and end up getting hurt ourselves as a result? I sure do. Maybe we just have to change our patterns so that “something worse doesn’t happen” to us.

So, I ask again, why bother? Perhaps it is just to know we tried. When we lie down on our mat for the last time and prepare to enter our final resting place, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to look back over our lives and say we tried? Hasn’t God called us to greater and better things than we persue now? I want to leave you with these words from Teddy Roosevelt. I hope they inspire you as they do me. May you know the healer and may he set you free.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.



One Response to “Knowing the Healer”

  1. Randall Baxley Says:

    Met you today. Read some of your site and blog today. More later.

    Randy, Christian, Preacher, Creeker, Pride FST

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