Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath…(John 5:1-9)
For 38 years he sat. On the same mat, in the same spot, and with the same people.
day after day
week after week
month after month
year after year
Come with me and sit on his mat for a moment. Place it as close to the waters’ edge as possible. Some days the stirring comes early, and other days it is right before sun down. Who knows today? So I wait. This is the kind of waiting that drains the energy right out of my body, like a balloon slowly losing air. The sun is beating down as sweat trickles down my forehead making mud in the dusty Jerusalem sand. I hear people bustling to and from the temple. They are coming to trade, to shop, and to worship. It is the same people, the same sounds, and the same conversations day after day.
And then, all of the sudden, I see the bubbles begin to make their way to the surface of the pool. There is a fleeting moment of inspiration, and I begin my slow and painful descent into the water. My old, tired muscles threaten to give way as I lift and lower myself down. Just as my lifeless legs are about to be submerged, I see my friend, the very one I was chatting with moments ago, cut me off and lower himself into the pool. My rightful healing is stolen out from under me. Again. Just as it was the day before and the day before that, and just as it will be tomorrow.
The monotony of a perpetually disappointing routine has crushing effects on a life. In fact, it can drain the “life” right out of you.
John invites his readers to consider: “Does the man want to get well?“
And we have to wonder, if he does, why would the man not implement a new strategy, recruit some help, or increase evening push-ups to gain strength? I want to yell at him: “TRY SOMETHING ELSE! Sheesh. Because 38 years is a long time.”
And Jesus asks the man: “Do you want to get well?”
But the man only offers an excuse: “I have no one…” (5:7).
Jesus responds: “Get up take your bed and walk” (John 5:8). Get up. The Greek word is εγειρε. It means “to raise up, arise, or come back to life.”
It is the same word John uses in 5:21: ‘For just as the Father raises (εγειρει) the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.“
Come back to life. Resurrection is a theme in John’s gospel. And it takes many forms.
A dead son.
A dead purpose.
A dead soul.
A dead marriage.
A dead party.
A dead Joy.
This was the state of the nameless man who came back to the healing pool day after day.
Have you been there? Stuck in a routine that leads to death. The death of a friendship, a marriage, purpose, or joy? Or the kind of spiritual death that comes when the soul is no longer fed?
Jesus comes to us in the midst of routines and realities that threaten to consume us, and He invites us to step into a different story. Step into a new way of being and interacting with the world. Step into a new creation. A new life.
But do you want to get well?
Jesus asks us, as he asked the lame man: “Do you want a different reality because this is going to be more than just walking instead of crawling? This is going to be a whole new life.”
Get up, take your mat and walk.
The invitation out of death and into life still stands. Resurrection is still a reality for the Jesus follower.
So roll up that mat. Because true healing usually requires something of us, doesn’t it?
Jesus invites us to walk in the new creation way, now.
Kelly Edmiston Youth and Family Minister First Colony Church of Christ Sugar Land, Texas