Why not one of the others who lay in waste in similar want and need?
Why single this particular man out at the Bethesda Pool near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem?
This was my question as I read these words:
Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]
A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?”
The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”
Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.
New American Standard Version, John 5: 2-9
We don’t know exactly what ailed this man. Yet, according to the Greek transliterated word for ill, astheneia, it meant the man was feeble, frail, needy, and poor. His body and soul failed him. Without strength, lacking in capacity and despairing of hope, the man’s wretched day to day existence garnered no attention and no inspiration.
For thirty-eight years, the man lay frustrated by his infirmities and inabilities. He succumbed to a prostrate position of despondency. He had no power or strength to help himself. He had no one to assist him. No family. No friend. No advocate. No support. No one would assist this deplorable, poverty-stricken, impotent man to step into the pool of promise. His lack of support and community only heightened his need, his affliction and his isolation year upon year upon year.
Until one miraculous, heart, body, and soul transformative day when the man would encounter Jesus.
Why had Jesus come to this place of disease, infirmity, and deficiency?
He had come to meet a man he knew – but who did not know him!
Jesus knew the poor man’s heart, understood his infirm condition, and appreciated his impossible need. When no one else came to the man’s aid, nor to the man’s side, Jesus sought out and regarded the prostrate, desolate man.
Jesus purposely came near.
Jesus asked the needy and poor man,
“Do you wish to get well?”
Why did Jesus ask that?
Wasn’t it obvious that the man desired healing – since he had positioned himself near healing waters for much of his life?
Yet, just because we ask for something we desire, doesn’t necessarily mean that we really want the change we seek. We often grow very comfortable with and very accustomed to our pain, our infirmities, our challenges, and our hardships. Our life stories become intricately linked to each struggle as we allow our identity and purpose to be defined and shaped by our shame and our pain. Thus, Jesus probed the man’s heart to see if he truly desired restoration.
The man did.
Then Jesus said to the man,
“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!”
Note what Jesus did not say: “Take a step into the water and be healed.”
No, the waters that ebbed and flowed near the man for years and years and years would serve no purpose in the man’s life now. His healing and restoration would come through the Living Water of Jesus Christ. The spoken command of Jesus compelled the man to obey and seek his revival from Him.
Jesus gave the man the strength and power he needed to stand.
Jesus bestowed the mercy and grace the man needed to walk.
Jesus lifted the burden of cares, the weight of infirmities, and the futile impossibilities from the man’s body – soul-strengthening and soul-encouraging him to carry forward in life with resilient, life-affirming hope.
Jesus gave the Divine Word which served as the Divine Strength to establish the Divine Healing.
I don’t know exactly why this unnamed man was chosen for restoration near the pool of Bethesda. He could have been the most deplorable, the most helpless, and the most hopeless. He could have been the most desperate, too, after a long and lonesome thirty-eight year wait.
But, why not this man?
His position, his disability, his despair, and his lack of regard did not deny him the touch and care of the Savior. In response, the man acknowledged his great need and his great want. This worthy man was helped and made whole and sound again.
What an encouragement to me! I hope this word encourages you, too.
Jesus came to the man – because He knew him and knew his need.
Jesus inquired of the man – taking a personal and affecting stand in the man’s life.
Jesus helped and healed the man in the moment and for eternity.
Take heart, my friends.
I am certain you have any number of needs as I do.
Our heart-sore needs could encompass anything – related to our hope, our purpose, our desires, our relationships with family and/or friends, our work, our dreams, our frustrations, our loneliness, our fears, our ailments, our infirmities, our suffering, and more, more, more – but the wondrous encouragement is that Jesus knows about them, too.
We can seek His help and His advocacy.
We can ask for His strength and power.
We can rest in His grace and His sufficiency.
And we can be assured that where things look most hopeless, most desperate, and most uncertain, Jesus is there and at work.
He befriends us at our loneliest and most isolated of times.
Jesus assures us that we are not alone.
Friends, be encouraged by this amazing story of this nameless, once-greatly-infirmed man. His encounter with Jesus restored him and made him whole. Jesus can do the same for us – in our greatest places of need.
Let me pray for us:
We are touched deeply by your care of a man who others disregarded and neglected each year upon year. We can relate to the feelings of neglect, isolation, despondency, and inability as we struggle with our own needs. Your Word encourages us to give our cares and burdens to you. It may not be easy for us. Some of us have lived with our heart aches, fears, and struggles for such a long time. Yet, to be truly free in Christ, we know that these burdens are holding us back from how you want us to live as your people – wholly loved and wholly free. We don’t need to step into waters of promise. We just need to ask you, the Living Water, to flow into our lives and bring the generous hope and life-affirming healing we need to live in your Name. We seek you, now, O Lord. Meet us where we are. Inquire of our need. And restore us to wholeness and strength you offer so freely in You. We love you, Jesus.