1 After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids — blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” 18 For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the Sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.
I turn 33 today. For some, it's just another year, yet it feels significant to me. In particular, I've started thinking of it as my Jesus year.
The year when his ministry hit critical mass. The year when he came into his own. The year when his life changed forever. The year in which he experienced both a death and a resurrection.
My intention when I woke up this morning was to leave a bad habit behind. With the stress of being unemployed getting to me, I relapsed back into smoking, something I'm not proud of. Despite making it through the first 12 hours without a cigarette, I cracked and got another pack. And then, not so coincidentally, I decide, "Hey, let's take a look at the devotional reading for today and decide if I feel like writing - since I've been a slacker the last week." And wham, there it is...
...do you want to be made well
The man in the story was so stuck in his own feelings of powerlessness that he couldn't see the opportunity for healing right in front of him. Jesus could have waited around for the waters to be stirred, ordered his disciples to pick up the man, and the same result could have been effected. Instead, he jumps right to the heart of the man's issue and tells him to stand up and walk. No waiting for the waters to magically turn on. No waiting for someone else to come to the rescue. Just get up and be made whole.
Imagine the story if the man had just sat there, eyes looking at Jesus as if to say, "What the hell are you talking about? I can't walk. Are you effing kidding me?" Instead, we have a story of Jesus reminding someone of their own power to accept something they think they don't deserve. No waiting for a savior to rescue them. No grovelling in self-pity because no one loves them enough to make sure they get better. Simply healing and being put back together.
I don't know what the next year holds in store for me, for any of us. But I can't help but believe that healing is not a matter of waiting for some quick fix or a rescue. All we have to do sometimes is hear the invitation, stand up, and walk.
**If you want to follow along with the devotional lectionary I’ll be using for this series, you can find it here via Pittsburgh Theological Seminary**
photo credit: Michael Overman