There are days when I feel I took a wrong turn in life. Do you think that way? You see the streets filled with successful individuals living their best life. They always have the right words, boundless energy, and a razor-sharp focus and never seem to miss a beat.
But then there is me. I am sitting here stuck with memories of failed attempts, untamed anxiety, and unleashed worry. Do you feel that way?
There was once a man who John tells us about in the fifth chapter of the book of John. This man was disabled and had been sitting by a mysterious pool for thirty-eight years, hoping to be healed. Legend had it that an angel would occasionally stir the waters, and you would be healed if you were lucky enough to get in the pool first.
He Is The Face Of Every Man
I’ve been thinking about this passage a lot. That face could be you or me. He is the face of a man in a coffee shop sitting alone, trying to figure out life. He is the face of a woman striving to become a success or the young college student trying to figure out what to do in life. His face is every man and woman. We are stuck in some capacity, even if it’s only in our fearful imaginations. If only we could get in that holy pool, I, too, would be healed.
There he sat, long past the prime of his life, with hope fading like a childhood memory.
All thirty-eight years, this man saw all the healthy, lucky people walking the streets who somehow didn’t make such bad choices as the ones that put him in this sad predicament. What Jesus said in a later conversation implied that his sin put him in this dilemma.
When we are young and free, we don’t think much of it, but for many, those youthful decisions have left them haunted and paralyzed from moving forward.
Here he was, alone and without hope, but then something happened. Jesus saw him.
Here Jesus was. Not with a list of rules to shame him for his past mistakes; Jesus saw him there in his broken state.
Jesus Sees Each Of Us and Our Brokeness
And like that man, Jesus sees all of us. He sees our brokenness and pain. Jesus sees the failures that left us paralyzed and kept us from moving forward. He sees our brokenness, something we were never meant to experience, but we did.
No one dreams of ending up broken, and no one dreams of growing up to be crippled by anxiety. This man did not dream of spending his life begging in the prime of his life, and no man or woman does.
There in his tired eyes, this man looked up at Jesus. He knew nothing of Jesus. He hadn’t heard the Christmas stories of glad tidings with great joy, and he never listened to the angels sing, much less stir the waters. All he did was look up at a man whose name he did not know. It could have been any man standing before him. Jesus was not glowing and didn’t appear any different from any man that day.
Then this man named Jesus asked him, “do you want to be made well?”
The man answered, “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.”
It could very well have been you or I. In my tired eyes, I looked up at a man who asked, “do you want to be made well?” How would I answer? How would you answer this stranger standing before you? I suppose we might say the same thing, “sir, there is now one who wants to help, and everyone else seems to get there first.”
The story ends well for this man. Jesus heals him. Jesus tells him to stand up and take his bed home. It’s a beautiful story, and we cheer for the man who stands for the first time in thirty-eight years.
As we read this story, we think about our own lives and see those things that have crippled us; our anxieties, broken relationships, failed attempts, and so on. Like the man, we have excuses for never getting in and being healed.
For a time, in my despair, I wondered how I could apply this to myself. Do I need faith to believe more, or what? How do I wrap this up in my own life?
If this was our first time reading about Jesus and the first time reading this story, we may wonder what happens next. Maybe we would think the man standing before the disabled man might say, “well I’ll be praying for you,” or “I hope you get some help.”
But that’s not what happened. A miracle happened. Jesus spoke to the man, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately, the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.”
I have read this passage time and again. It’s a beautiful story, and we cheer for the man and this miracle that had just taken place.
Writing this, I struggled with what words to put next. How does the story go for you or me, and how do we get up from our self-pity? Is there healing for us? Do we end the story and say, well, that was nice? Good for that man, and then we go about our own lives? Or was there something else for us?
The story doesn’t end with that man still at that pool. He got up. He went on, and who knows what he did after that? We are told very little about these people that Jesus healed. How did they go about living their lives?
His Story Becomes Our Story
We may be left to fill in the blanks because the stories become our stories. We are the ones now to get up and tell the rest of the story. It’s our turn to get up against the odds. We can put aside our excuses, forgive that person who did us wrong, love that unloveable person, or be healed from raging anxiety. We can get up and go, just as Jesus said.
We don’t have to know how all these things will work out. The bills may still be waiting, the job will still be there tomorrow, and the problematic situation is still there, but at this current moment, the only thing we need to do is listen to Jesus and get up.
In all our pain and disappointments. In all our joy and happiness. In everything we call being human, we can arise because Jesus stood before us.
For thirty-eight years, the man thought getting in the pool was the answer. There may be things you and I believe are the answer, just as this man felt. What did you need? Well, never mind that now; get up, take up your stuff and go.