The Proof of the Spiritual Cure
John 5:1-14

“The proof of spiritual cure, is our rising and walking.
Has Christ healed our spiritual diseases– let us go wherever he sends us,
and take up whatever he lays upon us; and walk before him.” ~Matthew Henry

~~~~~

It was the Feast of Weeks in Jerusalem— a time for celebration, festivities, and great joy.  The people of the land had pilgrimaged from both near and far, and the streets of the holy city overflowed with a bustling excitement.  The young people danced and waved barley sheaths; songs and laughter filled the air as the first fruits of the harvest were brought in with great joy.

But not all feasted.  Not all celebrated, and not all rejoiced. 

Just through the Sheep Gate, adjacent to the Temple complex, there was situated, “a place for the sick, called Bethzatha.”  Two trapezoidal pools were surrounded and joined by towering colonnades, creating five covered walkways, or porches, and thus providing a place of protection—a shelter and shade from the arid desert heat, and also from the rain. 
“Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed.”

Yet a few who lay there-especially during this week, were filled with hope and great expectation—
 These porches were always full, it seemed, but were especially so during the solemn feasts.  During such times, those who lay, afflicted, could hear, just a short ways off, the joyful singing and shouting of the throng—serving as a searing reminder of their miserable state.
For an angel of the Lord went down at appointed seasons into the pool and moved and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in, was cured of whatever disease with which he was afflicted.”
How many such miracles had taken place during the appointed feasts alone? Yet…it had been some time since the last stirring, and the faith of some dwindled.

Now at this time, there lay by the pool, “a certain man who had suffered with a deep-seated and lingering disorder for thirty-eight years.”

38 years certainly felt like a lifetime to this one…yet perhaps—we are not told—at one time, he had been well and whole—was he tortured by his own memories of walking and running and dancing in the city streets?  
 
Surely in lying here at the water’s edge for so long, he had witnessed countless spirit-stirrings over the years.  He knew the power was real.  He had seen it; witnessed miracles first-hand.  And so–it would seem this man was capable of possessing great faith.

Yet…as time passed, how many others were healed in his stead? 

How many times had he crawled and struggled towards the bubbling waters, only to be passed over while another received favor?  Surely he had counted each and every one.  Daily he pushed back fear and doubt and bitterness, never quite realizing how tightly despair had taken hold of his weary heart.   

Others came and went from this place.  Yet he remained.
Mostly alone now, he lay by the pool, accustomed to life in the shadows of the porches. 

Being unable to move his legs, he had learned to crawl and drag himself awkwardly about using his upper body, which was, by now, disproportionately strong compared to his weak and shriveled lower body. 
No doubt this man knew the exact place where the water had last been stirred in these pools, and had now positioned his bedroll in such a place to give him the clearest, most advantageous view of the waters.  And so he lay—crippled, but vigilantly watching and hoping. 
His eyes were ever fixed upon the pool—searching for the slightest movement.  Having seen it before so many times, he knew what to look for.  And this time—if indeed the angel would stir the waters during the feast—he would not miss it!
It was now Sabbath.
And so it happened, as this time, that Jesus went up to Jerusalem,” making his way into the city, by way of the Sheep Gate.  From there, rather than going up to the Temple complex with the throng, he walked instead towards the Pools of the sick. 

To Bethzatha.

Through the din and into the crowded porches, teeming with blind, lame and paralyzed—the sick who knew no Sabbath rest—Jesus walked.
As He slowly weaved his way among the afflicted, many of those whom He brushed or passed sensed a peculiar presence stirring in their midst. 

Those with despondent eyes and downcast spirits, lifted their faces to attention. Restless souls became more restless still as the Holy One moved among them. 
 
And though their eyes were yet holden to recognize Him, hearts quickened and hope lifted as He passed. 

Some who could sit up, straightened slowly. 

Those who could see, strained their eyes, and turned their gaze and attention…towards the waters.  For surely, this peculiar presence meant that the angel was now approaching the pool! 

A few, with tingling expectation, and quivering spirits, began to inch slowly from their places towards the water’s edge…

Something was indeed stirring, as Jesus moved in their midst, but the man by the water’s edge sensed it not. 

For the waters themselves were quiet and calm; there was not even a small ripple from the wind—all was still.  His fierce gaze pierced the place where he had last seen the waters stir—indeed, this place was only a few feet from him now.  And so he watched and waited in stubborn, crippled silence.

Except…a shadow now blocked the light of the sun, and the pool seemed to grow darker for a moment.  The man strained and refocused his eyes, never looking away from the waters.

This was no help, though, for a tall, robed man had unexpectedly approached, and had now stopped just in front of him, standing between him and the waters—and blocked his view of the pool! 

Indeed, the stranger was standing so close that the man could reach out and touch his robes, if he chose.

Agitated, the sick man grumbled to himself—is there not enough space for this one elsewhere?  Does he not see this is my place? 

Irritated at having lost sight of the pool momentarily, the man stretched his neck, craning to see past the stranger, and waiting for him to move on. 

Surely he did not think he could come and take up a place here, between me and the waters—indeed not!  Ah!—there…finally, he is moving on—but lo!  He has moved even closer!  See now, how his robes are even touching me!  Does he not see me down here?  Aack! And how he blocks my sight!  Will he not move on?  Why does he go on standing here?  Who does he think he is?

Yet in the midst of his murmuring, the man’s heart suddenly leaped from deep within, and his spirit began to tremble and quake.  Ho! He knew this feeling well! 
Indeed, thought he, this was the stirring before THE stirring!  Yes, it was time!  Here was his chance!  If only he could see what was happening!

Desperate, the man now used his strong arms to push against this stranger in his way, determined to see what was happening just beyond him, and to make his way to the water’s edge. 
Groping and groaning, he tried pulling himself to a sitting position, when suddenly, a quiet, but commanding voice interrupted his reeling thoughts—
“Do you want to become well?” 
Surprised, the man suddenly realized it is this very stranger, standing above him, who had addressed him thus.  Yet, something about the way in which he asked was…almost offensive to the lame man.  It was as if he were challenging him–asking, “do you really, earnestly want to become well?”
What an absurd and insulting thing to ask, thought the sick man, and ignored the question altogether. 

Fixated now on finding his own way into the pool, an idea formed quickly in his mind…

Ah! Perhaps from his higher vantage point, this stranger could see the waters stirring—yes! Why else would he ask such a question of me unless he has taken pity on me, knowing there is, even now, and opportunity for my healing! 

Yes, yes!  That’s it!  What divine providence!  This one has been sent, for this very moment, that I may use him to enter the healing waters!  Here, at last, is my chance!
And in that moment, frantic thoughts flood his mind. 

Glancing anxiously about, still scanning the pool, the man stammers to the stranger–SIR! I—I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up!”
O help me, please! his longing heart cries!

Yet this stranger remained still, looking down upon him with kind and gentle eyes—or—was his gaze cruel and uncaring?  For he almost seemed amused at the sick man’s helpless state.  Why does he not respond?  What does he wait for?
The Stirring Spirit is heavy now—almost thick in the porch where the sick man lay. Desperate beads of sweat formed on his forehead as he used his arms to pull himself forward. 
I must not delay another moment or I will surely miss my chance! 

Yet each movement is impossibly painful and difficult.  Realizing his worst fears are quickly becoming a reality, the sick man looks up once more at this silent, uncaring stranger, and pleadingly— with desperate tears now spilling from his eyes, confesses—“and while I am trying to get into the water, someone else goes down before me!”

Overcome with despair, the man now hangs his head and sobs. 
He is ashamed of both his tears and his doubt, and realizing, once again, the futility of his own efforts, he collapses to the ground in defeat.
And then
At the sick man’s final confession and realization of utter helplessness, Jesus Messiah, steps back, revealing himself more fully, and commands the lame man—
“Stand up! Pick up your mat…and walk!”
Surely heaven held its breath for this moment–

When, after coming to the end of himself–having abandoned his own plans, and exhausted every objection, this desperate, sick man determined to obey the impossible command of a peculiar stranger whose name he did not know. 

And– Instantly the man became well and recovered his strength and picked up his bed and walked!”
He walked. 
He walked!
(Surely he ran and leaped and danced as well!)



And where did he go from there, we may wonder? 

Not surprisingly, we read that a bit later, Jesus found him at the Temple–no doubt, worshipping the Most High God with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength!

Oh, the self-righteous scoffed and scorned and raged (John 5:10-18) but this man cared not! 
He unashamedly took his bedroll with him, as a reminder, and he walked—proving his healing with each step that he took.

And so he went forth, careful to obey the words of his Healer—

“Look,” Jesus had warned him, “You have become well.  Do not sin any more, lest anything worse happen to you.”

~~~~~

Friend, a choice lies before you in this place.

Perhaps when you first arrived here, you enjoyed the shade and protection of these porches. You believed this to be a house of healing, not a place of sickness and despair. 
Discouraged and weak, you remained, and after a while, you learned how to survive in this place, even becoming proud and strong and self-reliant in your weakness. 
Yet pride and fear have kept your lifeless legs from moving on.


Will you remain in this place, burdened with your affliction, too terrified to look away from the stagnant waters where you’ve placed your hope? 
Do you believe this to be faith, as you stubbornly rely upon your own plans and limited strength?

Even in your crippled state, are you determined still, to make your own way? 

Do you not see?
The Beloved Physician approaches!

He has never been far from you, and never nearer than in this moment.

But He requires first that you turn your eyes away from this place.
The gentle Savior lovingly invites you to trust Him with the impossible.

Are you looking, dear one? 
Are you listening? 

In the quiet, He challenges you now with this simple question:

Do you want to become well?

He does not ask, “can you?”.  He asks, simply,”do you want to?”

He already knows you cannot.  He knows the impossibility of what you are facing.
Beloved, He knows!–and it’s why He’s come now.

Will you, in your human pride and knowledge and experience, tell Him, in that moment, that you know better than He, or that the Way He offers is not what you would have chosen or expected? 
Will you push Him aside when He offers you healing and hope?

While you sit and wait by the pools for a miracle, He comes and stands now between you and the waters.

Beloved, He is not here to help you into the pool, as you have asked and expected. 

He comes to ask that you surrender it. 

He will not do it your way.  He will do it His way, that you will be unable to boast in it.  

The Master waits patiently for your response, before He bids you, “RISE, take up your bed, and WALK.” 

Have you the faith to obey?
If not, cry out to him in your doubt, “Lord, I believe! But help my unbelief!”
Then rise, in His strength–rise! —and forget not your bedroll–for it will serve as a reminder to you, and a testimony to others, of what He has done in you and for you.

But the real proof of your spiritual cure, is in your rising and walking.
Each step declares it. 

For by Him alone, strength is recovered.
Through Him alone, true rest is entered.

And from Him alone, new life is given.
Do you want to be made well?

If so, confess your doubts and fears, your pride and your utter inability, and trust Him to do the impossible.

Then rise, beloved one–rise and walk before Him!

© Joanna Silveira, 2011