Scripture Reference: John 5:1-9
I am writing this in the first person as if I were the man who encountered Jesus at the pool of Bethesda. I invite you to be this man too. Try to see through his eyes, hear with his ears, and somehow, through this process, encounter the Lord Jesus in spirit and truth.
My memory doesn’t go back to before the accident because it happened when I was very small. A Roman officer was riding through our village when his horse was spooked by a snake that slithered out from under some baskets at the side of the road. My mother was carrying me in her arms when the horse crashed into her. I flew out of her grip and landed right under the terrified horse. Its hooves drove down on my legs and broke them like twigs.
My family moved to Jerusalem a few years later when I was about five years old. There is a pool there, near the Sheep Gate, where people like me are taken in the hope of being healed. You see, every so often the water in the pool bubbles and swirls and we all believe that an angel is stirring the water and will heal the first person who enters the water at this time. My brothers used to take me to this pool and leave me there for days on end with just my mat, a jar of water and some bread. Sometimes I was there when the water bubbled but I never could get into it first.
For years and years I had great hope that I would be healed and I pleaded with my brothers to stay with me at the pool so they could carry me in when the angel came and stirred the water, but they couldn’t because they had to work to provide food for us all. I can’t remember exactly when I lost hope, but one day I saw the waters beginning to churn and I just could care anymore. Something in me had died and hope deserted me.
Then one day, around nine in the morning, I was sitting on the stone decking surrounding the pool when I noticed a man enter the area. He was accompanied by a group of strong looking young men. Well, they looked young to me because I was over forty at the time. The man strode over and squatted down in front of me. He asked me what was wrong with me and how long I had been this way, and I told him my story. Then he looked at me for a long moment and asked, “Do you want to get well?” The first thought that raced through my mind was indignation; of course I wanted to be able to walk. But his eyes were gentle and a kindly smile played around his lips. He was not mocking me. I heard myself blurting out the reason why I couldn’t get to the water in time to be healed but he silenced me with a gesture. For a long moment I looked into his eyes and then I heard him saying, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk”. The babble of the crowd of people around me faded and it seemed as though this stranger and I were the only two in the universe.
At that very moment I felt the strangest sensation in my crippled legs. It felt like my blood had turned to liquid fire and was pouring down inside my limbs. My legs jumped and twitched and I had to shift my weight because my feet were suddenly uncomfortable under me. Without even thinking about it I pushed myself up onto my knees and then I… stood. My legs felt on fire but I was standing! I was standing! The man had told me to pick up my mat and walk, but before I stooped to gather up my little reed mat I looked intently into his face…