IN THOSE DAYS, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a Jewish feast. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew "Bethesda," which has five porticoes (porches). In them lay many sick people - blind, lame, and paralyzed, waiting for the stirring of the water, for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water. And whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was made well from whatever disease that person had.
One man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, He said to the man, “Do you want to be made well?” 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.” And Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Now that day was a Sabbath, so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The Man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there.
Later Jesus found the man 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.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Christ is risen!
38 years is a long time. It's a lifetime actually. The man spent 38 years in paralysis. In a time when there was no such thing as financial (or any other) assistance for a disability, it meant that the man spent all these years begging in order to survive. That's all he knew, this was the craft he had ample of time to perfect.
So, when Jesus asks the man, "Do you want to be made well?" he has a very serious "business" decision to make here. Never mind the fact that if anyone were to ask us this question today, the first thing we would probably say is, "How?" This is not were the man's thinking goes, and it's not the reason Christ is asking him.
The answer to Christ's question is not a simple "Yes" or "No." Once again, the man had been paralyzed for 38 years. He spent all those years begging. That's all he knew. A radical change in his life, such as being healed, would require him to rethink and change almost everything else in his life. He would have to go out and find work, become part of the society, rely on himself, not others.
Therefore, Jesus asks him, "Do you want to be made well?" The Lord is giving the man an opportunity to think through what he wants, to weigh all the pros and cons, to make the decision without rush. Every change we make in our life, no matter how small or great, leads to other changes in other aspects of our life.
We get a hint that the man had already made up his mind even before Jesus encountered him. The paralyzed man spent his days at this mystical (even magical) pool. Maybe next time we'll take a closer look at what's going on with the pool. But the point is, he was there, he was trying to find healing. He knew what he wanted. He had a lot of time to think about what life might be after being healed.
An important aspect of this story is change never happens in isolation. We spend time in prayer, asking God for some specific things, changes, in our life. We desire them, perhaps we firmly make up our mind that we need those changes. But we always need to keep in mind that even the smallest change can radically transform our life.
For example, if I want to lose weight (something I personally have been working on), then I have to reconsider my diet, my sleeping habits, my exercise. I can't just change one aspect and get the desired outcome. If I want to spend more time with my family, then I need to figure out how I spend my time in general. Even if it leads me to track my time hour by hour to see what it is wasted and where it is spent productively. If I am praying for healing of any sort, or stability and consistency in life, then I should be re-evaluating everything because change does not happen in isolation.
The man was healed from paralysis, the first and obvious change was that he was able to walk. But that was only the beginning of his journey.
What change are you praying and hoping for? What your life will look like when it happens?
For last year's reflection, click here.
Yours in the risen Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest