By B.J. Funk –
For years, a man had stayed at the side of the pool of Bethesda, waiting with many other disabled folks for a chance to get into the water. It was thought that the pool of Bethesda held healing powers, and that when the miraculous water bubbled, the first one in the pool received healing. But this man, identified in John 5:2-9, was not able to move without help. Someone had to carry him to the pool in the morning and come back for him in the afternoon.
By the side of the pool, he had been so close, yet so far away from victory. He felt defeated and helpless to make the move into the bubbly healing waters. He was identified by his defeat. Hopeless Man. Forgotten Man. Lame Man.
He had been ill longer than the years Jesus lived on earth. Jesus died at 33, and this man had been ill for 38 years. But this new day would be different because Jesus happened to walk that way, compelled to stop and speak to this one stuck by the side of the pool. Jesus asked a question that penetrated into his soul.
“Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the man replied. “I have no one to help me in the water. While I am trying to get in, someone else gets in before me.”
Jesus said, “Get up. Pick up your mat and walk.” Immediately, this man was healed.
The mat that had held him for 38 years now became the mat that he held. The man who had been helpless was now hopeful. The Forgotten Man was now noticed. Jesus’ command to “Get up,” reached far into this man’s soul. He made the effort. He got up. He had a new name. Healed Man.
William Barclay writes, “Here is the road to achievement. There are so many things in this world which defeat us. When we have intensity of desire and determination to make the effort, hopeless though it may seem, the power of Christ gets its opportunity, and with Him we can conquer the things that for a long time have conquered us.”
As long as he was lying on a mat and not bothering anyone, he was not a problem for anyone. However, as soon as the religious folks learned he was carrying a mat on their holy day, he was immediately a problem. The rules of religion collided with the grace of God, and what should have been a beautiful moment was tarnished with tradition.
Loud words of “We don’t do that!” jumped all over Healed Man as religion pushed through, over, and around his miracle.
“It is the Sabbath! The law forbids you to carry your mat on the Sabbath!”
The United Methodist Church has been stuck by the side of a pool, lying on mats of difficulty and differences for more than 38 years. But, now we have picked up our mats of uncertainty and moved into the encouraging bubbly waters of grace.
As long as we have been lying on our mat and not bothering anyone, we posed no threat to anyone. However, as soon as we starting carrying our mats, others were not pleased. Different opinions clashed as we struggled to keep our beloved church afloat.
Then, Jesus comes along and asks the church, “Do you want to get well?” Something about that question reached deep into our soul.
We do. We are. We want our mats to hold us no longer. We feel confidence as the waters stir and the bubbles rise to the top. We are ready, with Christ, to conquer those things that for a long time have conquered us.
The healing waters of Bethesda show no partiality. Its miracle is for all United Methodist Christians.
You are invited. Come on in. The water is fine!