Archives for May 2013
Text: John 5:1-9
Imagine this conversation:
Excuse me Jesus. What did you ask? Do I want to be made well? Do you know me? I’ve been coming to this pool for thirty-eight years ever since I was struck ill with this disease at age 10. Someone said that if I could get into this pool when the waters are stirred by an angel I might be cured – I might walk again. And so, for two years, my parents would bring me here every morning hoping that these waters might bubble up and I could be lowered into them. But when they didn’t see any results they stopped bringing me. After my parents stopped bringing me, my sister would come with me. That’s when she was younger. But she, too, got tired of the daily struggle and once she had a family of her own she had other priorities. After those early years, I figured it was just easier to stay here all the time so I haven’t left this porch in 38 years. Some of the people who come through the gate each day are generous and leave me enough food to survive on. Actually, the people here have become like family to me stopping to speak each day and sometimes even inquiring about how I am doing. Many of them have been coming here almost as long as I have. I guess, though, at 38 years I’ve been here the longest.
But back to your question Jesus: Do I want to be made well? As I said, I was ten when my legs became paralyzed. I was devastated to learn that I might not ever walk or run again. I had so many hopes and dreams of what I might become, of who I might be. These last 38 years have been hard as I have watched all those hopes and dreams whither, along with my legs. Each day sitting here, waiting for a miracle but knowing that I’m probably not going to get better. As I think about your question, I realize that at least here I know what to expect and I know all of the other people nearby. Come to think about it, I’ve kind of gotten used to being here. You ask, “Do I want to be made well?”
I’ve always found it odd that in this story the ill man never answered Jesus’ question: Do you want to be made well? Instead, he offers an excuse, “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.” From this side of the story it seems implausible that the man who had been lying by a pool for 38 years waiting to be healed would not have screamed “YES! Yes I want to be made well.” But that is not how the story is told. Have you ever wondered why? Why didn’t the man answer Jesus’ question and affirm his desire to be made well?
I have. And most recently, I have wondered if the ill man didn’t scream out yes because he was afraid, because he feared the cure more than the illness? Thirty-eight years he had been waiting to be healed, and when asked if he wanted to be healed he made an excuse. As I have thought about this text over the last several days, I have wondered if it is easier to make excuses for the parts of our lives that are not working for us – “I can’t get to the water Jesus; there’s always someone else who gets there first” – than it is to seek health and wholeness and balance and responsibility for our lives – to stand up, take our mat and walk?