2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 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.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
It’s not an easy question to answer, is it: Do you want to be made well? You’d think it would be! Who wouldn’t want to get up and walk after 38 years.
But if you’ve survived in your illness for that long, you’ve learned how to manage. You know what your battles are and how to get from day to day. Maybe the prospect of moving into a larger life is daunting. You know how to live on alms. How will you make your living, you who have no connections and no skills, once you are healed? I can imagine that a truthful answer to this question might be I don’t know.
But that’s not the answer the man gives. Instead, he makes it clear he wants to get down to the pool, but he might want to do that simply for refreshment and renewal, to face another day in his unchanged state. After 38 years, it must be pretty clear that that pool is not going to heal him.
So, he gives a meandering answer that is no answer. Is he touched in the head?
I imagine Jesus listening. Maybe the man is mentally ill, too. Or hasty, or clueless. Or maybe his life has become so crabbed and limited that he can no longer imagine anything else. Jesus listens through the off-kilter answer that is all the man can give, and then he heals him.
Jesus looks, and listens, and decides to give the gift that a confused and scattered person can barely conceive of, but desperately needs.
Sometimes I imagine Jesus sitting beside me. I should do it more often. By writing this, I’ve reminded myself.
January 26, 2021 COVID-19 Infections and Deaths