It was called the House of Mercy for a
reason, for it was one of the most broken places in all the city. There a great multitude of disabled people used
to lie: the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.
And one man, in particular, had been there for thirty-eight years. That’s a long time! John does not tell us his name, but does tell
us that the man was an invalid (astheneia), literally meaning one without
strength. Luckily for him, Jesus
always shows up in the broken places—both then and now.
Jesus saw (eidō) him sitting there on his mat. Oh, how long had it been since this man had
been truly seen? How long has it been
since you have been truly seen? Yet, Jesus
saw into him, as he does into you. He didn’t
just see the brokenness of his body, but, more importantly, he saw the
brokenness of his heart and soul. And
when he saw him and learned that he had been in this condition
for a long time, Jesus asked the man a question: “Do you want to get well?” Or, literally, “Do you want to be whole?” Which, on the surface, seems like a
ridiculous question, but, in reality, is anything but that. It is actually quite profound. Not only profound then, but also profound
now. For all of us, like the
strength-less man, are, deep within, resistant to change. We have grown oddly comfortable in our
brokenness, our dysfunction, and our sin.
So when Jesus asks us that question, he is really asking us: “Do you
really want to get well? I mean, really?” He doesn’t ask this to shame us, but to
awaken us to a quality of life and wholeness and freedom that he desires for
us; one that life on the mat can
“I have no one to help me,” replied the broken man, “whenever the water
is stirred up someone else gets into the pool ahead of me.” A telling answer to a profound question. Luckily, Jesus was there to help. He was there to make the broken whole again,
even if the broken are resistant to the responsibilities of a changed, whole
“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk,” Jesus told the man. “If you really want to be well, I can make
you well. But it will mean that you have
to get up from where you are, pick up your mat, and walk. If I make you well, you can’t simply return
to life on the mat again. You can’t simply
return to your old ways of being and seeing; everything must change. Life with me requires movement. I want you to be healed and whole and
free. And immediately the man was
healed; he picked up his mat, left his old ways, patterns, and dysfunctions
behind, and started a whole new life.
The bottom line in the spiritual life is that something must die within
us, in order to make room for something beautiful to be born. What is that for you? What needs to die within you? How do you need to get up? What mat do you need
to pick up? What life do you need to
leave behind? And what beautiful thing
does God want to do within you as a result?
God wants to do a work of healing, wholeness, freedom, and beauty within
you, the only question is: “Do you want to get well?”