Deciding to Pick Up and Move On
There is something about moving forward that can’t be explained any other way than we are getting somewhere. For some reason though, so many people are paralyzed with waiting expectantly for something that there is hardly any chance of anything actually happening.
Put yourself into the scene of John 5:1–9 as one of the disabled people lying around the pool in Bethesda, let’s just say you’re paralyzed from the waist down. You sleep nearby and a blind man helps you to pass by the outer colonnades to a spot near the pool every day. Your day is spent just trying to get enough food to eat, maybe some cool water to drink and gazing intently at the waters constantly plotting in your mind what you’re going to do if you see the waters begin to stir. Every day you see the water stir a little bit and you begin your slow roll toward the water only to find out it wasn’t the miraculous stirring of the water but another bug just hitting the water. You’re discouraged, your hope has run down, you’ve been there so long that you can barely even breath anymore much less even hope that one day you could be healed and walk again.
Is It Me Laying By the Pool Waiting?
This passage in the Bible describes the people that surround the pool as a great number and it could be any one of us. How many times have you been paralyzed in fear because the money is drawing low in the bank, the economy is off and you’re wondering when the wheels are going to fall off and you’re going to find yourself in today’s version of the poorhouse? Or you’ve dreamed for ages of having children and it just isn’t happening? Or you’re single and you’ve dreamed of getting married and just can’t find the mate for you? Or you’ve been married for ages and you’re slowly drifting away from your mate and you’re wondering if God will show up and heal your marriage? Or you’re so overweight and out of shape that you can’t walk up and down the staircase at your home without being out of breath and in pain? Or you’re grossly underweight because everything you eat just flows right through you? And there you are by the side of the pool, waiting for a miraculous stirring of the water and hoping you’re the one who flings yourself into the waters to let the minerals stirred up enter your body and bring you miraculous healing. Desperately wanting the very thing you know you can’t have because you have hoped for so long it aches and brings you near tears every time you think maybe, just maybe this could be the day.
Being Set Free Doesn’t Happen Like We Think It Should
And suddenly he walks into the space around the pool. You can tell immediately that there is something different about this man. He doesn’t come offering alms or even bringing food or just checking out all the people lying around the pool like you’re a spectacle in a zoo, something to be observed by all the healthy and normal people that surround you in this world. No, this man strides into the room and his very presence stirs something in you. Just gazing at him, you begin to wonder who is he? What is he doing here? He seems so much greater than this room of social outcasts and invalids, but who is this man? Then as you lie there this man walks up to your friend, a man who has lain by this pool for 38 years, 38 long, long years. And breathlessly you observe this man bend down near your friend Jacob and you hear him ask Jacob the most curious question you’ve ever heard. “Do you want to get well?”
The skeptic doubter in you wants to scream in anguish “WHAT DO YOU THINK? NO, I WANT TO CONTINUE TO SPEND THE REST OF MY LIFE LYING BY THIS STUPID POOL HOPING I CAN ONE DAY BEAT ALL THE OTHERS INTO THE STIRRING WATERS!!!” There’s a part of you that’s angry but you watch this interaction and you’re amazed because Jacob doesn’t say any of what you want to scream. No, your friend merely says “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” You know the feeling well. It has happened to you many times before, nowhere near as long as the 38 years Jacob has been waiting by this pool, but still many more days and years than you’d like to count. You feel somewhat good for the person who makes it into the pool when the water is stirred but there is an immense amount of jealousy and bitterness deep in your soul that has no outlet to get out so it is like a bitter pill that you swallow each and every day. The thoughts that flow through your head “it’s just not fair”, “why was I born this way?”, “what kind of God would do this to people” and on and on and on your mind continues to spiral downward, ever downward into the abyss of thoughts where only darkness and fear and bitterness live.
The Unexpected Words
And you hear the man speak again and the words, how do you describe the words, they’re like nothing you’ve ever heard before and seemingly so out of place. The man doesn’t offer to sit with the man and wait for the water to stir. He doesn’t say “I will wait with you and pray with you to be the one who gets into the water. When that water stirs, I’m going to help you get into the water so you too can be healed.” This is what you are expecting the man to say so when you hear the words come out of his mouth, you’re befuddled. “What did he just say?” The words don’t seem to make sense as you hear them again and again. “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” And with that Jacob picks up his mat and he walks.
He walks straight out between the colonnades with nary a glance backward to you, his old friend. He doesn’t say a word to anybody along the way but the people lying under the cover of the colonnades all watch as Jacob, 38 years an invalid is standing and walking like a young man. His stride and his confident smile, he’s walking. How could Jacob be walking? You’re confused because if you hadn’t seen it with your own eyes you probably would never have believed it. But you look over to the spot where Jacob always lay, watching the waters and you know Jacob didn’t get in the water, in the back of your mind you know that if that water stirs you’re going to do everything you can in your power to get in that water before Jacob. Jacob isn’t there though, he has picked up his mat and he has walked off. He did it all because this man told him to. This man, who is this man? Does anybody know who he is? How can we find him? Maybe we could get him to tell us to be made whole again? If this man can do this for Jacob surely there is something about him that could make me whole also. Maybe this is the one of whom the prophets spoke, the One we have been looking for. Is it too much to ask for? That God would send one with the power to do miracles, to intervene on my behalf, to make me whole again. To restore hope to a broken life and a broken heart. I want to meet this man, how can I get around this man, where can I find him?
How Can I Too Find This Healing?
I desperately want to be near him. The thoughts and even fear that you’ll never see him again put you near panic mode as you desperately look all around you hoping that the man who told Jacob to pick up his mat and walk would come back and speak to you. In your heart of heart, you know that if he just speaks one word to you that you too will be made whole. You hope again. You dream again and you desperately look around for this unknown man.
And you don’t even know who this man is but you know that if you could just get near him everything would change in your life. This is the kind of man you want to get to know. Because you have spent so much time in your short life just lying around thinking you begin to think about what you just experienced and you begin to process everything you have seen and heard this day. As you process the sights, the sounds, the smells and most of all the words, the feelings and the thoughts.
As you quiet your heart and your thoughts five distinct things stick out in your mind from this day that will live on in your heart as you seek this man that can simply speak and miracles happen. You know that if you can just apply these to your life as you seek this man that you can live a whole life again and that you can maybe even live a full life, a life of victory instead of one defeat after another. You know that there is a huge God out there and you believe the promises you’ve heard of One yet to come, who is going to rule this world in a way that no religious leader or government head of state could ever rule because the One coming is going to bring the words of Isaiah to life in a new way.
You believe in your heart that just possibly this may be the one of Isaiah 55:1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters, and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” This man had that nature, he had that character and you want to draw near to him and the five things you have observed you know will help you to find this man and enter into a relationship with him. In fact, you are so desperate to get to know this man that you forget for a moment that you are paralyzed, that you can barely drag yourself around by your hands, dragging your useless legs around after you and all you are is desperate to find this man.
Five Keys to Relentless Forward Movement
These are the five things you observed about this man that make you desperately want to find him and embrace him on the chance that he may be the one of whom the prophets spoke, the future King of Israel, a ruler with compassion.
(1) To be made whole requires answering the question of whether you want to be made whole with honesty. The answer must not come out of your bitterness, out of the anger in your heart but must come from a brutal honesty of where you are. You are broken and you can’t move forward because you are broken.
(2) After you have emptied your heart and mind of the fact you are broken you must listen for the voice of the one who can make you whole.
(3) Don’t be surprised by what the one tells you to do. It may sound crazy; it may not be what you wanted to hear. It may not be legal to do what he tells you to do.
Here come the last two steps and these are going to be really difficult because they will take the most effort on your part.
(4) You must accept what the one tells you to do and immediately begin to do it. You can’t hesitate, you can’t debate, you can’t question the logic of the words he tells you to do. You must simply do it.
(5) Now you must continue to move relentlessly forward. You can’t look back at the circumstances that got you there, you can’t even question what brought about your being made whole by the words of the one who spoke over you. From here on forward there must be nothing but relentless forward movement into the promises of the one who heals you.
This is what life all about after all. Life is about honesty, listening, accepting, taking action and finally never stopping to move forward into the promises that have already been set forth for you. This story is about the invalid who lay by the pool of Bethesda and sought out this man who spoke over his friend, as he finds the man and sets out to not only be healed but also to go on and follow this man as he sprang one surprise after another on his followers culminating in one of the most fascinating sacrifices anybody could ever make simply for the sake of making people whole. This is a story of all of our lives if we would just accept the simple words of the son of a carpenter who walked the earth for such a short time but made the greatest impact on this wonderful earth of any other person before, after or to come. This can be all of our story of relentless forward movement into a wholeness that can only be grasped if we begin applying these five things in our lives.
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