Have you had days when you feel like you’re taking three steps forward only to find that you’re now two behind?
“Stuck” may feel like the word of the day; the current theme coursing the veins of our conversations — yet, it’s not the place we’re meant to stay.
In John 5 we see Jesus on his way to Jerusalem where the worship in the house of the Lord was to take place.
Passing through the Sheep Gate, he came to a pool which in Aramaic is called Bethesda.
Bethesda means house of mercy; an infirmary, a public hospital.
There a great number of disabled people used to lie: the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.
They’d wait there patiently for the appearance of an angel who’d apparently come and stir the water — healing whoever stepped in first of whatever disease he had.
Paul Scanlon explained that Bethesda was representative of the place where the hope of miracle was promised, but the occurrence rare and few.
Have you ever felt like that too?
Like the night feels too dark, and your pain runs too deep, and the prognosis too petrifying, and you feel you’re kinda stuck, and you lay waiting there — waiting for some sort of help, longing for some kind of relief, desperate for some measure of healing.
You can’t help but wonder if anybody would ever come, if anyone even cares.
For one man, it’d been 38 long years.
Thirty-eight years of laying lame, living paralysed, lying invalid; decades of not having seen the light of life, or heaving the hope of a heart.
But Jesus came, and went up to him and asked: “Do you want to be well?”.
To one desperate for healing, the question seemed counter-intuitive; obviously jarring, secretly jolting.
In fact, Jesus’ question might actually indicate that there was something obviously not clear going on in there — that perhaps it’s not a matter of how long the man had been at Bethesda, but how much of Bethesda had gotten into and inside the man.
Perhaps Jesus knew that this man’s real issue wasn’t merely his physical paralysis, but his internal handicap, a weakness sipping into his spirit, governing his internals, dictating his within.
And him, instead of simply answering yes or no, explained how the whole ‘system’ actually worked around there.
He gave Jesus reasons for his helplessness, saying: “I have no one to help me… and while I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Could it be true — that helplessness is actually a learned condition?
That perhaps he’d just accepted the fact that this was just the way life was going to be?
Sometimes… when you’ve had a series of losses, you too may close yourself to the notion of growth; or that God is the Author of new beginnings, Lord of the Sabbath, and Master over systems and traditions; secular or spiritual.
Perhaps he had developed ‘a highly organised system of disability’ — when it’s not only his limbs he can’t move, but his faith he can’t forge.
And I get it — when you’re daily surrounded by the cultural support and colonnades shade-like type that feed into your sense of helplessness; and when all you can do is think, talk and tinker about your deficits, you start looking at your handicaps differently — your losses become your lot — your paralysis you.
Jesus confronted the man’s heart as much as He challenged his physiology and psychology of paralysis.
That for us to receive our healing, we must desire it, and believe it.
We must cling on to the Son of Man more than to the traditions of man.
He must be Lord. Whoever and whatever else others claim to be, or do.
The single biggest question determining our destiny then is what do we do with our stuck?
“SOW RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR YOURSELVES, REAP THE FRUIT OF UNFAILING LOVE,
AND BREAK UP YOUR UNPLOWED GROUND; FOR IT IS TIME TO SEEK THE LORD,
UNTIL HE COMES AND SHOWERS HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ON YOU.”
In Hosea 10:12, the Word says that we are to break up our unplowed ground.
Harvest is always preceded with the breaking; everything that has hardened needs to come stripping off first. And when we allow Him to break in our lives and the things we love, something miraculous happens. All that has been falsely idolised, things that have kept us barren, hardened and unproductive will give way and we will bear again.
Don’t snub pain away by hiding them, or stuff disappointment in hearts never made to bear too much sorrow — but sort pain out with God by feeling the pain as He peels the layers: because what He reveals He can heal.
Today, He’s still asking this one question: “Do you want to be healed?”
To Hagar dying of thirst and a broken hope, He opened a well for her to be well.
To Jacob who’s lost connections and community, He provided a ladder up to heaven on pillows made of rocks.
Jesus’ words came to the man and to us, tender and true: “Rise Up. Take Your Mat and Walk”
This too we can believe — a barrage of bruises need not be our forever badges.
Miracles are ours for the taking.
And God’s proof of healing us is always in our arising and walking.
Because who we are today and what we’ve been through yesterday isn’t what we will tomorrow be.
Today is our time to unstuck our stuck, move past our the past, and leave Bethesda — walking.