View print-optimized version
Sunday, May 22, 2022
Today’s Scripture Reading | John 5:1–9a
After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many ill, blind, lame, and paralyzed people. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 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?” The ill 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.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. (NRSV)
The first question I have is Would the pools actually heal? Do they actually work?
The narrator and the characters in the story believe the pools work, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many hopefuls. If they do, then it seems like it’s a story about not just having access to resources but being neglected and abandoned. If this man, who had been sick for thirty-eight years, had someone, anyone, to put him in the pool, he would have gotten well. This story screams to me of how awful it is when no one will help you or when the resource you need is beyond your grasp. If these pools truly had healing qualities, would not the entire community have an obligation to make sure anyone who needs it has access?
But what if the pools don’t work at all? Maybe the crowd of hopefuls never lessens because they’re all chasing the wrong treatment. Or perhaps the pools are just a temporary relief from pain, not a cure? Or what if the pools helped just a couple people, treated one particular condition, and that was enough for everyone to jump on board assuming this would work for everyone. This also sounds awful—people fighting each other for a resource that isn’t even helping. Rushing to the thing, hoping day after day, wondering if this is the day one might get a chance to have just a little bit of relief?
Either way, Jesus sees the man, knows the man, asks the man what he wants, hears him out, and heals him. Fully. I don’t have divine healing powers, but goodness knows I can work better at knowing people, asking them what they want, and listening to them. Healing may be more complex than what this story portrays, but I suppose the first few actions are enough to start with.
Dear God, help me see what is around me. How can I help resources get to those who need them? Is there anyone I could help that I am not seeing? Please help me to be part of solution. Amen.
Written by Kat Evans, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
Devotion index by date | I’d like to receive daily devotions by email