I read this story about Jesus and it makes me love him more. He goes to the Pool of Bethesda where the sick people hang out as they hope they will get healed there when the waters stir. Jesus is looking to perform a healing I think or he wouldn’t be there.
It would be easy for Jesus to talk to and heal someone who was hopeful, joyful and just a welcoming person to be around. Jesus doesn’t go for that one. He goes for the one probably everyone hates having to be around – the pessimistic guy full of self-pity. No one wants to be around that guy.
Jesus asks him plainly, “Do you want to get well?”
A strange question indeed but many sick people get addicted to being sick.
The man whips out his sob story just dripping with victimization and self-pity.
“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” (5:7).
Jesus is unphased.
“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” (5:8). The man does just that.
The Root of Self-Pity
In recent months I’ve thought about self-pity. What is it’s root?
For a long time I’ve thought it was a cry of loneliness. I still think it is. But I also think there are some other things associated with it. In fact I think self-pity promotes loneliness, because by its very nature it does not take steps out of hurt to change the circumstances.
A sick person feels sorry for themselves because they don’t have the help they need, so they stay home feeling sorry for themselves. When they could call on friends to come visit, seek help elsewhere, or be proactive in what they need.
But lately I feel there is more to self-pity than just loneliness. And I think it’s the wicked, wicked root of bitter envy + powerlessness. And the fruit is toxic. It’s the very antithesis of gratitude and faith.
Gratitude, because when we are thankful to God for what we do have, it turns our eyes away from what we don’t have.
And faith. Because faith is the hope and belief that God has all the power needed, to either change our circumstances or give us the grace to live in them. Faith is power.
And Jesus Healed
It’s interesting as Jesus heals this man who seems so stuck in his self-pity that he is immobile. He appears to have no visible faith in Jesus. There is no sense of hope. But Jesus heals him anyway.
On a side note that says a lot to the people who say to the sick ones, “You’re not healed as you don’t have enough faith.” Jesus healed people of many varying degrees of faith or faithlessness.
Jesus healed this man. And the man took his mat and walked. And while people were in awe of the healing, Jesus quietly slipped through the crowds.
Later Jesus found him at the temple which is a significant place to meet him. A crippled person could have not gone far into the temple per the regulations, but now that he was healed and restored, this man could participate in temple life just as much as any other Jewish man.
When Jesus met him, he told the man he needed to stop sinning or worse would happen than being a cripple. And while we don’t know what the formerly crippled man was doing, we do know that Jesus knew and called him to change. Called him to repent. Called him to see his sin and move in the other direction.
In the background the Jews had been pressuring this man to let them know who healed him. When he know knew his name was Jesus, the man went away and told the Jews (5:15). I’m sure that was a tough pill to swallow for Jesus, but Jesus probably knew that this was the kind of man he was, and yet he healed him anyway.
Surely loving people is never safe.
For me I love that Jesus healed not just those who had it together, were faith-filled and joyful, but he healed everyone. Including this man. Jesus certainly loved well. That is my prayer to do the same.