06.10.2020 Devotional

06.10.2020 Devotional

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 invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.  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 sick 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.      John 5:1-9

When I was in seminary, I spent a month shadowing a Chaplain who worked with recovering addicts.  There’s a common saying in recovery communities used when someone relapses and returns to alcohol or drugs: "Well, maybe they didn’t want recovery enough.  Kind of like us telling people that they didn’t pray hard enough.

It’s not helpful advice, and it actually can be toxic advice.  But there is some truth in that as much as you can lead someone in the right direction, show them the tools that will help them make better choices, and support them all you can, in the end nothing will help someone to recover unless they want to recover.

When Jesus comes to a man who has been lying at the pool of Bethesda for 38 years he asks him a simple question: "Do you want to be made well?"

The man doesn't answer him. Instead he tells Jesus what was keeping him from getting well.  He says that he needs to go in when the water is stirred up, and by the time the water gets stirred up someone gets ahead of him.  He makes excuses.

Jesus ignores these excuses and says simply, "Stand up, take your mat, and walk."

I was thinking about this text in light of all of the racial tension going on in our country, and I have the same question for our country.   Do we want to get well?  To be honest, I am not sure what the answer is.  It seems to me that we are in many ways addicted to racism the same way that someone is addicted to alcohol or drugs or gambling.

I can give people the benefit of the doubt saying that no one alive now invented this system of racism, we were all born into it.  It was not a choice. But at the same time, we know about systemic racism, we know about injustice and inequality, so we absolutely make choices about going forward.  Still, here we are.  So the question stands, do we want to get well?

Are we like the man hanging around the healing pool for 38 long years making excuses not to get in? It’s hard to believe that he has been laying just a few yards from the healing waters for almost four decades and has not made it into the water.  Maybe he doesn’t even want healing.  Maybe his pitiful story earns him enough to get by every day.  Or could he have simply fallen through the cracks of human compassion for that long?  In 38 years, no one could help him into the water. How could that happen?

In the 21 st century, we know that this could happen.  We know because we have become calloused with the sight of others in pain. We turn away.  We ignore them.  We blame them for their circumstances.

Jesus’ question is rarely one we ask of those who are suffering. Human beings rarely take the time to ask this of each other, because it requires we get out of ourselves.

We are the ones whom Jesus is asking “Do you want to get well?”

We who are still sick and suffering, we may not be responsible for beginning racism, but we are responsible for working with God towards our own recovery.

Jesus says, "Do you want to get well?"  I hope that our response is Yes.


Holy God and Great Physician, I want to be made well.  Help me to say "yes" when you offer your healing to me and help me to share that healing in your name. Amen.

  January 2021  
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