Trapped just on the edge of healing for thirty-eight years.
It would be like living next door to a pharmacy but every time you go to it to try and get your life-saving cancer medication, it’s closed.
You are condemned to a painful and debilitating physical condition that may eventually kill you, because the means of getting treatment lies just beyond your reach.
This is the unenviable situation of the man in our gospel story today.
For thirty-eight years he has lived in the porticoes surrounding the Pool of Beth-zatha, and every time he tries to reach the pool and receive its healing waters, someone else beats him to it.
Can you imagine the frustration? The despair?
We get so little detail about this man that we have to speculate and use our imaginations to try and understand his incomprehensible situation.
First of all, what kind of medical condition did he have?
We don’t know, but we know that the other people at the pool were described as invalids and named as blind, lame, and/or paralyzed.
These are people who are limited in their mobility.
We know he can move at least a bit, because he keeps trying to get down to the pool, but he can’t ever make it fast enough. He may have only been able to crawl.
We’re immediately tempted to question how hard he really was trying to get down there and be healed.
That temptation is reinforced by Jesus’ own question to the man: “Do you want to be healed?”
We don’t know, because this man never answers directly, yes or no.
He basically says, “Well, I’ve been trying.”
Is that an excuse? Or is it a legitimate description of his disability? We don’t know.
But either way, we need to stop our judgement in its tracks and realize how very much we are like this man ourselves. Continue reading