Last week brought one of those surprises you hope you never get. My stomach had been upset off and on for a while, but I had assumed it was related to diet, maybe a developing food intolerance. The pain had come and gone and hadn’t disrupted life badly enough for me to talk to any doctor about it yet. Then last week happened. Starting Wednesday afternoon, the pain steadily increased. Seeing me doubled over in tears on the floor Thursday night convinced my husband he needed to get me to the ER pronto. A few tests later, the culprit was exposed: a badly inflamed, stone-filled gallbladder. Fast-forward three days through an unexpectedly complicated surgery and subsequent procedure, I finally made it home from the hospital. Thankfully I’ve been recovering well ever since, looking forward to getting life back to normal.
As I have focused on resting and healing my physical body this week, I couldn’t help but pause when I opened my Bible the other day and happened to see the story “The Healing at the Pool” in John chapter 5. I have read this compassionate story of healing so many times; it’s one of my favorites. It still surprises me how the Holy Spirit can teach me something new and striking from such familiar verses. And how He brings my attention to them at just the right time.
Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie — the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “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.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.John 5: 2-9 (NIV)
The lesson He had for me today was in the unexpectedness of this unsought healing. Christ walked this earth for 33 short years. I don’t believe a single thing he did was by accident. Every moment was preordained. Every word and action held significance and illuminated truth for us. He didn’t accidentally stumble across the pool called Bethesda. He didn’t pick an invalid at random. He had a plan and a purpose. He knew this forgotten, hopeless man was there desperately longing for healing, and He went to him specifically.
But while Christ foreknew of this predestined meeting, the crippled man did not. He was lost in his miserable despair. He was not seeking out Christ. In fact, what little hope he may have held on to was misplaced. He thought the pool could heal him. He desperately wanted to be healed. But he couldn’t do what was necessary on his own to acquire the healing.
Then Christ appeared. Given the man’s response to Jesus, he apparently did not know with whom he spoke. He never asked Jesus to help him. Think about that for a moment. Christ showed up in this man’s life uninvited. Offered healing unrequested. Granted forgiveness in whole. He didn’t sit off to the side and wait for the man to approach or call out to Him. He didn’t send his disciples to fetch him. Jesus Himself went. He sought out this man specifically. He initiated the entire encounter.
What part did the man play in this story? He did all he had to do: he followed the directions Jesus gave him: “Get up!” It was that simple. The man stood up, picked up his mat, and walked! How great is the love of Jesus that He meets us where we are when we don’t even know we need Him, shows us the way to spiritual healing, and offers us an absolute reconciliation with God. All we have to do is follow another famous directive found in Matthew 11:28: “Come to Me.”
There are so many intrinsic truths nestled in the full story of this man’s healing. Through the supernatural greatness of this act of healing and the timing of the event, Christ once again attested to His divinity. In verse 21, we learn that life itself comes from Christ. We see that Jesus has been granted the “authority to judge” (verse 27). But the truth I needed to be reminded of this week is revealed in the unexpected, unsolicited, unconditional love and compassion the man found in Christ.
Physical healing is nice. Spiritual healing is vital. As I continue to rest my body and pray for physical healing, I renew my thanksgiving to the Savior who revealed Himself to me, pursued me, offered me His love, granted me His pardon, and atoned me with His blood. He has already made me whole and granted me perfect healing. Regardless of my physical state, I am made new in Him.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)
If you are reading this blog, Jesus has already initiated His encounter with you. Maybe you have followed His command and received His healing. Or maybe you’re still considering your response. Will you come to Him and accept His healing? He’s already done all the work. He sought you out and found you. He paid the price for your healing. All you have to do is accept it. It’s time to get up and live.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16 (NIV)