The miracles of Jesus are some of the best known stories in the Bible. Most everyone knows that Jesus helped the blind see and the lame walk whether they have read the Bible or not. Let's face it, we all love a good miracle. Books and movies fly off the shelves when they are about the seemingly impossible made possible. There's something in every human being that wants to see and believe the unbelievable with our very own eyes.
John 5:1-18 describes a different type of miracle story than much of the others in the gospels. Jesus happens upon a healing pool that is surrounded by invalids, paralytics, and the blind. This pool was known to heal people and folks would travel from all around to get into the healing waters. But one man sat by the pool on his mat for 38 years - 38 years! That's a long time!
Jesus asked him if he wanted to be well. That seems like a silly question but Jesus asks everything for a reason. Sometimes we sit and suffer and the truth is we don't really want to get better. We'd rather sit in and on whatever ails us be it: debt, dysfunction, weight or addiction. Because if we are honest, we know it's going to be a lot harder to stop spending, work on ourselves, stop over eating or go to the meetings. So Jesus puts it right out there at the beginning asking the man: Do you want to get well?
The man then complains and says every time he tries to get in the pool someone gets in front of him and blocks his way or that he has no one to help him. We can snicker and judge this guy because it's likely his legs weren't paralyzed and he wasn't so sick after all. Because he admits, he's tried to get in the pool before, it's just that other people got in his way. Isn't that how it usually goes for us? We want to get well or heal or change but it's usually someone else's fault. We love play the blame game for our problems. I can't feel better because someone else makes me miserable. I can't stop this behavior because someone around me also does it. I can't feel peace because everyone else around me is crazy and anxious.
Jesus said "Get up and take up your mat". Think about that mat for a minute. He laid on that mat for 38 years. It must have been filthy. That mat must have smelled putrid. It was likely covered in excrement and soaked with urine. That mat was not taken to the cleaners every week and laundered with Tide and Clorox. Jesus told the guy pick up the 38 years of disgusting problems and walk. I wonder if this is really the first miracle that Jesus didn't really perform. He simply showed the man that he could solve his own problems if he simply got up.
What's on your mat and what gets in your way? How long have you sat by the pool of healing that is so available but you let so much get in the way? Jesus calls Himself the Living Waters. The pool was in fact a healing pool but if we have Christ we don't need to dip into the water, we simply have to ask the Living Water to work within us. We can't blame anyone else or wait for others to get on board with our health plan. In this miracle, Jesus didn't command 38 years of problems to leave this man, He told the man, "Get up!" It's time to stop laying blame and focusing on the mat. The mat is going to be gross and disgusting and people will always hinder us. The truth is no one else is responsible for our relationship with Christ and for our journey with Him.
Verse 9 tells us that at once the man was healed. It doesn't even say he had to walk into the water. He simply got up and picked up his mat. The story shows us that it was his will and his determination that was paralyzed - not his legs. Something happened to him 38 years ago that caused him to give up. Jesus came along and showed him it was time to put the past behind him, stop making excuses and to live the abundant life meant for him regardless of the people around him. That's exactly what He wants for all of us, abundance in Him regardless of circumstances. And sometimes, we are commanded to participate with Christ in making our own miracles.
There's this horrible exercise the trainer at the gym sometimes makes us do. They are called "get ups". Everyone in the class is made to lie on a yoga mat on our sides and hold a somewhat heavy weight above our head with one arm. Everyone then has to use their free arm to get up while still holding that weight overhead. It's the hardest thing I've ever done. You don't realize much you weigh until you're lying on the floor and one arm is taken away and weighed down to boot. You are made to repeat this exercise over and over, get up and lie back down - all while holding that weight overhead. What I've noticed is that over months of being made to do this exercise, it's getting a little easier and it's not so daunting. The first time the trainer told me to do it, I looked at her in horror. I imagine the man on his mat was the same way - look at Jesus in disbelief that he could even do it. Getting up was scary but in the end it was the only thing that made him stronger.