John 5:1-6 says this:
“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 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?'”
Of all the opening lines he could have used, Jesus uses that one?
I’ve read those verses a dozen times, but this time I realized how ridiculous it is that Jesus needs to even ask that question. As though he needed to make sure that the man did, in fact, want to get well.
But what if the idea of being healed was something the man was uncomfortable with? After all, he’s lived broken for years. Being healed would mean relearning how to do everything, it would mean not having a ready answer to why he does things a certain way, it would mean that he would have to learn how to live whole.
I could very easily compare this to the people at the Mission–and I’m going to–but first, I need to make an admission: there are certain areas of my life that, if Jesus was standing in front of me right now and he asked if I wanted them fixed, I’d hesitate to say yes. And I’m willing to bet that you could say the same.
Why do we do that?
Why do we insist on staying stuck where we are, knowing that Jesus would change us if we just asked?
I obviously can’t speak for all of us, but I do it because it makes me feel safe. I don’t want to trade in my insecurities and shortcomings, not having any idea what I’m going to get in return. I like having something to hide behind, even if that something slowly and systematically tears me up.
The people that I see here are the exact same way. So many of them can’t comprehend not being homeless because that label has become a sort of safe haven for them.
They are afraid to try to be anything else because they’re afraid of failing.
The name of the pool in the aforementioned verse is “Bethesda”. The name comes from both the Hebrew and the Aramaic languages, and it has a double meaning. Get ready for this…it can mean house of mercy and grace OR shame and disgrace.
So we’re given this choice.
We can choose to sit near the pool of healing, knowing that all we have to do is step in, but finding ourselves too afraid to make that move, to let go of our shame. This shame and disgrace stems from addictions, eating disorders, an unwillingness to forgive, mental illness, a lack of self-worth, and a host of other things. We can so easily let these things consume us and cause us to live life in hiding, too familiar with and comfortable in our shame and lack of self-worth to do anything about it.
Or! (I love that there’s another choice!)
We can recognize that the pool we’re sitting by is one of mercy and grace. It’s one that welcomes all, despite background, financial status, or even perceived level of disgrace (because, if you’re anything like me, you find yourself believing that there are just some patterns of thought or behavior that are way worse than others). When Jesus asks us if we want to be healed, we can say “yes, please change me!” and let him begin to reshape us and make us whole. And it doesn’t end there…he promises to never leave a work unfinished, and I’m pretty sure that means he’ll give us the resources and community we need to learn how to live in our new skin.
So I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty neat to me. I’m getting tired of carrying around all this baggage.
Will you join me in beginning to make this change?