Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”
Jesus returns to Jerusalem, to people covering the different porches. All of whom are sick, all of whom are ill. Of all the people on all the porches, Jesus walks up to this one particular man. He asks him a simple question. A question we will here Jesus continue to ask people in the New Testament. A question that he asks us: Would you like to get well?
Would you like to get well?
Think about the areas of your life that are filled with the most pain. Think about the places where you feel incomplete. The thing that when you think about it, it makes your head throb, and your heart swell. The areas that make you angry and discouraged. Those piercing thoughts that have continually been prying in your ears.
Would you like to get well?
Imagine Jesus walks up to you and asks you this. Would you like to be rid of these pains? Of these hurts? Of these broken relationships? Of these sorrows? Would you like to be well? I think most of us would automatically say, "Yes."... At least this is what I would say:
“YES OF COURSE! YOU THINK I WANT TO STAY THIS WAY FOR ANOTHER THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS?!”
But this is not how the man responds. The sick man instead says this:
“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”
The man says he can’t. He can’t. He doesn’t believe that he can get well again.
When I realized this, my heart hurt for the man. And the more I thought about how he answered Jesus' question, the more I realized the man doesn’t really answer it… The man says that he can’t get to the part of the pool where the healing happens? He believes he can’t get well because he can’t get to this one part, in this one pool. It’s not that he doesn’t want to be healed. It is that he has convinced himself that he can’t be.
What have you convinced yourself of? Have you convinced yourself you cannot be well again? Have you tried to heal yourself? Have you tried to get to this one part of ‘the pool’ over and over again, expecting different results? This is the definition of insanity. Don’t persuaded yourself to believe that your pains cannot be healed, because the way that you imagine them being healed is impossible. Maybe, our pain is not the only problem, maybe it is our imagination, as well. Because Jesus literally blows his expectations and imagination out of the water:
Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”
Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”
But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”
“Who said such a thing as that?" they demanded.
Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk. You don’t need ‘the pool.’ You don’t need whatever it is you convinced yourself that you need, in order to be well. What we need is an encounter with Jesus. Would you like to be well? Because you can be. Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk.
Stand up. Pick up your mat. Walk. Three separate motions. Three things God calls us to do. We could unpack them all day, so let’s try and condense it.
Stand Up. You have everything you need to get up where you are at. This is a choice that only the man can make. And he cannot make it if he is still focused on his own way of healing. Can you imagine what the other x amount of people on the porches see? If we are willing, God is calling us to stand up, and stand up with him.
Pick up your Mat. This is the part I was always confused by. If I was laying on this mat for thirty-eight years, there ain’t no way I want to bring that with me! It would remind me of my sickness. It would remind me of a time when I was weak? But this is one of the most crucial things Jesus will ever ask of us. Because this man’s mat is his testimony.
His mat is his verification. His mat is his story. How do the Jewish leaders know that Jesus has healed him? Because he was carrying his mat. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”
The only way the Jewish leaders would know it was Jesus, is if the man carries his mat. And so too, we must pick up ours.
Our mats, our pasts, our references to salvation, our evidences of glory, or our stories of God, whatever you would like to call it. We must carry them with us as we go. Which leads us to our last part.
Walk. Do the very thing that you could not do without God. Walk. Walk with and walk amongst the crowds. Walk toward the Temple, which is where we find the man next.
And because, it is only when you walk, that you make yourself available to ask others the question: Would you like to get well?