Today we’re reading in John, chapter 5, starting in verse 2.
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.
This is the first instance of healing that we see in the gospel of John. Although earlier than this, the author refers to the “signs” that Jesus was performing, which probably includes healing, this is the first time it’s really spelled out for us.
Jesus is in the city of Jerusalem for a holiday, and there’s this pool. Can I tell you the history of this pool? Okay, so there was a legend in this place that this pool, in the city, was occasionally visited by an angel. No one saw the angel, but the angel would dip down, fly over the water, and the water would ripple. Now the legend also said that whoever was the first one in the water when it was rippling from the angel would be healed.
I don’t know about any of this. Modern, scientific people would say, this is hogwash. An old wives’ tale. Who knows. I do know enough to know that there are things on this earth that we can’t explain, and there are real angels, so who knows.
What we do know is that there was a large group of people who were invalids- or disabled, and because of a lack of medical knowledge and options, this was the most viable option they had. To sit by this pool of water and hope that it rippled, and hope they were the first one in it.
Let’s keep reading:
One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”
I wonder what this exchange looked like. Why did Jesus choose this one out of so many? Was he more deserving? Did he have greater faith? I don’t know. All we know is that Jesus noticed this one, and and asked him… “Do you want to be healed?”
What does Jesus see when he looks at you? Where are you camped out, trying to get your fix? Can I be really honest? I’d like to tell you about my own infirmity.
I’ve talked before in these posts about my struggle with my weight. But now I want to be really transparent.
For years, my weight has been my biggest failure. And by weight, what I really mean is that my weight is evidence of my biggest failure- in eating, in discipline, in healthy habits.
For twenty years.
In my whole life, whenever I go to the Lord with anything, I almost always come back to the same old questions and cries- what’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t this change? What’s the answer? How do I fix this? Lord, please, fix this..
And I’ve done so many different things to try to address it, as you can imagine. Diet books and apps, workout plans, gym memberships. I’ll admit I’m not as fanatically desperate as other people, and I’ve had little to no result in change in my body.
But I want to tell you about a recent experience I’ve had. It’s so new to me, but it’s my testimony, and I hope it maybe will give you hope. Just like this man at the pool, I feel that the Lord has touched me and I want to tell you my story.
A few years ago, maybe 4 years ago, I was crying out to the Lord, again, about this. I hate this part of myself- lack of control over my eating habits and the effects it has on my body. I was praying, and crying, and saying to him that out of everything in my life, it was the worst thing- It was like a sign to me that nothing in Christianity really had any effect, if it didn’t have an effect on this thing that was the biggest struggle in me. And as I prayed, I remember that I was thinking of the Leper who came to Jesus, and said, “If you’re willing, Lord, make me clean,” and Jesus said, “I am willing. Be clean.” I was reminding the Lord of that story and saying, Lord, I know if you’re willing, I can be healed. I can be changed. I can be free of my addiction to food an walk in newness and wholeness and not be an overeater all the time.
And at that time, I heard the voice of the Lord say, “What do you want?” And I said, “I want to be healed.” And he said, “You have it. You are healed.”
Look what happens in this story:
Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
And I stood up, that day, my heart light, and was so excited to think… Is it possible? I almost expected to look in the mirror and see a thin person! But I walked away thinking, “Whoa. Am I healed?”
Then for a few days I went around kind of tentatively waiting to see a change in myself. Would I eat differently? Hate fried foods? Would I forget to eat, or suddenly love running?
Days went by and honestly, though I thought I believed what the Lord said, I went right back into my habits. After a few months, I concluded that I heard the Lord wrong.
I went back to my normal routine of overeating punctuated by occasional dieting and crying.
A month ago, I was in church and the subject was “sin and confrontation.” The pastor was talking about sexual sins, and saying, “You are mistaken if you think that one hour of something that displeases the Lord will not affect the other twenty-three hours of your relationship with him.” I’m probably quoting him wrong.
But I looked out the window, and thought to myself, I wonder how much more wonderful my relationship will be once I’m over this habitual sin of overeating!
Instead of feeling condemned, I suddenly just felt excited, thinking about that future day.
The next thing in my head was a thought of a beautiful lady in the church that I know, and the idea that I should have her pray for me.
And then the next thought I had was that no, I wouldn’t. Because how many times have I been vulnerable and hopeful like that, and then been embarrassed in the future when it had done nothing? I immediately could picture a future day, a year or so away, where I was still the same weight and I would run into her and feel foolish for asking her to pray because obviously it had had no good effect.
Anyway, when the service was over, I was playing piano, and worshiping the Lord, and thought again of that day in the future, whether in heaven or on earth, when I would be free of this tangle.
I honestly kept thinking of this: I imagined being set free from heavy chains, them being cut. And I saw them as a pool around my feet. And I imagined my constant overeating as me trying to step out of the chains, and tripping on them and being dragged down by them. As though I wasn’t actually locked into them, but I just couldn’t untangle myself.
And suddenly I knew- that first inspiriation? To humble myself and confess and ask for prayer? That was from the Lord.
And that second thought- of hopelessness and a sad date in the future where nothing good had come- that was from the enemy.
And I got up from the piano and tracked her down.
Friends, I want to tell you. I spoke with her, told her what I was thinking, and asked her to pray. She immediately laid her hand on my shoulder and blessed me. And while she was praying, I heard the voice of the Lord say, “The struggle is over.” And I saw myself stepping out of those chains, FOR GOOD.
Now I want to tell you- I believe that when he told me I was healed, long ago, I was actually healed. He changed the part of my heart that was addicted to food. But I didn’t know how to walk into that, I didn’t know what it meant to walk by faith in his word, and I ended up being caught up again in sins that I was actually free from. The chains around my feet.
But this time, I know. When I stepped free- this is the difference. Before, I went out into my life and said to myself, “I wonder how I will do. I wonder if I am really healed.”
This time, I’m going out into my life with a completely different attitude. This time, I’m going out saying “I know I what I will do. I will live like I’m healed.”
This time, I look at my eating opportunities and go into them not as a passive observer, wondering what will happen- but with confidence, saying “I am going to be free. I’m going to eat healthily, because I have been healed and set free.”
My attitude has changed, and my experience, since then, has been evidence to me that I am changed.
I believe that if I had left that prayer with the attitude, “Well, we’ll see what happens,” I would have been caught right back into it. But faith means that I choose to believe. I choose to walk like I believe.
You know, later in this story of Jesus and the invalid, this happens:
Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”
I can’t stress enough that it was my own sin that got me overweight. Of course there’s all sorts of factors- genetics, environment, emotional habits you learn from your experiences, etc. But I have always been fully aware that it’s my own actions that result in my weight.
So when I read this verse, what Jesus says to the healed man, What I see here is Jesus saying in effect, don’t fall back into your old ways! You have the choice! You can live like you’re healed, and you can go on in wholeness, or you can jump right back into your old life. It’s up to you.
Jesus doesn’t want robots. He gives us a fresh start, he picks us up, sets us on our feet, and says, “Get up. You’re healed.”
But what we do with it is the key. We can take our miracle, and run back to our old ways, and end up worse than we were before. Or we can thank the Lord for our rescue, and then run after him.
It’s our choice.
Where are you at, today? What pool are you sitting beside? What do you want? Stop giving the Lord excuses for why you don’t have it. Instead, look up into the face of the Mercy man, who stops and notices you. What do you want? Ask him for it, and when you hear the voice of the Lord telling you that you have it, believe it. Stand up, walk in it. Praise the Lord for it. And then run from your old ways, so that you don’t get tangled up in your old sins.
If you like this post, you can follow the series! I’m going through the book of John. The lead page is here, or you can subscribe by email. This series is also available as a podcast, just visit briannasiegrist.podbean.com. Bye!