Here is an excerpt from my new book, which I hope to be available as an ebook in September. I believe there is hope in the midst of the violence which has plagued our country, particularly in these last few months.
"After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
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. 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.” 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."
[The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Jn 5:1–9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.]
This second healing miracle does not have the obstacle of distance. It showcases the power of Jesus over time. Here in this place of physical debilitation, surrounded by dozens, maybe more than a hundred blind, sick, and lame people, Jesus picks out one and asks him an audacious question. “Do you want to be healed?” The question is so direct and the answer so obvious that it almost invites sarcasm. It is like asking that question to someone laying in a hospital room.
Except, that is not quite true. A better analogy would be that it is like someone who has laid in a hospital bed for 38 years. Would they still want to be healed? Maybe not. Maybe in that amount of time they would have given up hope and just wished for death. Maybe they had grown so used to the injury that they did not even realize they were hurt. Maybe this man showed up at this pool each day, not because he expected to be healed, but because this was his community… these were the type of people he could understand.
It was in the middle of this hurt community that Jesus called him out and asked him if he wanted out. “No one will help me. They all rush to get in front of me whenever I get a chance to get out.” Jesus called to him and he responded with excuses. True, though they may be, he did not really answer the question Jesus asked. He did not listen to what was asked, he answered a different question instead. He answered the question, “Why have you not healed yourself?”. But that is not what he was asked. Jesus only wanted to know if he still wanted to be healed.
Time does strange things to us. Some things heal. Other things get infected. Most things scar over as a reminder of the wound. It happens in individuals and it happens in communities as well. It affects our political perspectives. When we are at a place that holds history, good and especially bad, we get defensive. We place memorials at the roadsides where loved ones have been killed. We retell ourselves those stories in our minds over and over again.
Our perspectives change though and the details come in and out of focus until they fit whatever grand design we are trying to justify for ourselves and others. It is our way of making sense of why bad things happen to us, and we all do it. Jesus calls us out of that though. Instead of asking for a reason we are the way we are, He simply asks if we want to be healed.
How often have we been hurt in the political and community battles we face and find there is no way past the hurt, past the wounds. Generations upon generations compound scars upon scars until no one remembers what started the war, only that we were born either to cut or bleed. It is in the midst of those situations that Jesus calls us out and asks us if we want to be healed. Again, He gives us no flashy show of power. He only asks us to start living like we are healed, picking up our bed, and walking into something new.
Trying to hear the music in the din of many voices.
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