After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 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 making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.
“Do you want to get well?” The question Jesus asked around the edge of the Pool of Beth-zatha was challenging to the man that had been lying there and is challenging to those of us that will hear it today. A great number of people had claimed this space. This question was directed not at a newcomer to this gathering, but to someone who had every reason to accept their position and condition. Out of all those in the crowd, Jesus chose to ask this man. The question was a challenge to examine the circumstances that had become routine around him but also to examine the condition that had become routine within him. The question directed toward him was a calling for action from him. Today we are hearing the question and decisions will have to be made. These decisions should not be grounded in the circumstances we have grown accustomed to living with, but in a faith that sees what is and invites us to embrace what can be. The witness of the one individual made a difference then and is still making a difference today. This one moment with Christ transformed words about transformation into actions that would bring about transformation. It all began by hearing the question, “Do you want to get well?”
Speak Lord for your servants are listening.
O God I thank you for the lanterns in my life
who Illumined dark and uncertain paths
calmed and stilled debilitating doubts and fears
with encouraging words, wise lessons,
gentle touches, firm nudges and faithful actions
along my journey of life back to you.
(Marian Wright Edelman, Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors)