“Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool…. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralysed.” John 5:2-3
While in Jerusalem for a Jewish festival, Jesus stopped at the pool of Bethesda, which means “house of mercy.” It was a scene of destitution and need on a grand scale. A great number of people with all kinds of infirmities gathered at the pool because it was believed to have healing properties.
Jesus was drawn to a man lying on a mat who He knew had been paralyzed for 38 years. He asked the man if he wanted to get well, but the question was answered with glib excuses as to why he had not yet been healed. Jesus ignored the excuses and commanded the man, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” (John 5:8). When the man responded in obedience, that is exactly what happened. He picked up his mat and walked!
Paralysis does not only apply physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. This makes the question Jesus asked a very pertinent one in our own lives. Maybe we feel bowed low because of emotional paralysis caused by past or present abuse, fears and insecurities. Maybe we feel trapped in a spiritual paralysis of sin, an unforgiving nature or a lack of genuine repentance and trust in God.
We may even feel our paralysis excludes us from Jesus, but it is the reverse. He said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32). Jewish leaders were appalled at this statement as well as the fact Jesus ate with sinners, tax collectors and interacted with the sick and segregated of society. At the start of His ministry, Jesus made clear His mission, and identified Himself as the Messiah, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4:18-19).
Vulnerability of any kind is a gateway for the Lord Jesus Christ to enter our lives. His mission is to heal those in need, and usually the measure of our awareness of our need is the measure in which we will encounter Him in a life-changing way. We are all vulnerable people, but how reassuring that Jesus is a “house of mercy.” When we respond to Him in faith, placing before Him whatever anger, shame or sin is paralyzing us, He works to free us, releasing His life and His strength within us so that we may pick up our mats and walk together with Him.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, it can be so difficult to admit where I am spiritually paralyzed. Rid me of all sense of pride so that I may bring before You anything that is hindering our relationship. Thank You, Lord.