Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C RCL
I can envision our paralyzed man, lying in a portico, a mostly covered roof held up with numerous columns. Just a short distance away is a pool; a pool that has been known for its healing properties. This man, who I will name Ben, is not alone. He lies on the marble patio with only a thin mat protecting him from the floor. There are many others near him. Crowded around this pool we find the blind, paralyzed, or injured. Each day, this large group of men gathers at the pool’s edge with the hope of being healed.
We don’t know much about any of these men. Though we do know that some of them are clearly more mobile than Ben. They get into the pool more quickly, more easily and Ben is pushed aside as they do so. It is very likely that most of the other men are younger. Ben has come to this pool for 38 years, the average lifetime of a man back then. Ben has been coming to this pool as long as most other men of the known world have been alive. Few others can remember a day when Ben wasn’t at this pool. Ben has been patiently waiting for healing at the edge of this water for literally a lifetime.
We don’t know if Ben’s faith runs deep. Is he a pious person? We know nothing of his moral character. We don’t even know if he was paralyzed from birth or had some illness or tragedy caused his condition. There is no indication that Ben is more deserving of healing than any of the others around him. But for some reason, on this day, Jesus confronts Ben.
Jesus asks him one simple question. “Do you want to be made well?" Ben never answers this question. He tells Jesus how he has been prevented by the others from getting in the pool. They push him aside as they rush in.. Ben says these others have made his journey harder. By the time he makes his way to the water’s edge, the waters are no longer stirred up and he misses his opportunity to soak in the healing waters.
Unlike other stories of healing, there is no profession of faith; Jesus doesn’t say “your faith has made you well.” There are no heroic acts of digging through a roof; get up the nerve to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. No, Jesus doesn’t even ask Ben a second time if he wants to be healed. Without comment on Ben’s story, without acknowledgment of Ben’s feelings, Jesus, without another word, simply heals Ben by saying “Take up your mat and walk.”
If I were lying in that portico I would wonder, “Why Ben?” Why did Jesus pass me by and heal Ben? Why not my friend next to me; or any of the other people? Why did Jesus not heal all of us? It seems so easy and effortless for Jesus to heal this one. Would it be so hard to heal all of us?
Feeling overlooked is common in our life. We may not be lying in a portico by a pool but we all have struggles. Pain that we know Christ could help us with; tribulations that may be no fault of our own. We, like Ben, may feel that others are impeding us from finding the wholeness we seek. Why is life so hard for me when it seems so easy for others? Why does Christ heal others, others who may seem less deserving than I? Day by day we are left hanging out waiting by the pool with no sign of relief in sight.
I don’t know if this is the answer but it does contain some truth. Ben never gave up. He never gave up knowing that he could be healed; that his life could be better than what it is. Every day he goes to the pool knowing that healing doesn’t come from his own power. To be made whole doesn’t come from within ourselves, our family, or friends. It comes from something much bigger. The mystery of true healing comes through God, through Christ. This is where hope and perseverance come in.
Just as any of us have held onto hope through illness, tragedy, or some others struggle, we hang in there, persevering, knowing that someday, through sweat and tears, pain and anguish, life will be better. We have all recognized this perseverance in others. We have seen such perseverance in the Bible, such as Job; in our own lives or the lives our loved ones. We may wonder how these people have carried on under such circumstances; pondering if we would have given up much earlier than they did. Knowing that it can take heroic efforts to keep moving forward one day at a time, day after day, week after week; holding on to hope even when there seems to be none. Even when we have been ailing for a lifetime.
This is our hope, this is our story. We persevere in the hardest of times surrounded by others who are also struggling. We persevere in the hope that one day Christ will come and heal us; even if it is on our last day. Hope is eternal and having hope in the impossible is the foundation of our Christian story. How can we lose hope when hope is sometimes the only thing we have?