I’m about to make a shocking statement. Are you ready? It may not be what you want to hear, but it’s the truth: Not all infirmities are really physical issues.
I know what you’re probably thinking. Seriously, Christy. How can you say that? You’re not a doctor!
Not I didn’t rush out and get a medical degree, but I’m basing this statement of the story of the man Jesus healed at the pool of Bethesda. Jesus healed a man who had been lame for 38 years. Lame wasn’t born that way. He got bound that way. The man was weak and lame, but the reason he was lame was due to his own sin. His weakness grew from a seed of rebellion that eventually manifested in physical ailments. He could no longer walk.
And like so many of us, when Lame didn’t get better, he blamed his condition on others. Sin and blame creates a web that keeps us bound. Some of us for life. For this man….38 years before Jesus arrived.
When Jesus saw Lame at the pool and learned that he had been that way for a long time, he asked him a very strange question. “Do you want to get well?”
Jesus does that a lot. Asks obvious questions. It’s not like he doesn’t know the answer. But he does it intentionally—to draw out the real issue.
The answer should have been obvious. An empathetic yes was the correct reply. But Jesus’ question did not get the expected response. To Lame, yes was no longer an option. Living in defeat, he blamed his situation on others.
38 years of failure had caused him to adopt a victim’s mentality. It was easier to blame others for his condition than to get up and walk away from his issues. Eventually Lame accepted his condition as his fate and blamed others for his bondage.
The 5th chapter of John tells the story beginning in verse 2.
Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years (John 5:2-3,5).
The word, invalid used in this verse comes from the Greek word astheneia which means a weakness, not only in the body, but a weakness of the soul. It also means a frailty to bear trials and troubles, a want of strength to restrain corrupt desires.
Our English word, asthenia, originates from the Greek. Asthenia means a lack or loss of strength, an abnormal loss of strength. Maybe you’ve felt like an invalid in some areas of your life. I know I have. And while it’s not a fun place to be, there is good news. If strength can be lost, it means it can also be found.
In Lame’s case, I wonder what happened to make him lose his strength.
Jesus’ words echoed like a boomerang. “Do you want to get well?”
Lame hung his head low and frowned deeply as he traced his fingers on a seashell. “I have no one to help me get into the pool,” he lamented. “Every time I try to get in, someone else pushes me out of the way.”
Maybe others sympathized with him. Maybe he traded the attention his handicap received for the hope of recovery. After all, sympathy was easy to get. Hope was remote.
But Jesus didn’t register Lame’s complaint. Ignoring his misery, he spoke with unusual authority.
“Get up!” Jesus commanded.
Startled, Lame lifted his chin. Squinting in the sunlight, he stared at the stranger kneeling beside him. Excuse me? Who are you to talk to me this way? He must have thought. Can’t you see that I’m crippled? Where is your compassion?
Jesus could have consoled his pain and just put a band aid on his issue. But Jesus refused to validate the invalid. He knew that empathy given to one bound by sin would only tighten the knots. Instead, he offered the hope and healing that truth brings. His words may seem harsh, but like antiseptic on a fresh wound, truth always stings before it brings healing.
“Pick up your mat and walk,” he demanded.
Lame straightened his spine. He was used to others endorsing his misery. But this man was different. For the first time in 38 years, someone expected him to take responsibility for his handicap. But his man spoke with authority, ignoring his excuses.
Lame glanced at Jesus, searching for sympathy, but Jesus’ gaze didn’t budge.
Lame looked around. By now others were staring.
He sat up and drew his knees to his side.
This guy is going to look foolish when I try to get up and just fall back down, he thought.
Lame straightened his knees and stood up slowly. Surprised, he noticed his legs were solid. He took one step and then another. A thousand thoughts flooded his mind.
Is it really true? Am I really healed?
Like a newborn calf emerging from the womb, he twirled and galloped around as the crowd watched in amazement.
“I’m healed! I can walk!” He exclaimed. His eyes danced in wonder as skipped along the shore. The pool of Bethesda was no longer his home.
That’s when Jesus slipped away into the crowd.
Later Jesus found Lame at the temple. Notice the word found. Jesus hunted him down a second time. Jesus went looking for him and when he found him, he said, “See, you are well again.
Again…hmm. meaning Lame was once well. And what Jesus says next is the answer to what brought on his weakness and later his infirmity: “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
I love the story of Lame because it shows us that Jesus will find us even in our sin. Jesus knew that Lame’s sin crippled him and gave him a victim’s mentality. But he didn’t wait for Lame to cry out. Instead, Jesus went to find Lame. He hunted him down at the pool of Bethesda. He offered hope and healing before Lame even asked. Likewise, He will heal you before you ask. But like Lame, your healing won’t manifest until you stand up in faith.
Our issues continue to be a handicap when we refuse to take responsibility. They keep us bound when we continue to sin. But once we stand up, Jesus offers hope and healing to us all.
Maybe He’s been hunting you down. Maybe He’s been asking you,
“Do you want to get well?”
If so, pick up your mat and walk!
Father, I thank you that my sister trusts you enough to cast her cares on you. She clings to your truth and you give her wisdom for her issues. That she has everything she needs for life and godliness. I thank you that no weapon formed against her shall prevail, that you desire that she prospers and walks in health, even as her soul prospers. I thank you that she trusts you to care for her, to heal her sorrows and replace her sorrows with your joy, because the joy of the Lord is her strength. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Oh my goodness – I have heard the story of Lame so many times….but today I REALLY heard it for the first time! The way you told it made it click in a way it never has…and I saw my own glaring flaws. I have been living in that victim mentality for so long, have known it deep down, but see it in a much clearer light. More importantly I see hope to leave it behind and move forward from it. I’m in such awe of how clear and relatable you have made this entire story to me and how to apply it to my own life. Thank you so much for the work God is doing through you to bless so many lives. Blessings sister.
Hi Katie, your comment warmed my heart!! I love this story, too. And when we see our own situation in Jesus’ parables or scripture, the revelation it brings is powerful to effect change!