Summary: The key to getting healed or unstuck in our lives is to do what God tells us to do-even if it doesn’t make sense. We must listen to God’s instructions in our hearts. We must find them in his word. There will be something that God will want us to do.

Jesse spotted Meagan through the window of a café, squeezing lemon into her glass of water. For a couple of minutes, he watched. The restaurant had a retro look, a throwback to diner days with soda counters and silver-rimmed tables. Two men in an adjacent booth said something to her; she ignored them. A server offered her a menu; she declined it. A car screeched to a stop and honked at a jaywalking pedestrian; she looked up. That’s when Meagan saw him.

Jesse smiled. She didn’t. But neither did she turn away. She watched him cross the narrow street, enter the café, and walk toward her booth. He asked if he could join her, and she nodded. As he signaled the server, Meagan noticed Jesse looked tired.

He said little as he waited on his coffee. She spoke even less, at first. But once she began, her whole story tumbled out. Dropped by a boyfriend in Missouri. Fed up with her family. Someone told her she could make fast money in commercials. Escaped to the West Coast. Audition after audition. Rejection after rejection. Finally, cosmetics school. “I never even finished,” she confessed. “I heard about the opening at Bentley Bishop’s. Went for an interview and …”—she looked away— “after doing what he wanted, he hired me. And now”—a tear bubbled— “I’m here. I pay the rent and don’t go hungry. Twenty-one years old and surviving L.A. Sounds like the chorus of a country-western song. But I’m okay. At least that’s what I tell myself.”

Jesse’s sandwich arrived. He offered her half, but she declined. After a couple of bites, he wiped his mouth with a napkin.

“Meagan, I know you. I’ve watched you stain pillows with tears and walk streets because you couldn’t sleep. I know you. And I know you hate who you are becoming.”

“So”—Meagan touched the corner of her eye with the back of a knuckle—“if you’re such a psychic, tell me: where’s God in all this? I’ve been looking for Him a long, long time.” With a sudden increase in volume, she began listing misdeeds on her fingers. “I ran out on my folks. I sleep with my boss. I’ve spent more time on a barstool than a church pew. I’m tired, tired of it all.” She bit her lip and looked away.

Jesse inclined the same direction and caught her attention. She looked up to see him beaming, energetic, as though he were an algebra professor and she was struggling with two plus two.

“Where is God in all this?” He repeated her question. “Nearer than you’ve ever dreamed.” He took her glass and held it. “Meagan, everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again. But I offer a different drink. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst. Not ever.”

Again, silence.

With a finger Meagan bounced the ice cubes in the glass. Finally, she asked, “Never?”

“Not ever.”

She looked away, then looked back, and, with every ounce of honesty she owned, asked, “Tell me, Jesse. Who in the world are you?”

Her new friend leaned forward in response and replied, “I thought you’d never ask.”

(Source: Lucado, M: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 1461-1463)

What you’ve just heard is a modern version of the story of Jesus healing the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethsaida. We heard the same story in the reading from John 5:1-15 a few minutes ago. It’s a story of God’s love and mercy, and in some ways it’s appropriate that we are hearing this story at this time of year. We’ve just celebrated Christmas, a time when we remember Christ’s coming to show God’s love and mercy to a hurting world.

The word “Bethsaida” means “house of mercy.” It was a fitting name for the pool because everyone who arrived there needed physical healing. John called the gathered ones “asthenia,” which translates as “without strength or power.” The people had no strength physically or spiritually, so they needed God’s mercy.

That the man had no one to help him into the pool probably meant that his family had abandoned him. Perhaps his all-but-helpless condition prompted Jesus to set his sights on him while choosing not to heal anyone else there. God makes forsaken individuals his priority. Jesus seeks and cares for the one person-whether it is Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the paralytic at the pool of Bethsaida, or any one of us. Jesus was never impressed by a crowd regardless of its size. He never let a crowd get in the way of the person who needed him.

Although Jesus knew the answer to his question, he wanted the man to tell him what he wanted. The paralytic did not need pity from man. He needed Jesus. Wanting things to be different and wanting to change are not the same thing. Change takes effort and commitment. We know we have to work at addressing our problems, but sometimes we wonder if we’re up to the task. We might be more concerned about what others think than pursuing peace of mind. We might feel defeated and unable to move, but if we want to get well we have to shift our focus to Jesus. That will motivate us to move forward in faith, even if we are weak and feeling stuck.

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