Summary: The man at the pool of Bethsaida had lost his will to achieve, and blamed others. Jesus, however, gave Him his self-worth as well as his health. Do not blame prejudice or racism for failure; turn to Jesus and be healed and motivated.
The day dawned like any other day ... a little chillier, maybe, than you might have expected this time of year. But still, about as gray and bleak and unpromising as any other day.
After all, every day was about like every other day. What reason did he have to expect anything different? For 38 years now he had done about the same thing every day, and by now it was comfortable. Cold, but comfortable. Foolish, but familiar. No reason to imagine that this day would be unlike every other day, long hours filled with boredom, long hours filled with waiting, long hours inching by, filled with frustration. To tell the truth, long hours filled with, well, long hours.
He scraped together a few crusts of bread and a little fish that someone had left him the day before and stretched to look out the window of his little room: sure enough, gray. Chilly, bland, boring gray.
It was a slow business, this thing of getting ready to go out on the streets when there was nothing to go out to. Why hurry, after all? This day would be like all other days. During the earlier years he had on occasion thought that something would come of it. When they first told him about the pool of Bethesda and its healing powers, well, he thought, this is worth trying. Nothing else has healed these diseased legs .. so off to the pool he went to see if as they claimed, an angel troubled the waters from time to time and you could be healed if you were to step in the waters at those times.
At first it bothered him that he never seemed to get it right. When the waters bubbled, for one reason or another he never got there at the right moment. And it angered him at first ... for a week or two or maybe a month it angered him to think that he was so close and yet so far. He wanted to be healed, but he just couldn’t quite pull it off.
But slowly, imperceptibly, after a month or so, he began not to expect to be healed, not to expect to get in the pool. Somewhere – and he himself could not have dated it – somewhere in those first few months he began to stop expecting healing and to begin enjoying ill health.
He began to stop expecting healing and to begin enjoying ill health. And after year a few more months, maybe a year, the business of going out to the pool every day to lie there and wait and miss the angel – that business had become a habit, a routine, even a part of his identity. They knew him now as the guy who always missed the waters; he was known in the street as the fellow who spent his days at Bethesda and could never get the timing right. It was just him, it was his thing … and, though he would never have admitted it to you out loud, he didn’t want it to change. It was just his thing.
Thirty-eight years. Why, what would he do now if somehow the healing were to work? Who would he be? It was just his thing, to be the cripple, the sick man of Bethesda, the professional beggar and sicko.
No reason to imagine that this day would be different from any other day. No reason even to want it to be. Slowly he drew on his old wool coat; with pain that he had long since learned to endure he tugged at his raggedy sandals. No, he could not really walk, but in order to impress or just to play the part you needed a certain look, a certain routine. A day once again to feel the futility of it all, but to respond with the same numbed feelings: “I can’t help myself, I can’t change anything, I’m trapped, so I may as well go out and do my thing, crazy as it is.”
But this day as he propped himself up in his favorite spot on the center colonnade, the place where you can see and be seen more easily, and where the regular crowd knew he would be – this day he saw coming toward him a tall bearded man with an air of authority and with a band of followers. It wasn’t hard to pick out who was in charge of this little crowd, because the tall bearded one had a commanding presence and a deliberate stride, and he was leading the pack, walking quickly toward the porticoes.
He reorganized himself around the colonnade just a little. Something made him want to square his shoulders and get his little pallet in order; something about this stranger that made him want to look at least a little together. And now the stranger was stopping, right in front of him ... was looking at him and was asking questions about him. Who is this man ... and what is his problem?