5 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.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. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”
11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”
12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”
13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.
(John 5:1-15 NIV)
John skips ahead an undetermined amount of time in his narrative, recording an event which occurs when Jesus is back in Jerusalem for a religious festival.
Jesus is on His way to the temple to worship, and He passes by the Bethesda pool, a place where people would wait until the waters were stirred up (supposedly by angels) and then be healed by being the first one in the pool. Jesus sees a man lying near the pool and learns that the man has been here for 38 years!
Jesus asks the man if he wants to get well – if he wishes to be healed. Notice the man’s response: “I have no one to help me into the pool…”. Jesus did not ask the man why he was not healed yet – Jesus asked the man if he wanted to get well. Jesus asked a direct question and received an excuse for a response. The man was saying it was not his fault that he was not healed yet – he had no friends to put him in the pool when the waters were stirred up.
Despite the man’s excuses, Jesus heals him (vv. 8-9). The man gets up, picks up his mat, and starts walking around. He is healed after 38 years of misery! John records that the man got up and left – he did not even ask Jesus’ name (and implied, did not thank Jesus for healing him).
The Pharisees see the man and confront him about carrying his mat on a Sunday. Obviously, Jesus would not go against God’s Law, but He had no regard for the Pharisees’ self-righteous oral laws that they added to God’s Law. Notice the man’s response: another excuse. Rather than rejoice over his healing, the man blames the situation on the One who made him whole again.
In verses 14 – 15, John records that Jesus finds the man again and warns him of his sin. Jesus lets the man know that if he does not stop his sinning, something worse may happen to him. The man does not heed Jesus’ warning, and instead does the opposite, and gives his excuse a name. The man finds the religious leaders and tells them it was Jesus who told him to get up, pick up his mat, and walk.
Are we grateful for what the Lord does in our lives, or are we like the lame man, always making an excuse for our situations and circumstances, never accepting responsibility for ourselves and our actions or inactions?
Do we seek the Lord with a passionate heart, or do we go through the motions of life half-heartedly, looking for an excuse to blame someone or something else if the situation does not fall in our favor?
May we take Jesus’ warning seriously and shake free from our excuses, from our ignorance and apathy. May we seek the Lord with passion, and pursue whatever is in front of us with all our energy and enthusiasm, and own our failures when they happen.
Long ago, Solomon echoed Jesus’ warning: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10a NIV).