For When We Let Others Dictate Our Worth
The stifling desert heat made breathing difficult for those who gathered here. The unpleasant odor of stagnant water filled their nostrils. Beautiful colonnades surrounded the pool where the people lounged, but they didn't notice.
Desperation slowly suffocated them.
For 38 years he tried to reach the pool’s edge, but his body wouldn't cooperate. We don’t know his name, only that he wore the label invalid. He lived on a mat near a pool called Bethesda in first-century Jerusalem.
He called this place home because he believed the pool's water could heal him. So there he sat. Day after day. Waiting. Languishing. Swatting flies.
Here’s how the story goes:
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. 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?” John 5:2-6
Jesus asked some interesting questions, didn't He? Some may perceive the question as taunting or even cruel, but Jesus never asked without already knowing the answer.
He knew some people didn't want to get better. Some preferred whining, complaining, and expecting handouts to avoid honest work.
But really, what kind of question is that if you had lived disabled for 38 years? Wouldn’t you want to get well?
In first-century Jerusalem, society believed those suffering illnesses had done something wrong. Perhaps the person had stolen, lied, or not offered a proper sacrifice to God.
Perhaps his parents had done something wrong, so God was punishing him instead.
The belief of the day indicated that an angel of the Lord descended to stir the pool at Bethesda. We don’t know how often this supposedly took place. But the people who gathered believed if you reached the freshly stirred water first, your disease would be cured.
Certain places in the world today purport to have therapeutic water, as well. Many people go to those mineral baths and hot springs. Underneath their journey lies hope.
The hope of healing.
To be normal again.
To function just like everybody else.
I find it interesting that this man didn't identify himself as an invalid. He only said he needed help to the pool. Others labeled him.
We often do the same.
Did you know that only a change in the syllabic stress alters the meaning of the word invalid?
INvalid means you're disabled. InVALid means you're inconsequential.
In society’s eyes, this man was both.
In Jesus' eyes, he was neither.
Jesus came to heal. And restore. And He does the same for us. Don't you love how God never gives up on us, regardless of how we allow others to label us?
When have you let those around you dictate your worth instead of God?