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?
"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him." Psalm 28:7
Do you experience some days when your joy simply cannot be contained?
Where you look at an incredible gift in your life, trace the hand back to the Giver, and stand in awe?
The leaping and singing of God's praises cannot be loud enough or long enough.
Tomorrow, my brand new Bible study, The God of All Comfort, releases nationwide. And before the testimonials, reviews, or numbers start rolling in, I'm taking this moment to stop.
And turn up the worship music.
And give God humble thanks.
To shine the spotlight on the One who orchestrated this whole thing.
The journey toward publishing this study has been hard. The valleys I walked through were deep and painful.
But I didn't walk alone. Jesus was right beside me every step of the way.
With face upturned toward heaven, I give Him the praise and honor He rightly deserves, because without Him this study would not exist. Period.
I want to celebrate and gush joy with you!
My author friend, Jessica Patch, is hosting the launch of The God of All Comfort on her blog tomorrow by giving away an incredible gift basket that includes a signed copy of this new study.
The basket also includes a KINDLE TOUCH, gift cards, Starbucks coffee and more.
Won't you stop by tomorrow to help us celebrate what God has done?
I'd love to put your name in the drawing hat, so click here to head over first thing Wednesday. If you'd like to see a glimpse of the study on Amazon, click here.
See you there!