1Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When 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?"
"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." 8Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." 9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The story of the healing at Bethesda is a familiar, famous story. But, like many of the miracle stories, we have a tendency to read it just as that, a miracle, proof that Jesus is special and he can heal folks. But there is so much more to the story. This is the story of a man who has been denied his place in line over and over again. This is the story of a rejected man, someone who is constantly passed by and constantly disregarded. This invalid has no one to help him. He is not alone.
We have all felt rejected. And at some level we are all rejected. We all know what it's like to be broken and disregarded. Some of us have been ignored in our time of greatest need and no one bothered to ask us what we wanted. Some of us have been denied our place in line for so long that we have settled for something less, we have settled for our mat. Our culture says to us, "you don't matter." Society says, "your wounds are silence to the ears." You try to speak up but no one really listens... no one really cares. They might look on you and say to themselves, "I hope someone listens" but they never think to do it themselves. You look to them for help but they only use you as a stepping stone to their own superiority. Some of us have given up on including ourselves in the "us" line because the "them" line seems to have our name on it. We're allowed to sit by the pool, but they continue to talk over us.
To those of us who have been ignored, to those of us who in low regard, to everyone who sits by the pool in need, to everyone without a voice Jesus holds out His hand. He might not be where you think he is. You might think he's the one taking your place in line, you might think he's the one pretending to listen but still watching you sit on your mat. You might think he on that pulpit, you might think those are his words telling you to shut up, back down, know your place. You might think he made you to sit on that mat and you might think he's the one telling you to accept it. You might think he's better than you, you might think he's in the front of the line but he's actually standing beside you. He's bothering to ask you what it is you want. He's bothering to notice that society has put you somewhere you really don't belong. He's holding out his hand, he's asking you to stand. Get up...
He knows the others might not like it, he knows that they have crippled you. He knows that they are the reason you are hurting and they want you to think that they are your only hope for salvation. But Jesus stands beside you asking the impossible but making all things possible. Get up...
I was reminded of this passage and inspired to write this post by a song called "Get Up Good" by my good friend Johanna Chase.