John 5:1-8 New International Version (NIV)
The Healing at the Pool
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[a] 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.  [b] 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.”
The pool at Bethesda was well known as a place of healing, it was in Jerusalem and at one stage it was dedicated to the god Asclepius. Whilst Jews believed in the healing powers of the water, the pool at Bethesda was a pagan pool, surrounded with superstition. When the pool bubbled it was said to be visited by an angel and the first person in would be healed. The pool only bubbled intermittently so there weren’t many people healed.
All around the pool people who were sick lay in wait for a miracle. The watched and waited.
There lay a man who had been sick for 38 years he couldn’t walk, Jesus had a conversation with him and he established that he hadn’t been able to walk for thirty-eight years. He had been lying there quite a long time waiting.. Jesus asked the man – ‘Do you want to get well?’ The man said he had tried but because he couldn’t move fast someone always got their first.
Jesus doesn’t argue with him. His doesn’t ask any more questions, he just commanded him to get up and walk.
There were a lot of people waiting for a miracle Jesus and didn't heal them all, he just singled out one man.
He felt his absolute helplessness, perhaps he didn’t believe that his life will every change. He couldn’t get to the pool quick enough, he lay there not really expecting that anything would ever change. Perhaps he felt he would just lie there until he died. Although surrounded by others I would imagine he would have felt very alone, The story tells us he had no-one to help him.
Jesus doesn’t say… there, there, it will be better soon, he doesn’t say I will wait with you and help you into the pool, he doesn’t send for a more comfortable bed for him to lie on. He tells him direct ‘Get up’.
What does this mean for us?
I wonder how the man felt, he hadn’t been able to walk for thirty-eight years Jesus told him to get up, the man didn’t argue with Jesus, he didn’t say can you give me a hand up, he didn’t say don’t be silly, he didn’t say I can’t…. he just did it… He trusted Jesus.
But Jesus didn’t stop there, he told the man to pick up his bed. Why? Maybe because he didn’t want the man to doubt that this healing would last. His healing wasn’t just for the day, or for the week it was forever. So he would never need his bed by the pool ever again.
Throughout our lives we will encounter times of despair, times we think that things will never change.. times when we just can’t imagine a way out.
Jesus didn’t promise us that life will always be happy and wonderful.. He didn’t promise us a life free from difficulties or challenges. What Jesus did promise is he will be there with us and that it won’t last forever. He asks each one of us ‘Do you want to get well?’
We have a choice – we can sit there and wait for something to happen.. or make the choice to get up and trust Jesus to be with us.
I think this is what Jesus asks of us.. and the reason he healed the man. To show us that no matter how desperate things might seem, there is always an answer. I am not talking about physical healing.
There was an article on faith and healing, a while ago in one of the newspapers, the research had shown that those with a faith healed much quicker, than those who didn’t. It didn’t say that they didn’t get ill, but that they healed quicker.
Our faith gives us hope and it’s that hope that keeps us going believing that things will get better.
This is what Jesus wants for us, to change our attitude to our situation. It’s about believing that things can and will get better. Things might not turn out the way we want but Jesus is telling us.. ‘Get up’.
For me this story holds a powerful message, keep going, keep believing no matter what happens.
To use with the children
There is a story that I have used over and over, it’s something I have even given to teenagers. Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury.
I remember I once used it as a theological reflection on just this subject.
Life is like that bear hunt.. life is a journey, sometimes we have blue skies, and a lovely stroll, sometimes we have to wade through mud, or come across obstacles, (like the river) sometimes we have huge mountains we have to climb, and sometimes we can’t see the road ahead…. But every time we encounter an obstacle we discover we can’t go over, though or round it, we have to go through them and keep going.. Trusting that Jesus is right there with us..
This is an important lesson for children to learn.. That they are never alone, and yes things do happen that affect children in the same way that it affects adults. It’s important for us as adults to acknowledge their feelings and not to trivialise them. They might be devastated by something we think is trivial or we might not realise how strongly they feel about something that is happening at home or at school.
1. Reassure them that they are never alone if they believe in Jesus.
2. Encourage them to talk to someone they trust about how they feel.
3. Teach them the five finger rule of trust.
4. Reassure them that what they feel isn’t going to last forever.
5. And encourage them to keep going as they will get through it.
6. Be there for them to just listen.
7. Encourage them to problem solve for themselves. (Jesus says ‘Get up’.)
8. Teach them about the physical symptoms of stress.
A good exercise is to get them to draw round someone on the floor and then write on them the physical symptoms of stress.
Start at the head, headaches, not sleeping, eyes – tears, mouth – anger or not wanting to talk, heart pounding loudly, etc.
A great booklet available to download is How am I?
Teaching children relaxation techniques also are a really good idea.
Try the progressive muscle relaxation it’s on You tube. It has a tortoise on the slide. It’s a fun was to teach children to relax.
There are lots to choose from I suggest listening to them and deciding which one you feel comfortable with.