John 5:2-17 Healing at the pool of Bethesda.
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids–blind, lame, and paralyzed. (John 5:2-3)
The people were concentrating on the pool, waiting for the water to stir and ready to rush in. They didn’t notice Jesus. But Jesus noticed one man in particular. The invalid who couldn’t reach the water was thinking about something else. He attracted Jesus’ attention.
One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. (John 5:5-9)
Notice that the man obeyed Jesus immediately and without questioning. He was told to do something he knew was impossible but he didn’t hesitate. Was God already working in his heart? Is God working in the heart of someone you know?
Why didn’t Jesus heal everyone round the pool? If he was going to heal only one, why did he choose that one?
Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” … So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. (John 5:17,19,20)
‘My Father is working.’ The Son does what he sees the Father do. Jesus was in such close communion with the Father that he could see where he was already working. As we learn to grow closer to God we will be able to see where he is working.
When Jesus performed the miracle, what did the religious leaders think?
Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” (John 5:10)
Their attention was on the petty rules they had made up to surround the law that God had given. They didn’t stop for a moment to think about the miracle and rejoice in what God was doing. Where is your attention focused?
A very small congregation in the north of England met in a community hall. Next to them was a group studying meditation and spirituality. The church leaders were praying to ask God how to reach out to the community, but were also wondering how to get rid of the meditation group. They tried singing loudly and playing tambourines to drive them away. One day the meditation teacher asked to speak to the church leader and they went for a coffee.
She explained that she had been thinking a lot about light and dark and feeling she should concentrate on the light. As she meditated on it she wondered where the light came from and that turned her thoughts towards God. She said that while she was meditating on God he told her to talk to the church leader and ask him for a Bible. The church had been praying about how to reach the community and God was already at work in the group next door. The group leader met regularly with the church leader and became a Christian. She continued to lead the meditation group but she encouraged them to meditate on the light and then on the God who sent it. Some of her students left but the rest eventually became Christians, increasing the size of the small church by over a third.
We are all called to go and spread the word about Jesus, and it can be hard sometimes. Look for where God is already working. Ask him to show you so you can work with him.
[adapted from a sermon by John Rogers at Pantygwydr Baptist Church]
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk