By Sherry Black
A Reading from the Gospel of John 5:1-18
After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many ill, blind, lame, and paralyzed people. 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The ill man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am making my way someone else steps down ahead of me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Now that day was a Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’ ” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” 18 For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the Sabbath but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.
In today’s reading from the Gospel of John, Jesus sees a man who has been ill for 38 years lying next to the Pool of Bethzatha. This man was lying on the ground, unable to get himself to the pool for healing. That would indicate he was likely a paralytic, or in today’s language, a paraplegic. Because of his disability, this man was socially isolated; his only means of income were begging or charity.
It’s also likely that he struggled with personal hygiene, as he may not have had anyone to help him use the bathroom and bathe. Maybe he had friends move him from place to place, or maybe he crawled, using his arms to pull his body behind him. Mostly, people would avoid him. Such a life would be agony.
This is the man Jesus chooses to heal this day: a pariah, a man whose life was defined by suffering and isolation. Jesus chose the hardest case, the one with the most overwhelming needs, the one who would taint Jesus’ reputation by his very touch. Jesus took both social and religious risks on this day.
What kind of risks do we take to bring healing to those around us? The needs, especially in the inner city — and in poor countries — are immense, and not so far removed from those of Jesus’ time. What about disabled veterans? Those living without homes? Those who stand and beg for charity? The terminally ill? What are we doing to be the hands and feet of the Lord, bringing his healing love? How well do we include those with profound physical needs in our communities, in our churches, in our worship?
The Very Rev. Sherry Black is a second-career Episcopal priest, and has been a full-time hospital chaplain for 10 years. She also serves a small mission church as priest-in-charge, and is dean of her deanery.
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Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Wad Medani – Province of the Episcopal Church of Sudan
The Diocese of East Tennessee