If you travel to Jerusalem, a visit to the excavation believed to be the pool of Bethesda will likely make your itinerary. Even by today’s standards, the pool is vast. Standing in that space makes it easy to imagine hundreds of people gathered around it, just hoping for their chance to be immersed in its healing waters. Picture the sea of folks in today’s story who are waiting to be healed, ironically unaware of the one there who could actually heal them. Focus on the man that Jesus chooses from this crowd. Was it the sick man’s 38 years in the waiting area that leads Jesus to approach him and ask, “Do you want to be made well?” (v. 6).
This seems like a peculiar question. Why wouldn’t this person want to be healed? Does someone who has been ill that long actually believe that their healing is possible? Or deserved? Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, has this physically disabled man doubted that there is any hope for him for so long that it ultimately becomes his truth? Likewise, have many of us lived with negative assumptions about ourselves for so many years—doubting our worth and goodness—that ultimately those assumptions start to feel like our truth?
Thanks be to God that our perceived truth is not always Jesus’ truth at all. In the moments when we believe the worst about ourselves, Jesus looks us in the eye and challenges our assumptions. In those encounters he meets us with astonishing grace and a chance to be made whole.
What negative assumptions about myself do I need to let Jesus challenge?
Merciful God, we often believe the worst about ourselves. Remind us that you made us in your image, claimed us, and called us beloved. May that assurance open our hearts to receive your grace. Amen.