Today’s reading is John 5:1-29 (NABRE):
Cure on a Sabbath.
1 After this, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep [Gate] a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. 3 In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. 4 … 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 ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” 9 Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.
Now that day was a sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” 11 He answered them, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” 13 The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there. 14 After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. 16 Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” 18 For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.
The Work of the Son.
19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also. 20 For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes. 22 Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to his Son, 23 so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. 25 Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself. 27 And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.
Do you want to be well?
Jesus poses this question to a man in Jerusalem who has been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. Jesus encounters the man at a pool called Bethesda. The waters of Bethesda were believed to have curative powers for those who were physically ill or disabled. However, these curative powers were believed to be active only when an intermittent spring in the pool bubbled up, and the curative powers were limited to only the first person who came into contact with each intermittent spring. In response to Jesus’ question, the man tells Jesus that he has no one to put him into the pool when the spring bubbles up, so someone else always beats him to the spring and, therefore, to the pool’s curative powers. It is for this reason, the man argues, that he is not well.
Following the man’s explanation, Jesus says to him, “’Rise, take up your mat, and walk’” (John 5:8). Then, in the very next verse, “…the man became well, took up his mat, and walked…” (John 5:9).
If only modern medicine were as simple and successful as Jesus’ command.
Though I have heard this Gospel passage proclaimed in church on many Sundays during the course of my life, this specific miracle never ceases to amaze me. I find it incredible that Jesus heals a paralytic without even physically touching him; a mere verbal command is the full extent of Jesus’ action in performing this miracle. Another detail that impresses me is the timescale on which Jesus acts and with which the miracle is performed. What the bubbling spring of the pool of Bethesda fails to achieve in thirty-nine years, Jesus achieves in a mere instant.
Indeed, John seems to intend the first half of today’s passage, Jesus’ healing of the paralytic, to inform the reader of Jesus’ physical healing powers. At this point in today’s passage, the reader understands that “to be well,” physically, requires hearing Jesus’ words.
The second half of today’s passage features Jesus’ instructions “to be well” spiritually. Jesus tells the man to not sin any more (John 5:14). Jesus instructs the Jews to honor God by honoring Jesus, God’s Son (John 5:23). Jesus further instructs the Jews to hear his words and to believe in God, his Father (John 5:24).
“Do you want to be well?” asks Jesus.
“Of course!” answers all of humanity.
“Then hear my words, do as I say, sin no more, honor my Father and me, and believe in God, my Father, this Lent and always,” prescribes Jesus Christ, M.D.
Marina Spinelli ’18 is a Junior in Eliot House studying Human Evolutionary Biology. Marina dedicates this post to J.D., a one-year-old child of God who, with the power of God’s grace (and modern medicine), begins his journey to be physically well.