I recognize the trap when rut-like scenery comes into focus -
busy but unfulfilling days,
a quick but disinterested mind,
a willing but lethargic spirit.
That's when I cry out to the LORD, asking the Father to stop the merry-go-round I'm on and the Spirit to revive the Psalm 42:2 yearning I desire.
"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?"
And in faithfulness He answers me as surely as He answered Jacob in Genesis 35:3.
"Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone."
He is delivering the remedy this time through the book of John. My focus all week has been on the account of the paralytic in chapter 5. Jesus met the Samaritan woman in Sychar at Jacob's Well. He met the invalid in Jerusalem beside a pool near the Sheep Gate.
There are several points that catch my interest immediately.
John is the only Gospel that contains this narrative.
The Sheep Gate is the entrance used to bring in the sacrificial sheep and lambs, the first and last gate mentioned in Nehemiah's report about the rebuilding of Jerusalem. (1:1, 32)
The word Bethesda in the original Aramaic means house of mercy or grace.
John reports that a "great number" of needy people were waiting by the pool. The Savior approached ONE. God says "Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time." The man had been lost and suffering in helplessness for thirty-eight (38) years. (vv. 3-6)
Jesus went over and spoke to him, the One out of the whole hurting crowd. There's no information that the bedridden man called out for assistance. According to verse 13, the man probably didn't even know who Jesus was. Yet the Savior of the world singled him out for a personal conversation.
The Christ asked whether he wanted to get well and the disabled man merely shared the truth of his situation. He wasn't able to get himself into the healing waters. Without any further discussion, Messiah directed him to "'Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.' At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked." (v. 8,9)
My own life comes into focus and I simply can go no further. I read these nine verses over again and again, meditating on their impact in my life.
I too was lost and suffering in helplessness. I too was paralyzed in my sin and unable to get into the healing waters. I too was One among many waiting for healing. Jesus approached me and spoke to my heart as surely as he did the invalid by the pool at the Sheep Gate. I have to confess that I'm not sure I really knew who He was on the day I answered His question and said I too wanted to be healed.
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrews 13:8
Even though I was thoroughly immature and untrained, the Messiah, the Lamb of God and great Shepherd of the Sheep, the Healer of John 5, relieved me of the paralyzing consequences of my sin - for His own glory.
"For the sake of Jacob my servant,
of Israel my chosen.
I summon you by name
and bestow on you a title of honor.
though you do not acknowledge me.
I am the LORD, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me,
so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting
men may know there is none besides me,
I am the LORD, and there is no other." Isaiah 45:4,5
The new life I experienced after twenty-three (23) years of lostness and suffering was filled with joy and peace, conviction and zeal. Over the years since then I've had countless highs and lows. Through them all God has been faithful to meet me, speak to my heart, and call me forward. How blessed I am.
Christ's life-changing encounter with me was specific and personal, detailed and loving, powerful and compassionate, rich and effective, merciful and gracious, kind and just, tender and strong, and He continues to call to me in my ongoing journey.
How about YOU? Can you hear His voice, "Do you want to get well?"
Are you in the midst of a crowd or overwhelmed by the merry-go-round? He's calling out to YOU too, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."