I WAITED FOR THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS (John 5: 1-15).
Thirty-eight long years I lay near the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem and no one would help me. There were five covered shelters and they were all filled with sick and handicapped like me. It was believed that an angel stirred the water in the pool and who ever managed to enter first was healed. There were many under these five roofs, but I was there the longest. I was an invalid that resulted from an error on my part. I was laid up because of my sins, but I would not admit it. I was bitter and blamed others for my misfortune. Perhaps that was why no one helped me. One Sabbath day a Stranger asked me somewhat of a puzzling question, “Do you want to be healed?” At first I wanted to answer back with another question like, “Who in this place does not?” Instead I complained, “Sir, I have no one who will help me. By the time I get up and start crawling toward the pool someone else has already been healed.” To my surprise, the Stranger ordered me to, “Get up! Take my stretcher and walk.”
Instantly, without any hesitation, I obeyed His Words. And as I began to raise myself, I felt energy flowing through my entire body. Without realizing it what was happening, I was on my feet, had my stretcher on my shoulder and was walking about. I was in a daze and overcome with happiness. I was well again and I was carrying the very stretcher that I laid on for thirty-eight years. I was ready to celebrate and share my good fortune. Just as I was beginning to enjoy myself, someone said, “What are you doing? You can’t carry your stretcher today! Don’t you know this is our Day of Rest, our Holy Day? Our Law forbids you to do that!” All of a sudden, I was facing people who were against me carrying my stretcher. I was merely trying to return home, that is if there still was a place I could call home. I wondered where they were when I needed them? But I brushed those thoughts aside and said, “I am doing what a man told me to do and it works.”
So these good law abiding citizens demanded who it was that had ordered me to carry my stretcher. Instead of telling them to be praising God for the miracle that had happened to me, I sort of made myself look innocent and blamed the Stranger for having ordered me to carry my stretcher on the Sabbath. Fortunately, I did not know who He was and He did not introduce Himself when He told me to, “Get up! Pick up my mat and walk.” He had vanished quickly into the crowd before I had a chance to ask or say anything to Him. Now, I realized why He disappeared. He just did not want to face what I was facing. Much later, I would learn that this Stranger regarded such encounters between healing and a day of rest as senseless arguments. Our system allowed an animal to be rescued from danger but not a human being. I should have been healed on any other day but our Sabbath or day of rest instituted by God Himself. In their eyes, I was violating the sacred Law of God. My healing to them was an act sin.
To please my fellow men, I did put my bed down and went to the Temple to show some gratitude for what had happened to me. Again, the Stranger appeared and said to me in the same tone of voice, “I see you are completely well. Stop sinning! If you are not, something worse will happen to you.” These were not exactly words that I wanted to hear. I had lost thirty-eight years of my life and I was about to indulge in some pleasure. I was going to recoup some of my losses and I was going to get even with some people whom I blamed for my accident. I had a lot of living to do. Now this Stranger put a damper on my intentions and warmed me to stop doing what I was going to do. How did He know what I was up to? It did not dawn on me that I was there in the first place because of sin. Now, I was about to repeat my error and spent thirty-eight more years in solitary. I guess my brain did not register too well. I was adding up the wrong things and did not know it. The Stranger had not healed me to repeat the same sin over again. He had given me a second chance to do something with my life and not waste it away in sin.
I did learn that the stranger was Jesus and lost no time telling the lawyers who it was that made me carry my stretcher on the Sabbath. I should have known better. I am one of those these lawyers used against Jesus to condemn Him for breaking their precious Sabbath. I should have fallen before His feet and thanked Him that He delivered me from being a helpless invalid. Instead, I squealed on Him and repaid Him with evil for His kindness and helpfulness. He should have left me there to die in my misery. He had pity on me and in spite of my sinful attitude and thoughts, He reached out and healed me by the mighty power of His Words. I was thankful for one thing; however, namely that I obeyed His orders. And oh how I wished I had obeyed His other words as well! Why is it that I was so fast to obey one thing and not another? Why was I set on sinning again when I knew fully well that it would result in more bad encounters? I am a living example that sinning does not pay. Thirty-eight years of suffering was a hefty price to pay for one little mistake. Believe me friend! Whatever you intend to do with your life that may have an inkling of long or lasting consequences, don’t do it! No moment of pleasure is worth a life-long of agony. Do not follow my example. Do what Jesus tells you! He saw through me and He tried to stop me from making more bad mistakes. He will do the same for you.