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John13 – weakening without help

With these things there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus ascended into Jerusalem. In fact there is in Jerusalem upon the Sheep Gate a bathing-pool called in Aramaic Bethesda, which has five porticoes. In these were lying down a large number of the weakening: blind, lame, withered. 
“With these things”. What things? Well, the previous incident in John’s eye-witness, first century biography of Jesus had to do with an influential father – “a kingly person” – whose son “was weakening” towards death. (John12)

Thar son was fortunate – he had a father to help him. This time a good number are “weakening” together in resignation towards their end.

In fact someone - a man - was there having had thirty-eight years in his weakness. Jesus, having seen this one lying down and having known that he had had this much time already, stated to him, “Do you want to come to be well?” 

38 whole years of “weakness”. By now his daily, hourly position was “lying down”. Several years ago, I used to ask my parents and my in-laws how they were feeling and coping as their strength declined and as they became more and more aware that their own cord of life was fraying. 

Jesus wanted to know if this “someone” was resigned to it all or actually wanted “to become well”. He wanted to become well.

‘When God is our strength, it is strength indeed; when our strength is our own, it is only weakness.’(Augustine of Hippo, theologian, 354-430)
The weakening one answered him, “Lord, I do not have a man in order that, when the water may be disturbed, he may put me into the bathing-pool. In fact in that I myself am coming, another descends before me.” 

 Apparently, there were cures at this Bethesda Pool from time to time. But this “someone” was too weak to lift himself into the water and all the others there looked after themselves rather than him. 

This “someone” had nobody who could help him with this. No hope. Things are not that much different today – when push turns to shove and we’re all protecting ourselves from Covid – not too bothered about curing others.

Jesus stated to him, “Rise up! Take your mat and walk around!” And immediately the man came to be well and took his mat and was walking about. (In fact it was the Sabbath in that day.) 

Someone does care. As soon as Jesus, having asked, is told that this “someone” does want “to be well”, he sees to it. Direct. No water. No magic.

So the Jews were stating to the one who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permitted for you to take the mat!” In fact he answered them, “The one who made me well—that one said to me, ‘Take your mat and walk around.’” 

The devout, religious folk in Jerusalem had not earlier bothered about this “someone”. But they suddenly spring into action. Although “made well”, he mustn’t carry his mat around. Not on the Sabbath.

The trouble was that it was the man who had made him well who had told him to walk around carrying his mat. He had also made him well on the Sabbath. A new “Sabbath” had arrived on earth - in Jerusalem. The religious were unaware. This universal “weakening” – no matter how long or how advanced or how bad – was now reversible. At last.

So they asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take and walk around?’” In fact the one who was healed had not discerned who it was, because Jesus had edged away, a crowd being in the place. 

I like the fact that Jesus had “edged away”. I’ve had enough of recent claims of “election wins”, “integrity”, “doing whatever it takes”, “we can hack it”. Give me the all-powerful one who, silently, is stronger than all my weakness.

‘Nothing is so sweet and beautiful, yet to ambitious men so surprising, as the humility of the Lord Jesus.’ (Walter Chantry)
With these things Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Look and see, you have come to be well! Sin no longer, in order that something worse may not come to be to you.”

Yes, he had “become well”. Now he needed to avoid “worse” (what was that?) “coming into being” for him.

Sinner Syvret

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