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Then the hand of Jesus touched me ...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

John 5:1-13

Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. There is a pool near the Sheep Gate called Bethesda. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie - the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. Jesus asked him, "Do you want to get well?"

"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."

Then Jeus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat."

But he replied, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.'"

They asked him, "Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?"

The man who was healed had no idea who it was.

Jesus - the fellow who did the healing - later said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27). The gift of weekly rest God gave his children no longer healed, but served to separate men from themselves and each other.

The healing pool did the same thing, as broken invalids fought to get what they thought they could for themselves. Cooperation must have been the last thing in their minds. Had they known who Jesus was they would have been biting and clawing each other to get to him.

Everywhere Jesus went, he healed many. But still, everywhere he went many others were left untouched. Like the rest of us, Jesus had 168 hours in his week, and only so many weeks. There would not be enough time to heal them all.

Later in the story, Jesus meets the man again and tells him, "See, you are well. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." Perhaps the man learned to give - maybe he became a healer himself, soothing the invalids at the pool, wiping their brows, helping them up and down again. Perhaps he told them stories to help them sleep, and fed them when they couldn't feed themselves. And when they were dying, maybe he held their heads in his lap and stroked their foreheads and told them about his day with Jesus.

I hope he was grateful a week and a month and a year after Jesus touched him. I hope I am too. The Sabbath reminds me of Jesus' touch. I feel his hand on my broken heart, my broken body, my broken life. And once again I get the goosebumps.

Jesus, you are the Sabbath. You call out, "Come to me when you are weary and heavy, and I will give you rest." Let me rest in you, and become strong to give others what you give me.

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