“Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up . . .” (John 5:7).
When my kids were small they couldn’t get enough of the pool.
We were there all the time. I would get home from work and the begging would begin and off we’d go. Weather was irrelevant. What felt to me like cloudy and cool in late spring was still good pool weather as far as my kids were concerned. They didn’t think twice about plunging in even if the frigid water made their teeth chatter.
No more. My kids enjoy the pool often enough these days, but now it’s a social thing. It’s all about who’s going to be there. No friends, no pool. And showing up with Dad is not cool. I spend far less time pool-side these days.
But like the man by the pool of Bethesda, I know what it is to sit by the pool waiting on something to happen that will make me well.
The Not-Valid Ones
This week we’ll walk with Jesus to Jerusalem, to the pool of Bethesda. In John’s story the pool was a gathering place for all kinds of afflicted people. The ESV Bible says that the place was occupied by a “multitude of invalids.”
That particular English word suggests something more than ‘sick’ or ‘crippled.’ They were the not-valid ones – and this is a widespread illness, even now. Far too many people live with a sense of being ‘not valid,’ and they are waiting for something to validate them – something that will say they matter, they are worthy.
John tells us that when the waters of the pool were stirred or agitated, the first person to get into the pool would be healed. There is a tradition that says an angel would come and stir the waters. Some scholars have suggested that underground springs caused the bubbling effect. Either way, people believed that healing was in the pool. The afflicted who gathered there waited and hoped, yearning for the wholeness that could come from those waters.
Nothing Else Needed
In this sense, we all know what it is to sit by the pool. Some of us have been there longer than others. The pool is whatever we’re waiting on that will validate us. The pool is whatever we are looking to for a sense of wholeness. The pool, we believe, will make everything OK.
That pool might be a new job or a new house. It might be a promotion or a deal that closes. Sometimes the pool is a husband or wife . . . or perhaps a different husband or wife. For many the pool is a big break or a sought after breakthrough, a final payment or the last treatment.
In John’s story Jesus shows up and basically says, “Forget about the pool.” He ignores it – the bubbling water and the race to get there first – all of it. Wholeness is found in Jesus. He doesn’t come to help anyone get to the pool. He brings healing directly to us and he does it by speaking. The presence of Jesus is powerful and he grants healing by his word. Jesus doesn’t show to give us some help in getting to what will make us well. He is sufficient for our healing, nothing else needed.
But first, a question: “Do you want to be well?” That question sits silently behind all of our reflections this week. Today let’s focus on this: Where is your ‘pool?’ And how long will you sit there?
Prayer:We have spent far too much time, O God, sitting by ‘pools’ that we believed would make us well. Find us in those places, we pray, and make us whole by the power of your word and the gift of your presence in our lives. Call our attention away from what cannot heal. Turn our eyes toward your Son, in whose name we pray. Amen.