Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
John 5:1-18 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus Heals on the Sabbath
5 After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew[a] Beth-zatha,[b] which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.[c] 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Now that day was a sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in[d] the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” 18 For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Imagine. For 38 years he had been unable to walk. For a big part of that time, he had lain there by the pool called Bethzatha (in some translations, Bethesda or Bethsaida). Every day he lay by that pool with huge crowds of others, all seeking to be healed of their diseases, just waiting and watching the surface of the water.
All of those gathered there believed in a superstition: that from time to time an angel would trouble the surface of the water and when that happened, the first one in would be healed. He had tried to be the first one in, but he could never make it. Someone who wasn’t alone, someone who had a strong brother or someone with an ailment that still allowed them to walk would be carried or rush ahead of him into the curative powers of that pool. Imagine all the false starts and useless plunges into the pool when a strong wind or the currents of the underground spring which fed the pool made ripples on the surface of the water.
Thirty-eight years! He had been there so long, that he could hardly imagine anymore what it would be like to be made whole and to be somewhere else. He had built his whole life around not being whole. The entire structure of his life revolved around his condition. The remarkable thing was that after 38 years of brokenness, he still longed for wholeness—he still longed for his life to be different.
As he lay there watching the water, someone stood in his way. It was Jesus, who asked him a direct question, “Do you want to be made well?”
He said, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.”
Jesus looked at him and said, “Get up, pick up your bed and walk.” And the man did just that. After 38 years, he walked.
Jesus’ question seems strange, doesn’t it? “Do you want to be made well?”
The Greek translated “to be made well” refers not just to a physical cure, but to holistic wellness, wholeness of body, mind, soul. Healing, wholeness and salvation are all bound up together in meaning. Sixteen times when Jesus heals in the New Testament, the word used for “healing” is the same word in the Greek translated “salvation.” It can mean salvation from and healing of guilt of past sins, salvation from and healing of fear, and salvation from and healing of the power of sin.
Do I need to be made whole? Without question, the answer is yes. Jesus’ question is the more pointed one: do I want to be made whole? It is a crucial question of life: one which we all must answer.
It sounds very simple, but it’s not! An encounter with Jesus means change! An encounter with Jesus means looking at ourselves very honestly and our situation and our values. Do you want to be made whole, complete, well?
Jesus asks the question of you and me as he did that man at the Pool of Bethzatha: “Do you want to be healed? Do you want to be made whole?” Do you want to be different?
A few years ago I went to see a counselor about stress. I described all that was going on in my schedule, how busy I was and how it was affecting me. He listened and asked a few clarifying questions. Then, he began to ask me some questions: Do you exercise regularly? Do you eat right? What do you do on your days off? How much sleep do you get each night, on average? Are you aware of the importance of these things for managing stress? You know what you need to do, don’t you?
What was he saying to me? I’ll tell you what he was really asking: Do You Want to be Made Well?
Healing, wholeness, wellness comes in many forms.
- Sometimes it comes in the physical form of a cure—but not always.
- Sometimes it comes as the healing of memories.
- Sometimes it comes as forgiveness received.
- Sometimes it comes as forgiveness given.
- Sometimes it comes as peace to for a troubled mind.
- Sometimes it comes as release from the iron grip of addiction.
- Sometimes it comes as acceptance and trust as life draws to a close.
Do You Want to be Made Well?
We are made whole as we open our lives to Jesus’ gift of wholeness, of salvation.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster