The Fiume Tevere (Tiber River) and Ponte Sant’Angelo


John Weiss/Flickr
Angry from Healing
Daily Devotional • August 13
By the Rev. David Baumann
As we close off this week’s readings, we come to an unusual event: this is one of the few times, and maybe the only instance, in which Jesus heals someone who has no faith and no real desire to be healed. The tradition was that the waters of the pool were occasionally stirred up, during which time they manifested healing properties. This certain man had been there for 38 years. It’s hard to imagine that in all that time he had not made it into the pool even once.

Jesus asks, “Do you want to be healed?” I don’t think Jesus is making an offer; he is asking him if he really prefers to make a career of sitting idly while others seek healing. Don’t all of us know people who don’t want to be healed? They remain in their addictions or have identified themselves as “sick” because they fear the change in their life if they were to be healed. After all, new responsibilities and expectations come to those with a new life and a new identity.

More to the point, what parts of ourselves are like that? What are our addictions, comfortable weaknesses, personality flaws, and old sluggish habits that we would rather have healed “later”? In line with Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, and the Roman official, this man also has a blessed encounter with Jesus, but in his case it does not go well. He even retaliates against Jesus by pointing him out to the Jewish authorities as the one who advised him to break the Sabbath by carrying his mat. Jesus often said, “Your faith has made you well,” but this faithless man has not really been made “well.” Nevertheless, his healing gives Jesus the opportunity to teach publicly that he is “equal to God.”

John 5:1-18

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3In these lay many invalids — blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6When 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?” 7The 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.” 8Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. 10So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” 11But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” 12They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” 13Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. 14Later 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.” 15The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath.

17But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” 18For 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.


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