The Paralytic of Bethesda
The encounter of the Lord Jesus with the paralytic of Bethesda is one of the most significant and moving. The story of this man backtracks almost four decades, during which he only had experienced being an orphan and being forgotten. Thirty eight years seeking, and thirty eight years returning frustrated. I do not know if we can calibrate what this means, unless we have known what it is to wait a very long time for what never came.
When the angel descended to touch the waters and make them health-giving, others jumped in first. When the paralytic would arrive, it was already late. The waters by then had lost their power and had become common waters, as they usually were day by day. His difficult effort would result in impotence and frustration.
How many things happen during thirty eight years? Many people already were born and died in the span of those years. Entire lives were lived, suffered and died. They had been full of strength and the thirty eight years had not even elapsed. Many days dawned and gloamed away. All the hopes that once strongly vibrated are already gone and left the heart empty of any light.
After thirty eight years one does not hope for anything further. Human strength has ebbed away a long time ago. The eyes are tired of seeking and not finding. One does not see beyond the necessary space to take the necessary short step. That is why when that Man came near, and told him: "Do you want to be healed?" the question must have sounded almost injuring. The explanation he offered (it was not a resounding YES!), reveals all the profound depth of his hopelessness.
The Lord does not doubt that He will heal him, not even because that day was a 'Sabbath', so idolized by the Jews. So He takes upon His shoulders this man's pain, as well as the fury of the Pharisees, blinded by religion. He bears one and all because nothing could hinder His long beneficient task.
The paralyzed man is YOU and ME. Nothing can such a man do after thirty eight years of prostration, except to receive mercy. The paralytic can do nothing they ask him to do, he can only receive. If the Lord does not come near, you cannot go to Him. And if you cannot come to Him, you will not be able to be healed. What to do? There is a distance between you and God, a gap you cannot bridge. There is a fundamental limitation that cannot be overcome.
But the day comes when the Lord comes near, and speaks to the heart. You can hear His voice, and feel that the day of your redemption has arrived. In spite that it seems almost unbelievable, here He is, ready to succor you. Your paralized muscles are stiff, frozen, but they receive light as from a powerful sun and get strangely warmed. Joints become flexible. You can walk! The paralytic had never learned to walk during those long years. But here he is, walking around!
It seems unbelievable that you now can walk with God, free, without impediment, and with renewed will. Everything that had been turned off is now turned on! What was dead, resurrects! God smiles to him again. Really, the Lord was never absent, but you were far, far away. That is why the Lord told the paralytic: "Look, you have been healed; sin no more, so that something worse may not happen to you". We are standing erect now, healed, let us sin no more.