Know the feeling?
And then Jesus came along. Jesus. The Master. The Son of God.
"Do you want to be healed?" asked Jesus.
Silly question. Doesn't every crippled person?
No. Not at all.
Some people want to remain crippled. Emotionally. In actual fact, they don't want the responsibility of being whole. They have learned to use their problem.
I know a woman who uses her illnesses to get attention from her husband and other members of her family. Whenever the doctor tells her to forget it, that she isn't really ill with the problem she thinks she has, she finds another doctor. It's the only way she can face her life. She wants to be ill.
Maybe this man at the pool had to think about it. His answer was a bit equivocal.
"I don't have anybody to help me. Whenever I limp toward the pool, somebody beats me in. The waters return to normal, and there I am."
Everybody else is leaping home, and he is still limping about.
"Get up," said Jesus. "Take up your mat and walk."
And he did.
Just like that.
He was healed, the Scripture says.
What's it all about?
Life is hard for some people. This man really was a cripple. He had to limp around. He couldn't leap. We shouldn't ever forget how hard things are for some people.
We may be able to breathe all right, but some people have a lot of trouble breathing.
We may have plenty to eat and money in the bank, but some people are starving to death.
We may sleep peacefully at night -- or even in the daytime, for that matter -- but some people toss and turn with anxiety from dark to dawn.
Life is simply hard for some.
But here is the good news of our faith: When people can't make it on their own, God reaches in to help.
This is the story of the Jews in the Old Testament. They were a nation of slaves in Egypt, and God led them out to freedom.
This is the story of the poor and the outcast in Jesus' day. They were on the outside looking in. There was no way they could save themselves. They were treated like dirt by most of society. And God in Jesus came to them, saying, "You have worth in my sight. I will give you love and self-respect and redemption."
The people who are limping around in life, who can't make it into the natural healing pools that seem to help everybody else, God helps so that they are able to leap out and live better lives.
Does this sound radical?
It ought to, because it is the gospel.
I'm afraid we get so rational and callous-minded in our dealing with life in the city -- with traffic and crime and crowds of people and trying to keep our heads above water -- that we forget the truly radical nature of the message of Christ. We want to water it down into a very humanistic, self-help kind of religion, the sort of thing that will not offend the sophisticated intelligence. But we need to remember the words of Paul: "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe" (1 Corinthians 1:21