For Heaven's Sake, by Brian Kingslake

from Brian Kingslake, "For heaven's sake. Forty-six variants on the theme: how to react to the conditions of life on earth in such as way as to prepare oneself for life in the kingdom of heaven (Christopher: North Quincy, MA, 1974)

Table of  Contents


23. The Cripple at the Pool

Our Lord's question to the cripple at the Pool of Bethesda: "Do you want to be healed?" (John 5:6) must have seemed rather heartless and unfeeling. Fancy asking a cripple whether he wants to be made whole! The poor fellow had been in this condition for thirty-eight years. Most of that time, presumably, he had been lying under the porch, waiting in vain for an opportunity to get down first into the pool after the angel had troubled the water. Time and again, time and again, someone else had got in ahead of him, and come out cured, while he remained there in his old condition. His was a tragic case.

Or was it? I detect a note of challenge, even whimsical humor, in Jesus' question as the man whined out his hard-luck story. "Do you really want to be healed?" Just think, he had been sick for thirty-eight years. Longer than our Lord's whole life on earth. This man might have already been lying at the pool for five or six years when the Wise Men came from the east! Could he not have taken his turn in the line-up for healing at some time during all that time, if he had been serious? He said he had no one to help him into the water; but who had been feeding him? Someone must have been bringing him his lunch, and even perhaps carrying him to his accustomed corner each morning and removing him again at night - a regular routine. Why didn't the cripple ask this person to put him in the water at the appropriate time, and thus save all further trouble? No, depend upon it, our friend was a phony, a professional beggar. He had come to terms with his condition. He had settled into a fixed behavior pattern, in which his infirmity was an accepted feature. He didn't want the responsibility of an active life, but preferred to lie there all day long, watching other people getting healed by the score, but doing nothing about himself.

And I have a horrible feeling that many of us today are like that man. Physically? Yes, we have probably accepted and come to terms with a low condition of bodily health, which could easily be improved if we took ourselves in hand. But even more important is our corrupt spiritual state. In that area, most of us are cripples: maimed, halt, blind. Maybe we are regular church-goers (the five porches represent the church). For how many years have we been sitting passively in a church pew? Has it cured us of any of our spiritual infirmities? Compare yourself now with what you were, say, ten years ago. Has there been any improvement in the area of inner purity? Is your family life any happier? Are you more gentle and kind? - more willing to stand back and give credit to others? How about touchiness? Self-centered pride? Desire to get your own way, to dominate every situation? Worldliness? Unclean imagination? Quarrelsomeness? Bad temper? Oh, we are too complacent and self-satisfied, content to jog along as we are, confessing that we are "miserable sinners," but doing nothing about it!

At any rate, at least we know that we are sick, and so there is more hope for us than for those who never go to church and who think they have nothing wrong with them. The world today is largely secularized. People live apparently satisfactory lives outside the influence of religion; they feel no need for God, and would not know what you were talking about if you told them they should repent of their sins. They pass back and forth through the market place, with scarcely a glance at the five porches; they feel scornful toward the poor beggars waiting there for the moving of the waters. Yet these worldly wisemen may be desperately in need of healing without realizing it. There are diseases where the patient is starving but feels no hunger; is dangerously in need of sleep but feels no weariness; is astigmatic but believes he alone can see straight; is deaf but indignantly denies it; is lame but thinks he can walk and run; is actually a dead corpse but goes around pretending he is still alive! The world only realizes how sick it is when there is a major war, or a vast business swindle, or a Watergate. Those in the churches do at least acknowledge they are spiritually diseased, they are realists to that extent. They repeat regularly: "There is no health in us." They line up under the porches by the pool, awaiting healing. But, in all too many cases, nothing seems to happen! Would they be any worse off if they followed the secular drift, and spent their Sundays in bed, or cleaning the car, or playing golf? Frankly, the Church doesn't have the healing effect on us that it should do. Is it our fault, or the church's fault, or a bit of both?

Granted that the five porches represent the Church, then the Pool of Bethesda evidently represents the Bible, the Word of God, vibrant with healing power. Many individuals, down through the centuries, have been made,, whole by plunging into those living waters. The process was foreshadowed by Naaman dipping seven times in the River Jordan to be cured of leprosy (II Kings 5:14); and is memorialized by the sacrament of Baptism. But, in my own personal experience in counseling, I do not think many people are healed that way today. Reading the Word is of incalculable help to those who are already converted. But it seems to me that the primary basic healing can best be effected, not by reading a Book, but by an encounter with a Person - our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is surely the point of His own rebuke to the Jews later that same day: "You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life (and it is true that they bear witness to me) ; yet you refuse to come to ME that you may have life." (John 5:39, 40) Reading the Scriptures is useless unless it leads us to the Lord.

Jesus, as a Person, is available here and now, with all His healing power. He can cure you without troubling about Scripture readings or the niceties of doctrine, which can come later on. He is standing by you, gazing down with pity, seeing you as you are. He is not deceived by our pretences. Perhaps He is even amused by our frantic efforts to put on a show. He calls our bluff with the simple penetrating question: "Do you want to be healed?" And if He finds that we are able to face up to the reality of the situation, He gives us the equally simple command, "Take up your bed and walk." He does not have to lift us and plunge us into the pool; there is a more direct way. Hearken to His voice, and lift yourself up in obedience to His commandments, and go forward, and you will be made whole.

According to the language of symbolism or "correspondence," your bed is your ruling love, where you normally lie. Make a change in your ruling love; elevate it, re-direct it. Start living out the truths you already know (you will find you have plenty to get along with) ; infill them with love to the Lord and the neighbor. Set the machinery in motion to go forward, and you will find you can not only walk but run and dance.

Jesus is here. He will cure you today if you really want Him to. He says to you, Arise! Shake off your shackles, for they are of your own welding. Forget the inadequacies and complacency of the past. Elevate your motives, your inner self, to Him; and set forth running to the temple of God. You will be strong and well; and, after that, every day will be the Sabbath.

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