Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
How Jesus Loved People
Jesus loved this man, even though anyone else would consider him a lost cause.
How to Love Like Jesus
I spoke with someone today who told me about a disabled man he once cared for in an adult foster home. The disabled man’s name is Daniel. Daniel is angry all the time, he can’t speak, or do much of anything to take care of himself. After working there for awhile my friend was surprised to learn, that up until five years previous, Daniel was happy, and could speak and communicate very well. But over time, due to the rate of turnover for caregivers, the level of engagement with Daniel gradually declined, and so his communication skills and function declined also, until he became the sad figure he is today.
In some ancient manuscripts an explanation of the system in place here at the pool of Bethesda is given. The way the system worked, the disabled people would get up and enter the pool whenever they saw the water move, or swirl, or bubble. Tradition said, the first one in the pool after the waters moved would be healed.
In our culture, we also have a system. Like the system at the pool of Bethesda, our system is also a system of competition. Just as it was at the pool of Bethesda, in our system the rewards go to the person who is first. My own tendency, probably because of my own competitive nature, is to help those who help themselves. My tendency is to help those who, in my estimation, have a shot at making it into the pool first, so to speak.
But that’s not Christ’s way.
There’s a great movie that illustrates the way Jesus loved people others would call a lost cause. It’s called Temple Grandin — it’s the true story of an autistic girl of the same name. Temple didn’t speak until she was almost four years old. She was diagnosed with autism and the specialists who examined her wrote her off. They recommended her mother place Temple in an institution. But her mother didn’t listen to the doctors. She kept her at home and taught Temple with amazing perseverance and tenacity.
Incredibly, Temple eventually earned her Ph.D., and today she’s a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University.
Temple Grandin’s mother had no education, no training, no anything to help her with her daughter. The only thing she had was her love for Temple. And that love was so strong, she single handedly revolutionized the approach to treating children with autism and aspergers. (see templegrandin.com, and imdb)
Jesus chose to help a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. Jesus chose to help a man who had no one else to help him. Jesus chose to help a man who was at the back of the pack, who was helpless to win the competition to be the first into the water to be healed.
Jesus loved a lost cause.
Oh how I’ve blown it with the lost causes in my life! When I see someone who, in my estimation, is a lost cause, I can only think of one word to describe my attitude toward that person, and the word is not love.
The word is dismissive!
I dismiss those who I determine to be beyond help. I dismiss the man in my neighborhood traveling the streets in his motorized wheelchair. I dismiss the disabled woman who collects bottles and cans around town for the deposit money. God have mercy on me,
I dismiss them.
But Christ does not!
The man in our story had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. Thirty-eight years! Yet he was the one chosen by Jesus.
You and I may not have the power to command an invalid of thirty-eight years to pick up his mat and walk. But there’s nothing stopping us from loving that person. Just taking the time to engage a disabled person with an accepting and loving attitude can make a big difference in his life. Just offering a ride to church to anyone in the lost cause category could be a big deal.
Jesus loved lost causes.
You and I should too.
[Image via University of Denver, Creative Commons]