Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When 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?” The 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.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
In Jesus’ time, people who were blind, lame or paralyzed would very much have been considered invalids– in valid. In curing this man, Jesus welcomes him back into society. There is healing involved in him being cured. I think about the courage this man must have had to believe in Jesus’ healing powers and accepted that he had been “made well” after thirty-eight years of being resigned to being sick. He shows vulnerability and dependency. Healing requires faith and acceptance on our part to embrace wholeness again. Even after being made well, he had to get up and walk again. He had to believe. There is risk involved in healing. It’s hard work.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the difference between being cured and being healed. I have been doing healing work with my spiritual director over the last six months. She reminds me that I am tired because “healing is my full time job right now.” I have experienced my healing holistically– physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I’m not, per se, cured. The circumstances of my life and hurt have not changed, but I am healing. I believe we can find healing despite being cured, and we can be cured without experiencing healing.
We haven’t come all to far in 2,000 years since Jesus’ time. There is still a societal demarcation between the sick and the well. Consider Rick Hoyt. His doctors told his father to institutionalize him– give up on him– in 1962. The mutual healing that came from his father’s decision to raise his son not as an invalid but as a capable human being is stunning:
Ricky and Dick Hoyt have found healing in each other. It’s hard work. It takes commitment, vulnerability and risk. They inspire me to continue to be brave, to continue to ask for and receive healing. If the man in John 5 can walk after thirty-eight years, and somewhere in his story is the good news of the Gospel, then maybe my work today is to continue to embrace the healing that is happening inside of me.