Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 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 going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. ” John 5:2–3, 4-9.
Many historians believe that people in Jesus’ day associated this “swimming bath” with healing. There were legends of an angel that came on occasion to “stir the waters” of the pool. The first person to enter the water was healed. Such is how the paralyzed man in this passage describes his dilemma to Jesus. He could never reach the water in time to be healed. Jesus simply asks him, “Do you want to be healed?” When the man finally tells Him, in a roundabout way, that he does, Jesus heals him. The man never needed the pool’s water for healing of any sort, be it physical or spiritual.
Born and raised Catholic, I have been exposed since childhood to many religious traditions. Other organized denominations, including Protestant, have them as well. Traditions and rituals have their place. They allow one’s mind to focus, perhaps, on a specific aspects of the Gospel, or offer a sense of structure and order to one’s faith. What happens when such rituals and traditions become a person’s faith, overshadowing the single, true meaning of Christianity: Jesus, his birth, death and resurrection, and His atonement for our sins?
For example, many use holy water and oil for baptisms, anointing of the sick or a blessing of a home. When used symbolically, this might remind us of our own baptism, or Jesus as the Living Water in our lives. How often do we, as individuals or a society, look at such things as having actual power. Buying vials of water from the Holy Land, wooden crosses blessed by [fill in whatever name applies]. True healing, blessing and power comes only from God, not any item in this world.
Jesus listens patiently to the man explain that he’s not been healed because he has not gotten into the water in time. Jesus could have explained that the water, and the tradition around the pool of Bethesda, will never heal him. Only He, God, can. In our own lives, what symbol or practice, what routine or tradition do we turn to for grace or blessings, instead of Jesus? Think about it this week, being aware of when we look to some-thing, rather than Someone.