One of the reasons we stay stuck in our old life is because we cannot even imagine the real possibilities of a new life. Frankly, we don’t know how to live as resurrected people.
Consider the man in John, chapter 5, who was an invalid for 38 years, lying on a mat by the Sheep Gate pool in Jerusalem. For all those years, this man had to be carried everywhere he went; he could not move without someone moving him.
There was a legend about the Sheep Gate pool. It was believed that occasionally an angel would stir the waters, and if a person was blessed enough to get into the waters the moment they were stirred, they would be healed. This man lay constantly by the waters, hoping for a miracle. But as he said to Jesus, he had no one to lift him into the pool when the water was stirred. He was totally dependent on others.
When Jesus saw the man, He did not ask him if he wanted His help to lower him into the pool. Rather, Jesus asked him this key question, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6).
As a member of the clergy, homeless men and women often approach me for help. I have noticed that for some, though certainly not all, there is no real desire to be freed from homelessness. They may want money for the next meal, or a drink, but not real help. Jesus was asking whether this man wanted a new reality—a new life!
That’s the crucial question Jesus asks each of us: “Do you want to be healed?”
Our old self is like a comfortable pair of shoes, worn thin with tatters and holes. Yet we know these old shoes. They are familiar. They are ours. In contemplating the idea of a new reality and a new life, the unknown aspect alone is enough to prevent us from answering the question in the affirmative. How would you answer Jesus’ question: “Do you want to be healed?” Do you want to live a new life?
The invalid in the story really did want to be healed—only, the method he was hoping for was more superstition than reality. Instead, Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk” (John 5:8, NRSV).
Jesus says the same to us. Many people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ are spiritual invalids lying on a mat waiting for someone else to come along and do a miraculous work in their life. Instead, Jesus invites the willing to stand up and take a step in faith, like the man in the story.
“At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.” John 5:9 (NRSV)
What did new life look like for that man by the pool? First of all, he was no longer dependent. Nobody had to carry him around anymore. Second, he could now work; he could find a job! Third, his relationships would be redefined. No longer would family members attend to his every need. His liberation from the bondage of paralysis set him free to become a responsible human being who could stand up on his own two feet, carry his own mat, and walk of his own volition and direction.
One of the more humorous parts of the story is when the rulers of the Temple catch the newly healed man red-handed, walking with his mat on the Sabbath. They accuse him of violating the law against doing work on the Sabbath. He immediately tells them that the man who had made him well was the one who had bid him to take up his mat—Jesus.
The irony is that the very systems of the world that seemingly promise us life can be marshaled against our being healed! So long as that man stayed an invalid, trapped on a mat, waiting for somebody else to help him, the system was content to leave him alone. But as soon as he began to stand and walk in the newness of life, he stood out as a sore thumb to be attacked by others, to be put back in his place.
Let me ask you again: Do you want to be healed? If the answer is yes, Jesus challenges you to stand up, pick up your mat, and walk.
Like the invalid, you will find a new level of freedom and personal responsibility in your new life. But like the invalid, you, too, may find that your freedom is a thorn in the side of the system or those who would have you stay on your “mat” and wait for someone else to solve your problems. Resurrected people are a threat to the status quo.
Don’t let those voices shame you into going back to the way you were. Claim the authority of the Name of Jesus as the One who told you to stand up, take up your mat, and walk. Use His name against the powers that would hold you back. At His name, oppressive powers must flee!
Take a step today into the newness of your Resurrected Life.
— The Rev. Charlie Holt
This is the full devotional from The Resurrected Life, Week 2, Day 9, (p. 40). Find out more about The Resurrected Life Devotional and Small Group Study here.