Arise, Take Up Your Mat, and Walk!
1Some time later, Jesus went up to
for a feast of the Jews. 2Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Jerusalem and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When 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?" Bethesda
7"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."
8Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." 9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked (John 5:1-9a).
Tonight, I want to share with you some of what we talked about in Bible study tonight at church. Notice that the New International Version skips over verse 5 entirely. This has to do with comparing the oldest, most reliable manuscripts—something we won’t get into here. A footnote includes verse 4 which reads, “and they waited for the moving of the waters. 4 From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease he had.”
In our study, we figured that the “angel” that stirred the waters couldn’t have been a holy angel, because the people who waited by the pool were seldom healed. The “angel” stirred the waters just often enough to give the people hope, and to keep them waiting for their healing, but not often enough to spread the blessing around to everybody who needed it. As a result, many waited by the pool for years, while whatever spirit moved the waters enjoyed its “congregation” that seemed to worship its healing waters.
Jesus saw the man who had been bound by some crippling disease for the past 38 years. “Do you want to get well?” he asked—because many people really don’t want to get well. The man made excuses why everybody else always got in the water ahead of him, but Jesus would allow no excuses. “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk,” Jesus said, and the man was healed.
Why did Jesus tell the man to take his mat with him? We enjoyed some discussion about this, and came to the conclusion that Jesus didn’t want the man to leave his mat, because if he did, that would enable somebody else to comfortably sit and wait for the “angel” to stir the waters. Also, if the man left his mat, it’d be like he was reserving his spot there by the pool. If he was healed, he was healed, and didn’t need to reserve his space for an eventual return.
Often, when we’re healed of a sin in our lives, we like to leave our mat behind. We receive Jesus’ forgiveness, but reserve a space for us to return again later, should the mood strike us.
Jesus says, “Arise, take up your mat and walk!” Don’t leave room for return. Don’t allow for a relapse. Claim your healing. Receive your forgiveness. Be healed—and expect your healing to last forever!