Do You Want to be Healed?
Tuesday March 27, 2001 Fourth Week in Lent
Reading (Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12) Gospel (St. John 5:1-16)
We see the historical connection between these two readings, as Iíve certainly explained before. Ezekiel sees this little stream coming out from underneath the altar and flowing out around the south side of the temple, then down to become a river. Well, there is a little stream that came out from underneath the south wall of the temple in Jerusalem. It flowed down and they made it into the pool of Bethesda. That is where the connection between these two readings comes from; that was the water that filled up the pool.
Here we have this man who is sitting there. For 38 years he has been sick and heís unable to walk and get around. They had the idea that when these waters were stirred up, it was the angel of the Lord that had come down, and the first one into the water would be healed. The problem is that a man who is lame, paralyzed, and lying there would be very much afraid, as this pool was about 40 feet deep. If you didnít happen to be the first one in (or you were not actually healed), when you did get in, you were going to sink. If you are paralyzed, you will not be able to flail around and swim; consequently, the man would have sunk to the bottom. So the question the Lord asked - "Do you want to be healed?" - is really a critically important question. Does he really want to be healed?
That is the same question that each one of us needs to ask: Do we really want to be healed? Itís not about physical healing so much as it is about spiritual healing. Itís about growth in holiness. When we look at the river that Ezekiel sees, we have to notice the way it works. It begins as a little, tiny stream. Then a thousand cubits out, it is ankle-deep. Another thousand cubits, itís now up to his knees. Another thousand cubits, itís up to his waist. Another thousand cubits after that, itís a river that he has to swim through. So it is with the spiritual life. The river we read about in Saint Johnís Gospel is really a symbol of grace; it is the Holy Spirit at work. It is the grace of God. We look at ourselves, for instance, and say, "Why is it that the great saints can do all these extraordinary things? But me, I can barely do some little, tiny things." It is because the saints are swimming in the river, while most of us are basically wandering around in the little trickle that is coming out the side of the temple. We are fortunate if we have gotten up to ankle or knee-deep. So we have to keep pushing ahead. We have to get out a thousand cubits before itís up to our ankles. And another thousand before itís up to our knees. And another thousand after that before itís up to our waist. Each time it keeps getting more deep. Not that itís a thousand so itís gone up another four inches, but with each thousand cubits, it is substantially greater until finally, when you get out far enough, it is a river. It keeps getting larger the further that you go.
It is a frightening thought for us: Do we really want to change our lives that much? Do we really want to become that much like God? Do we want to be that out of control that we are going to be in a river that cannot be crossed unless you swim through it? We like to control what God wants to do in our lives. We are content to just wade around in the little bit of water that is there. But most of us, like the paralyzed man, are afraid. We donít want to jump in because we are afraid we are going to drown. We donít really want to give ourselves entirely to the Lord because a change in our lives might be a little bit shocking to the system. After all, this man at the Pool of Bethesda had lain there for years and years. He had quite a system down of begging and raising money. If he was healed, his life was going to change. He could not lie there anymore. He was going to have to go out and work. He would have to do something different.
So too with us if we are going to do it Godís way: Our life is going to be very different. Are we really willing to follow that river? Not only to wade in it when it is ankle deep, but to keep going and see the grace of God at work - knee-deep, waist-deep, and up to our chest? Are we willing to be so completely immersed in the grace of God that we will be out of control in a river of Godís love and grace that is so deep it can only be crossed by swimming? To be totally immersed and out of control and let God take over our lives? Then we will be bearing fruit like the great saints; every month of the year: new fruit, and our leaves will never fade. That is what that reading is all about. Are we really willing to do it, to dive into the river of Godís grace and let God take us in a torrent of love to the point where we are completely out of control and God alone is in control of our lives? Are we willing to make those kinds of changes? To give up sin and be willing to live the way God wants us to? And allow Him to truly be the Lord of our lives?
*This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.