For a paralytic whose world was limited to a poolside in a bustling city there was only one way to receive healing. His faith focused on the rippling of the pool that indicated an angelic visitation. The winner of the race to the wavy water won the prize of restored health.1
A few years later, faith for healing had other strange focal points. Luke wrote about Peter’s shadow2 and Paul’s face cloths and work apron.3 Did little cults form around the healing power associated with certain funny fabrics? That is not what Luke said. His main point was that in those days, miraculous healing flowed freely and people had great faith.
However, in the absence of Jesus, it is easy to focus our religious beliefs on other things. How many formulae are there for healing today? Let’s be honest, church life sometimes turns our focus from sound principles to established practices. What began as a free and joyful experience of God’s healing grace gets funneled into administrative channels of training and accountability. Badge-bearing teams apply the tried and tested methods of ministry. We learn to pray the pattern prescribed in the workbooks.
The point of my mock cynicism is to highlight a need for balance. On the one hand, church leaders have a Biblical responsibility to protect their flocks from wolves in veterinarians’ clothing and to ensure that ministry is orderly so that the Body matures in love. My point is simply that the sick sometimes come to associate healing with the latest methods and ministers. Whenever someone is healed, it generates hope in others. People look for patterns to discover what works. The ripples, handkerchiefs, and shadows draw the crowds and the Lord *your healer is forgotten. If you see that happening, it is time to invite Jesus back in.
Jesus doesn’t fit many patterns. He walked into the petty world of the pool and one hopeless human had his understanding of healing exploded. Jesus adopted no special posture and uttered no exceptional words, not even a profound prayer.
When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. (John 5:6-9)
Jesus appeared to ask a stupid question. But the question pointed to a door in what seemed like an impregnable wall in the man’s mind. As far as the paralytic was concerned, healing was well nigh impossible. In his condition, winning the race to the rippling pool was unthinkable. For sure, he wanted to be well, but there were a hundred reasons why it would never happen.
“Do you wish to get well?” Jesus words were more of an offer than a question. Healing was available in the absence of an angel. The true Healer needed no formula; His ordinary words announced the arrival of health: “Arise, take up your pallet, and do what you have been unable to do for thirty-eight years—walk.”
Never let your faith in ripples, handkerchiefs, shadows, or any special technique become a substitute for faith in Jesus. Invite Him into your limited world to explode your experience of God.
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