Ezekiel 47: 1-9, 12
Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and the water was coming out on the south side.
Going on eastward with a cord in his hand, the man measured one thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the waist. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed. He said to me, “Mortal, have you seen this?”
Then he led me back along the bank of the river. As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on the one side and on the other. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh. Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes.
On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”
Psalm 46: 1-2, 4-5, 7-8
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
John 5: 1-16
After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 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 making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath.
Halfway through Lent, the feeling of waiting can seem especially pertinent. The beginning of the desert experience is becoming a more distant memory, but Easter is not yet on the horizon. This leg of the journey can remind us of the prayers we are waiting on answers for, as well as the struggles we may have experienced for quite some time. If this sounds familiar to you, you will be able to relate to the man in the Gospel passage today.
We know very little about this man or his background, but the Scriptures tell us that he was ill for thirty-eight years. We also know that he was alone and did not have anyone in his life who would help him reach the healing pool. His life was one of suffering and watching others receive miracles while he sat at the outskirts, waiting. When Jesus approaches him and asks if he wants to be made well, he responds, “I have no one.” This pain of abandonment or feeling invisible, even to God, was at the forefront of his mind, even more so than the physical pain he was suffering. Jesus responds by healing him immediately, showing the man and all around that it was even worth breaking the Sabbath law to meet the man’s need.
If you have been waiting on an answer to prayer and have been feeling ignored or abandoned by God, take heart today and fix your gaze on Jesus. He knows what you have been through, He is with you, even in the season of waiting, and His perfect will is for your healing and wholeness. Spend some time today sitting in His presence and let His love into your heart. And if you are not in such a season right now but know somebody who is, ask Him to show you how to be a sign of His love to that person.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for always being there for me, and being a very present help in times of trouble, even when I did not recognize that you were with me. Help me to remember your faithfulness and to be open to whatever graces you have for me today. May I not grow slack in my faith in you, even during seasons of waiting. I offer you the rest of this Lenten season and ask that you will use it to purify me and draw me closer to you as I await your Resurrection. Amen.