Podcast: Play in new window
Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | RSS | More
John 5.1-3, 5-16
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 paralysed. 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.
The sick man said to Jesus: 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.
How often, when you have been driving, have you seen someone accelerate to prevent another driver joining a stream of busy traffic? Perhaps you can recall just a few of the times when you have done this yourself! How often, when holidaying in a foreign country, have you been appalled by the way in which local people pay no respect to the British notion of queueing? Perhaps you can recall just a few of the times when you have done this yourself, and not necessarily when you have been trying to fit in with local culture! How often, when going about your normal daily life, have you pushed yourself forward in a spirit of ‘first come, first served’, no matter who might be deprived or offended by your course of action?
Today, all those instances of ‘first come, first served’ are addressed by the account of the disabled man who, for thirty-eight years, has been pushed aside so that others might get to the front of the queue.
Our ‘survival of the fittest’ way of going about our daily lives does not sit well with Christ’s call to love and serve, to put ourselves at the back of the queue, rather than fighting tooth and nail to be first in all things. Our aggressive instinct acts in direct opposition to any profession we may make in respect of our being followers of Christ. Our determination to be the best, the first, in all matters denies Jesus’ entire earthly ministry, denies our engagement with Christ’s journey towards the cross, and beyond.
In today’s reading we are being warned not to be one of those who steps down ahead of others. As the patience of the disabled man is rewarded by Jesus’ presence and healing touch, we also hear that Jesus disappeared in the crowd. Jesus journeys with us through all the ups and downs of our earthly lives, but those who deny his teaching, those who consider themselves too important to be anywhere other than at the front of the queue, those whose detachment and pride will not allow others to benefit from all that may relieve their distress and their misery will be among those who look for Jesus in vain.
Let us pray that we might set self aside in order that those weaker than ourselves will know some of the relief and consolation that might otherwise be theirs. Let us pray that we might find the courage and humility to sacrifice self as we follow Jesus’ call to love and serve in his name.