When I was in Israel in 2006, we were staying at Ginnosar, in a kibbutz. It's just north of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, which really isn't a sea at all, more of a large freshwater lake. If you're not familiar with the village, you may be familiar with what they found there: the Jesus boat, a first century Galilean fishing boat. But that's not what I'm writing about today.
While we were staying there, I slipped down to the lake one day and filled up a water bottle with water from the Sea of Galilee, and slipped it into my suitcase. I wanted it because I knew that the water in that lake would eventually flow into the Jordan River, and water from the Jordan River, to some, is the holiest water on earth. I wanted to bring it back with me so that, when I did a baptism, I could use some water from Israel. It's just kind of neat to be able to say that you were baptized with water from that area.
The water itself is nothing special, it's just water. But the signifance it has, we have given it, much like the healing pools of ancient Jerusalem. There might have been some chemical difference about some of the water that might have eased aches or something like that, but it's healing symbolism came from those coming to the water seeking healing. There's one story of one particular healing pool, and I just absolutely love this story.
Jesus and the guys, or guys and gals, were coming into the city one day and happened to come in by the sheep gate. As they did, they wandered into, or around, the Pool of Bethesda, one of the most famous healing pools in the city. Now, it's ruins but it is still a beautiful place.
I love the story about this pool, and the healing that took place there on that day for several reasons. The poor guy in this story hadn't been able to walk for 38 years. He felt that if he could just get into the water after it had been stirred (it was stirred by a spring but the people of the time thought it was done by some angelic force) he would be healed. Without fail though, every time he tried to make his way into the water after it was stirred, someone would beat him in, and only the first one in received a healing. Jesus asked the guy if he wanted to be healed and, of course, he said yes. So, we might think that Jesus would help him into the pool like any good neighbor would have done, but no. Jesus just told him to pick up his mat and go home. That's it, no holy water needed.
But as awesome as that is, even that is not what hits me when I read this story. You see, there were folks watching as this took place, and what they saw was not the healing, but the fact that this guy was packing his mat on the Sabbath. Yeah, I know! They totally missed what had just happened. They didn't notice that this guy had been unable to walk for 38 years and now he was packing his mat, headed to the door, on his way home. What they saw was that he was breaking their law. How stupid is that?
It breaks my heart that this still happens today, and it does, so let's not pretend. Jesus is still healing folks without the assistance of whatever means we have put in place for healing, but so many times we miss it. What we see, instead of a soul given a new birth, are the tattoos and piercings, the nose rings, eyebrow rings, loud music, flip flops, shirt tails untucked, long hair, and well...you get my point. Go back and read the story again: John 5:1-15. It really is a cool story.
Jesus didn't go through all of the rituals...he didn't offer the prescribed sacrifices in the temple...he didn't follow the rules (actually, he very seldom followed THEIR rules)...but what he did was give a guy who might have begun to lose hope, a second chance at life...a new beginning. Now he didn't have to live with the shame of who folks thought he was. He didn't have to beg. He didn't have to sit and wait, hoping he could slide in before someone else did. He got up, picked up his mat, and walked. All because Jesus told him he could.
Wouldn't it be cool if we could see those things happen today? Well my friends, we don't have to look far, but we do have to look past our expectations of other people.