This bible passage from John 5 has been on my mind lately:
2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 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?” 7 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.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. (John 5:2-9, NRSV)
In verse 3, the translators chose to use the word ‘paralyzed’ for ξηρῶν (xeron). I find this word choice interesting because the Greek ξηρῶν is primarily used to describe something that is dried up, i.e. grass, trees, land, etc. Why did the translators go with ‘paralyzed’ in this instance? Granted, bodily limbs that are ‘dried up’ may be paralyzed, but still…could the author have been up to something else?
I wonder if the author of John was pointing toward people who were ‘dried up’ in life. Did Jesus see people who were indeed blind and lame, but also those who were exhausted from living? Were there people in his vision who were worn out and tired; ones who had tried and tried, but still had come up empty, resigned to laying by this pool in the hope of a miracle? Was this man at the pool, wanting of being healed from his ἀσθένεια – his lack of strength, his illness, his dried-upness?
I’ve had moments of my own life when I’ve been ξηρῶν – dried up. I’ve had stretches when I’ve been in deserts of my life and all that was within me had slowly dried out, withered up, and I was left with nothing but dust. I’ve had times when it was all I could do to get out of bed, let alone function as if nothing was wrong. Depression and life’s circumstances have beaten me down more than once to the point that I’ve been dried up. I’ve been where this man is…perhaps you have, too.
What does it mean to us if, in this passage, Jesus is reaching out to someone who was dried out like some of us are? While Jesus dealt with many physical illnesses, we don’t see many moments when he handled people’s emotional illnesses. What does it mean to witness Jesus not only healing the blind and the lame, but those who are dried up emotionally and spiritually?
It gives me hope that God sees my dried out moments of life. It gives me confidence that God can heal my infirmities even if they aren’t visible. It gives me a promise that God won’t look past me as my life lingers in these moments of dryness.
I pray that God continues to heal this world, and I will rest in the knowledge that our Creator can reach into even the driest of places of our lives and bring waters of life and restoration.
much love. sheth.