Jesus healed a man who’d been crippled for decades, a man who had apparently run out of options for getting himself well.
Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (John 5:2-9.)
The man found the cure he’d been hoping for. Now he could walk as well as anyone else. He must have been amazed to be able to do as Jesus bid him: “Get up!”
Jesus also told him to take his mat in hand and walk, and he did. Wouldn’t you? The person who healed you tells you to do something, you might be in a frame of mind to do whatever they say.
Why did Jesus point out the mat, though? The man knew it was there. He’d been resting on it for years. Perhaps Jesus thought the man was so preoccupied in his excitement that he might forget it. Perhaps Jesus wanted the man to see he was now able not only to walk but to carry loads.
Regardless of the reason Jesus told him to pick up the mat, there’s a lesson here for everyone healed by Jesus.
Staying away from the sin pool
I practically swam in the sin pool and, until Jesus came along and told me to get up and showed me he had made it possible for me to live otherwise, I liked it. I was just like this, and then Jesus came along:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world … . All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. … But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus … . (Ephesians 2:1-6.)
I had my mat–or beach towel, or pool chair, or whatever you want to envision–right there at the sin pool. If this metaphor were literally true, Jesus might have told me to pick it up and take a walk away from the sin pool, too. As it is, the Bible lays out for me what the next steps are.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:12-14.)
If you’re not under the law, how will you know how to live your life? Won’t you need rules? The simple answer is no you won’t. It’s not laws and rules that lead you to staying away from the sin pool. It’s God’s grace in you by the power of the Holy Spirit.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age … . (Titus 2:11-12.)
But you’re thinking it might be nice to have a couple of pointers for staying away from the sin pool. You’re right, and here they are:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7.)
… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2.)
Satan flees from you at the sign of your resistance. How can you find the strength to resist? In God’s grace. Don’t leave your mat by the sin pool where you’ll return to lie on it. Sin entangles, but Jesus frees us not only to get up and walk, but to run in a race free from any and all entanglements.
Submit to God and keep your eyes on Jesus. Take up your mat, leave the sin pool behind, and get ready to run.