Take Up Your Pallet and Walk

When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked. (John 5:6-9)

Jesus knows our brokenness, our need of healing, our loneliness, and our humiliation. He didn’t have to ask the man because He already knew. Even as he lay there, so worn out and beaten down by his sickness and burden that he could hardly move, Jesus knew him and his heart. So Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed — he gave him an opportunity to ask Jesus who He was… and to ask Him to do what He CAN do.

The thing that strikes me is that the man doesn’t ask who Jesus is. He doesn’t say YES!! Instead, he offers excuses… why he hasn’t found healing yet, the obstacles he faces to receiving healing, the difficulties that stand in the way of finding healing in the way he expects to receive it.

Jesus has something entirely different in mind. He doesn’t make him say, “I want to be healed.” He doesn’t wait for him to ask, “Can you heal me?” or “WILL you heal me?” Jesus gets it. He gets that it’s hard and complicated, that the guy is jaded and worn out. Jesus gets that he’s not looking for something different or radical or shocking… he doesn’t want something dramatic or spectacular. He just wants to be healed like so many other people at the pools.

But Jesus doesn’t ask questions, he doesn’t wait for comments, he doesn’t challenge his faith. He tells the guy to rise, pick up his baggage, and walk. Jesus didn’t tell him he could leave everything behind and go on.  He doesn’t say, like he said to others, “Go, your faith has saved you.”  No, he tells him to pick it up — pick up that thing that has been a constant part of his life for 38 years, and take it with you.  Be healed, but you can’t forget where you came from.  This is a sudden change in direction, ability, and perspective, but life still has to be lived day to day. 

Is that you? Just sort of lying there, feeling burdened and broken and worn out? Waiting and hoping that Love will pass us by and reach out to heal what keeps us paralyzed in fear and doubt and anxiety? KNOWING that you have baggage to carry even as you pull yourself up in the shadow of the Healer and walk on?

I know it’s me. I get this guy, too… because I am that guy. And while our expectations might be that IF ONLY I could do this, see this, hear this, go to this place, say these prayers, meet this person… Jesus usually has another idea in mind. His healing — the healing that repairs, redeems, and restores — is better trusted than any of our own ideas anyway. IF ONLY we could have the trust to believe that when He begins works of healing in our lives, we believe it’s true… hope would tell us that it’s only a matter of time before we look back on our lives with the Lord as He says, “See, you ARE well!” (verse 14)

Maybe the hardest part is knowing that it’s slow going.  It’s not always miraculous, eventful, or shocking.  For this guy… for this guy, it was.  But it’s not what he was looking for, afterall.  He just wanted to be healed.  And he ended up in the Temple, giving thanks to God for his healing, without even knowing who Jesus was.  

This journey… yours and mine and ours… it’s crazy.  And just when we’ve encountered the Lord — even to experience something incredible that we can’t quite understand — we realize we haven’t figured Him out much at all.