I was at the pools of Bethesda the morning I got word my friend Larry was dying. This place was a beacon of healing where Jesus confronted the man lying by the pool, hoping to get well. It seems like a strange question to ask a sick man, “Do you want to get well?” But the implication behind the question was this, “Do you believe that Yahweh alonecan heal you or will you continue to believe in additional “gods” that will bring about a quicker, more satisfying result according to your needs?” “Do you want to be well?” It seems like a silly question. To most the answer would be a resounding, “Of course.” But what Jesus is saying is, “Will you trust me and my Father alone?” That is another matter.
The pools of Bethesda became the place of a well-developed cult to the Roman god, Aesclepius. The man at the pool would have been well acquainted with this god and the prescription of healing that Aesclepius offered. At the same time this man was more than likely a follower of Yahweh. So Jesus question, “Do you want to be well?” was charged with distinction. This man undoubtedly believed that Yahweh could heal him. But did he trust that Yahweh was good, no matter what his current or future circumstances would be? Would he become a man who chose to be a light to “the nations” in this distinct belief? Would he resist the temptation to trust Yahweh in part, but “cover his bases” by resorting to additional remedies and gods when results didn’t come quick enough?
My friend Larry responded to this question every day since he was diagnosed with cancer: “Do you want to get well?” Larry woke up every day believing that God was powerful enough to heal him, but more importantly, he went to bed every night believing in God’s goodness when it didn’t happen. This cycle of faith in God’s goodness and power continued day after day in Larry’s life, a life consumed with walking in this belief despite evidence to the contrary…the epitome of faith. It was not without struggle or times of doubt, real faith never is.
But my friend Larry lived and died well, holding onto this hope in life, especially when there was nothing else to hang onto in death. He was sold out that God alone was his Healer. He was a light to “the nations” that Jesus hoped the lame man at the pool of Bethesda would become, that he hopes we all will become. People who believe in the power and goodness of God alone, despite much evidence to the contrary. People who believe there is something more at work than what we see or how we feel. People who trust there is a God who loves them more than we’ll ever know, even when our body is racked with pain and our loved ones are consumed with grief.
I will miss my friend Larry: the conversations we had, his generous spirit and the quiet way about him. I am grateful to have walked with him as I was able to peek into the way he trusted. I was able to once again see evidence that this faith in God is real and not just wishful thinking. That faith, though counterintuitive it is by no means whimsical, but based on the promises and character of God. It’s something real to hang onto. What a gift to see what Larry saw in part while among us and now sees fully face to face with Jesus.
Maybe you didn’t know Larry, but you know (or have known) a “Larry.” Those people who have a faith to emulate. Whether your life is troubled with sickness, uncertainty or burdens of the past, the same God is asking you to trust Him alone. There is nothing too difficult for Him to handle, nor is there anything/one so awful He can’t love and forgive. Think about that: Amazing grace in the person of Jesus, wanting to be at the center of your life as your healer.
Do we want to be well? Yes. Father, give us the faith to believe that you alone are the One who is our healer: powerful, good and having put everything in its place and time, despite the world of sin, death and chaos we endure. Make all things new; make us new…through your Son, Jesus our Lord and Healer. Amen.