There was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
“Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked him. This seems an odd question when you consider that the man had been waiting for thirty-eight years to be healed. But, of course, you often have compelling reasons for clinging to your sicknesses. You will no longer have people to take you around – do you want to be healed? You will no longer have sympathy from everyone – do you want to be healed? You will have to work, and you are not used to it – do you want to be healed?
He wanted to be healed. Then Jesus said, “Stand up!” This too seems odd at first sight. Jesus was asking him to do the very thing he could not do.
Then the miracle happened: the man went to stand up. He overcame the habits – physical and mental – of more than half a lifetime. His mind and will said, “Stand!” That was an amazing achievement. Then, when he went to stand up, he found that he could. The miracle was not worked ‘on’ him, it was worked ‘in’ him. This is not to say that it was just mind over matter. It was the presence of Jesus, but that presence in this case required the full conscious presence of the paralysed man.
What does it say to us? The very thing we can't do is sometimes the only thing worth doing.
In reference to this gospel passage Johann Tauler (1300 – 1361) said: “If we could only wait for the Lord, we would have the power and strength to pick up and carry the thing that was carrying us before.” It is a wonderfully suggestive phrase. The man had been lying on his bed, being carried around by other people; but now, healed by the Lord, he picks up the same bed and puts it on his shoulder. Many things carry us along: addictions, fixations, obsessions... many false kinds of passivity. We are prostrate in many ways and excessively dependent on other people. If only we could be ‘unlocked’ at the root of our being, we would walk free. We would still have to carry the pain and the consequences of an addiction, or the like; but exactly so: we would be carrying it. We would probably win no races and no dancing competitions. But it would be the most beautiful movement in the world.
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