In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.
Read John 5: 1-15
“Do you want to get well?” Jesus asked the man who had been an invalid for thirty eight years. One would think his response would be, “Of course I want to be well!” But instead, the man responds, “I have no one to help me into the pool where the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Was this an excuse? A rationale? A legitimate argument? Or, simply the truth, at least as he knew it.
For nearly four decades this man had been living in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate, by a pool called Bethesda, which was surrounded by five covered colonnades. Over the years many others had come to the pool for healing: the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed. This man had obviously seen the miraculous healings of others, but for whatever reason he wasn’t one of the healed.
Until Jesus arrives on the scene. Jesus very simply urged him to “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” into the pool. At once the man was cured. When confronted by the Jews who were present that day, which happened to also be the Sabbath, he could not distinguish Jesus from the crowd since he slipped away so swiftly. All he knew was that Someone had finally said to him the words of hope that powerfully transformed his life, “Pick up your mat and walk.”
These words of hope, planted immediately in the heart of the invalid, produced miraculous results. Even later in the day when Jesus found the healed man in the temple, he continues to press hope into his heart by exhorting him, “You are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” Later, in Luke 18, we see a blind man begging on the side of the road and he calls out to Jesus for healing and upon receiving it is filled with contagious hope.
Hope is indeed infectious. It’s the starting line for the race ahead, the fuel for every mile of the marathon, and the delightful refreshment of the finish line. It’s what keeps us moving forward in our faith, and it’s what sustains us in our love. Hope is the catalyst for life-giving words, the impetus for good works, and the end result of the life well lived. Without hope we have no passion for developing our character into the image of Christ. Without hope we have no reason for living, and we become satisfied at the side of the pool of healing, but never stepping in for ourselves.
What do you want from Jesus’ outstretched arms of love today? What part of your life needs to be revolutionized by hope? Behold Jesus saying “Get up and walk” forward; believe that you too can be healed of your long-term heartache; belong to the church of the hopeful; and become one who freely spreads words of hope to all who cross your path each new day.