After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’
‘The blind, the lame and the paralysed’, whatever we call them, are a sad bunch of people. In the chaotic scrambling around for money, position and security that we call living, they are at the back of the queue. When the cards were dealt they were given a bad hand.
If they were born disabled or disadvantaged then they have probably never fully taken part in the great game of life. If they became disabled during life then they were, as the army calls it, ‘invalided out’.
Not only is this poor man at the ‘back of the queue’ because he is disabled, he is even at the back of the ‘back of the queue’. The others can push in front of him, get to the water, be a bit more noticed and maybe even find healing. This poor man is left behind in the dark shadows of the porticoes. He is at the back of the back of the queue, but for the first time in his life he shakes a double six. For the first time in his life there is someone to help him. Jesus has noticed him and is going to do something. Jesus has looked not at the front but at the back of the queue, and rather than help the man into the healing pool he is going to do something far more wonderful. He is going to help the healing pool into the man.
This man has been in this poor state for 38years. So the chances are that he was either born this way or had some sort of disabling accident or illness as a young boy. In a strange unlooked for sort of way, I seem to have lived with disability for most of my life. When I was a young boy my father was a very physically able middle aged man. He worked as a labourer and when not working was usually in his garden, decorating or doing odd jobs around the house. Football, cricket and rugby were his great pastimes. One day he fell off the top of a lorry that he was loading up and he never worked or lived in a fully able bodied way again. (However this physical disability seemed to open spiritual doors for him and he blossomed in his walk with God).
Later on in life disability struck again with the birth of my daughter Zoe. Today Zoe is over thirty, delightful and beautiful, but she is completely dependent on others. She can never get herself to the edge of the pool, she has to be helped there.
There are lots of people at the back of the queue.
There are those
Who are just not big enough,
Confident or lucky enough.
Some do not earn enough,
Were not good enough at football as a kid,
Failed their exams as a teenager,
And are not particularly good looking.
Many just don’t seem to have the knack of building friendships,
Or have simply been unlucky in love, unlucky in life.
There are plenty of people at the back of the queue,
Who just do not have enough of enough.
The back of the queue people are usually the most ignored, but in this story, this man is the most noticed, the first to be spotted and picked out as special. With Jesus the back became the front of the queue. The last really were the first and the first became the last. Where are you in the queue? Front, back or middle? Front of the middle, or back of the middle? Front of the back, or back of the front?
Give me your eyes to see,
Your heart to feel,
Your hands to touch,
That like you I might see the people at the back of the queue,
And help the helpless,
In this needy world.