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At Beit Chesed

by Tim O'Hearn

Miracles are nothing new around here. You may say that my time with the Teacher has made me immune to the wonder of miracles. I am still impressed—very impressed—by the wonders the Teacher has done. He amazes me in every town we visit, and a few out of the way places as well. All I’m saying is that miracles have been happening in our country for a while. Yes, maybe more often since the Teacher has been here, but even so there have been some miracles apart from him.

Everybody knows about the pool of Beit Chesed, which the Greeks corrupt to Bethesda. The pool is named the house of mercy because God frequently shows his mercy on a sick person there. Legend has it that an angel visits the pool sometimes. They say that when an angel stirs the water, the first person into the pool is healed. Now, I don’t know if it is an angel that stirs the water, an earthquake, or some other phenomenon. All I know is that there are a lot of people walking around now that were very sick, and to me that qualifies as a miracle or two.

Since the time the healings started at this pool near the Sheep Gate, there had been some construction. Because a lot of infirm people came to the pool, some people had taken it upon themselves to construct five porticoes around the pool. Maybe it was the largest five sided building in the world. It was the only one of which I was aware. All five porticoes were constantly filled with the sick, lame, and (according to some wags) the lazy. Everyone was hoping to be the first into the water when it was disturbed. Of course, by the nature of the miracle, the strongest usually got there first. That is why some people doubt the miracles actually occurred.

One shabbos the pool of Beit Chesed truly was a house of mercy. This is a miracle to which I can personally attest, because I was there, and no angel was involved. The water was not even disturbed, although some people were.

We were at Beit Chesed with the Teacher. No surprise. It was not unusual to find him around sick people. Usually they came to him. This time he had gone to them. Here he was in a large building filled with sick people. From what I have seen, he could have just waved his hand and healed them all. Instead, he was walking among them, apparently looking for one man. I don’t know if he knew this man. Probably not. He chose one man that we found out had been infirm for thirty eight years. Then the Teacher asked a strange question.

“Do you want to get well?”

Why would somebody even be here if they did not want to get well? That was the whole point of the place.

The man didn’t answer the question, but said instead, “When the pool is disturbed I don’t have anybody to help me into it.” This might have been an excuse, but the Teacher took it as affirmation that he wanted to be healed. So he healed him.

“Take up your mat and walk,” he said. And the man did so.

No sooner was the man outside the building, but someone stopped him and asked him why he was carrying his mat. After all, it was shabbos. He simply replied that the man who had healed him told him to carry his mat.

Now comes the really strange part. Some people might have said, “Oh, you were sick. Well, put down your mat and tell me how you were healed.” Not this person. Instead of asking who did the healing he asked, “Who told you to carry your mat?” He missed the point altogether. This man had been healed! Who cares what he was told? Praise God for what was done!

The healed man did not know who the Teacher was. Until later, that is. The Teacher came to him in the Temple and told him who he was and that he was to go, and not sin. Well, he went. He went straight to those who chided him for carrying his mat, and identified the Teacher as his healer.

Maybe he was hoping they would acknowledge the miracle. Instead, they plotted the Teacher’s death. It didn’t matter that he had healed, but it mattered to them that he had done so on shabbos. Now tell me, who needed the healing more? The lame man, or these blind men?

(Based on John 5:1-16)