Scripture Reading: Luke 5:18-26, Matthew 12:10-13, Luke 13:10-17, John 5:1-15
The migraines started in the winter. At times I was dizzy, other times nauseated, but my head was always pounding. In the summer, I sat across from a doctor as he explained that I had a rare, incurable condition called Diabetes Insipidus. Basically put, my body can’t retain water, which means if I drink a glass of water, it travels through my body in about 25 minutes. It’s an endless cycle of hydration, a thirst that’s never quenched.
At first, it was a relief just to have an answer. But over time my morale tanked and my body crashed. I found myself using most of my energy just to get the prescribed nine to eleven liters of water into my system each day. There was no cure. No rest.
When I read about Jesus healing the man at Bethesda, I come a little undone. Not because all is suddenly well, but because I can so easily imagine the man giving up hope after living on the fringe of community for so long. What I cannot imagine is thirty-eight years of a broken body. One year has been more than enough for me, and a lifetime is far too much to think about if I want to keep my sanity.
But here’s the thing that really haunts me: Jesus says to the man, “Get up… pick up your mat and walk” (John 5:8). He tells the man to walk, but He doesn’t just mean physically. There’s always a bigger picture with Jesus.
Scripture tells us a Jewish festival was taking place at that time in Jerusalem (v.1). The healed man was able to attend the feast as a restored member of society, no longer an outcast. During the celebration at the temple, Jesus finds him and says, “See, you are well. Do not sin anymore, so that something worse doesn’t happen to you” (v.14).
Jesus is getting at something much deeper—our sweet Savior is talking about the heart, about spiritual paralysis. He says, in essence, “You think that was bad? There are far worse fates.” Jesus’ charge to walk has a much more significant meaning: to step forward in faith, repent, and believe. The physical healing was never the end of the story.
When faced with long-term devastation, we ache because we feel that horrible tension of longing for better while living with broken. To watch Christ administer miraculous healing to broken bodies in Scripture reminds us that one day, we will all be healed and whole and well. But now, today, we live in both broken bodies and a broken world.
There are days when I go a few hours and forget that my body is broken. But there are also days when I feel myself starting to lose my grip—when I look in the mirror and think to myself, Surely, this is going to stop. And it doesn’t.
So this is what I do: I take slow, steady sips of water. I take one day at a time. And by His grace, I lean into Jesus, through the long-term illness that keeps me close to Him. When I feel paralyzed by what seems to be both a life sentence and a death sentence, I find that He is ever-present in my struggle (Psalm 46:1).
Jesus beckons to me in my broken, crippled body to “pick up my mat, and walk.” He invites me into faith, into a taste of eternity now in relationship with Him.
Melissa Zaldivar is a social in the world of academics and an academic in the world of socials. Ever the Enneagram Six, she likes to dream big, talk herself out of it, and then just do the thing already. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Bible/Theology as well as a Master’s in Theology. Her passions include eating Jimmy John’s sandwiches, showing people pictures of her nieces, and nerding out over biblical languages. If you ever need to know anything about obscure Puritanical American history or NASA, she’s your girl.