“Wake up, Azariah,” the Beggar said. “It’s time to go down to The Pool.”
His name seemed like a mean joke being played on him by Yahweh. It literally meant, “God…YAHWEH God, has helped.” Yet it wasn’t God who helped him every morning. It was the Beggar and his friends.
God never helped him.
The Beggar and his three friends were a mixed bunch, made up of different ages and ailments. The young one was missing an ear; another was partially blind; the oldest had been caught stealing at a young age and paid the price–his hand.
Each of them had encountered their troubles in life, and therefore spent their days by The Pool of Mercy on its five porches. It was a prime location for begging. It was nicely settled near the Sheep Gate–the only northern entrance to the Temple’s outer courts, which meant lots of people walking by.
Lots of guilty people, seeking to appease God. What better way to get on God’s “good side” then to give money to a beggar? They were still beggars, but they usually fared alright.
Azariah always made more than the rest. There were literally hundreds of sick people–the blind, crippled, paralyzed–that gathered here for begging. Yet Azariah wasn’t here for money. He, like all those who gathered around The Pool of Mercy, believed that if they waited long enough by The Pool, its waters would mysteriously and miraculously stir; and when they did, the first-one-in would be healed.
That’s why the Beggar and his friends spent each and every morning moving Azariah to “his spot.” He had the best spot in the area; a great location for begging as it was right near the main road through the gate, and it was also close to the pool. Azariah was closer than anyone. He paid the beggars to move him each morning, and it worked out–everyone got what they wanted. Azariah got his spot, and the beggars got their money.
So Azariah spent his days there, lying on his bedroll, waiting for the water to stir. The beggars often talked about him, and wondered how he’d ever manage to be the first-one-in when he couldn’t walk. Azariah would have to be carried by someone else. They’d tried it a few times, but another was always faster.
But Azariah still had the best spot. And it was his spot.
He didn’t get the spot because he had the worst ailment, although it could be argued that he did. Everyone at The Pool knew Azariah couldn’t walk; in fact, he couldn’t move. He was paralyzed. But even that wasn’t why he had the spot.
It was his because he’d been there longer than anyone else–he’d been there for thirty-eight years. Waiting. Thirty-eight years. And God never helped him.
But today was different. Because of the upcoming religious festival, multitudes were in town, heading to the Temple. It happened each year. There was a buzz and excitement in the air. Everyone around The Pool felt it; even Azariah.
One of the many coming through the gate was Jesus. He’d walked through it before. Many times. Every year, in fact. Since Jesus could remember he walked through the gate with his mother Mary, his father Joseph, his sister Salome and their brothers…and every year they would walk through the line of beggars.
They never had a lot of money; but they always set aside some bread and a little extra money from the woodwork that Joseph had done that year, and gave it to the beggars. There was one in particular that Jesus was looking for.
Jesus remembered him. Always in the same spot. Every single year. Ever since he could remember.
But this year–this day–was different. God was going to help. Jesus walked up to the man on the mat, in his spot; the same spot he always was.
“Do you want to get well?” The question pierced Azariah’s soul. Of course he wanted to walk! But the way Jesus was looking at him, he knew this Rabbi meant meant more than just walking. Right? “Do you want to get well?”
“I can’t, sir…whenever the water is stirred, I don’t get in there in time. By the time I’m in the water, somebody else has already beat me there.” Jesus knew this was all a smoke screen, an excuse to stay stuck in the life he knew instead of embarking on the adventure of the unknown. “Get up, take your bedroll. Start walking, and be on your way.”
Azariah shuddered at the thought of putting the hard words into action. With a gulp, he raised himself with his arms, put weight on his feeble legs and for the first time in thirty-eight years, took his first step.
He left his spot.
Jesus knew it wasn’t just his body that was paralyzed. Constantly missing out on the first-one-in healing, even the hope to be healed gave way to a blase acceptance of the status quo. The years of discouragement had paralyzed his will and desire. So he’d lay there, in his spot, waiting for someone else to assist him.
Then Jesus asked him to do the impossible; to stand on his feet, pick up his bedroll and to go on his way. He’d been there so long (thirty-eight years!) I doubt he even knew where “his way” was.
what things do you feel stuck in? what are you waiting for?
what is Jesus asking you to move from?
what is Jesus asking you to move toward?