When the water stirred. A personal reflection on healing.


On reading last week’s Gospel, where Christ encounters the poor soul living with a disability (of at least 38 years duration, most probably longer) awaiting healing at Bethesda; I must confess, I am uncomfortable.

And I find myself so very uncomfortable, because, like the invalid awaiting healing, I, too, await healing for a lifelong and chronic condition, in my case eczema.

I am my skin condition. My eczema, after 55 years is very, very much, well, me.

And after years of prayer, having hands laid on me for healing, knowing my family prays everyday for me, managing my condition from morning to night, on other days my condition managing me (and not in a good way) morning to night, feeling as if I have been through every form of treatment available (and about to embark on a new journey of treatment)…

I just want Jesus to say to me, once and for all,

“DB. Mate. Crack on. You are healed”.

Like the man living with his disability (although in a time when sickness and “difference” associated was hugely misunderstood) I too,today, long for…healing.

Quite possibly you too.

Here’s this week’s Gospel reading from John 5 v 1 to 11.

The Gospel reading.

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [4] [b] One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”



The pool at Bethesda is as Petersen notes, a place where “the blind, the lame, the paralyzed…” (John 5 v 5) meet.

In the hope that when the “waters are stirred…” (John 5 v 7) (by an angel it was believed) the first into the waters would receive healing.

I guess, if I had been living in Jerusalem, in the year of our Lord 30 AD you might say, I too, with my skin condition, would have been looking for a miracle.

For the waters to stir.

Day in and day out.

In pain.

In hope.

And quite possibly I might have met you there.


One of the greatest challenges that faces those of Christian faith is suffering.

Pain, trauma, sickness, and of course death itself is our human condition.

And, in terms of understanding how much our human condition impacts the everyday and especially our mental health; it’s my view that the Church needs to become a whole lot more comfortable with helping believers find a way emotionally and mentally to accept their physical afflictions.

There is a need for the Church in my experience to better “normalise” that (whilst I trust for healing), dis-ease, illness, suffering, death and our deepest emotional and mental response is to be fully human.

Maybe is to be fully alive.

Waiting for the waters to stir.

With very good reason, the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah is shown a picture of his humanity when God tells him to visit a potter, molding and shaping clay (Jeremiah 18).

We are but clay.

And to the dust we will return.

We are but clay, fragile, yet wonderfully shaped by the touch of the Creator…

Through our bodies amidst their frality,

Through our circumstances though often beyond our control,

Through our psyche, as muddled as it might be.

Maybe, when all is said and done, it is not about “healing”.

Maybe when all is said and done for those who want to believe, long to believe; it is about hearing the voice of Christ.

Beside us.

Speaking to us.

Asking us to pick up each new day where we left off.

And follow.

Somehow. Follow.


Picture: Stained glass window from St. Mark’s Parish Church, Armagh. Co. Armagh.

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