You ask what Sabbath means to me? In a word, restoration, but there is a story behind that word. Though you'd never know from looking at me now, I spent twothirds of my life paralyzed.
My age? Well, I'll be sixtythree next month. That's right, I was crippled nearly forty years! An accident? Not exactly. I wish the cause of my paralysis had been something so honorable. The truth is, I was diagnosed with syphilis when I was twenty and could no longer walk by twentytwo. It shames me to speak of it now. It was entirely my own fault that I spent all those years as a burden to others and an embarrassment to myself.
I'm sure glad Jesus didn't hold my past against me! He is why I'm walking now, you know! I was lying on a mat beside the Pool of Bethesda-the mineral springs, down near the Sheep Gate. Many folks believe that occasionally an angel stirs the water there and that the first person to enter the pool afterward will be healed of whatever ails him. That's where Jesus found me, near death, at the water's edge, --hoping to see the ripples and be the first.
It was a Sabbath (three years ago this week, in fact). Crowds of people were moving along the street which passes directly by the Pool of Bethesda. It's the street that leads through the Sheep Gate entrance to the temple Court of the Gentiles. Anyway, the noise of the street spoke to me of multitudes who could move without being carried, --while I lay completely dependent upon the kindness or pity of others for all my needs. Thirtyeight years. Thirtyeight years of absolute helplessness and despair!
Suddenly He was there, leaning over, looking down at me. Though He didn't say anything at first, the compassion on His face spoke volumes and I felt as though He understood my sorrow. His eyes misted over, then He turned His face toward the sky and I saw tears spill down His cheeks.
After a moment, He looked back into my eyes and I'll never forget His words! "Would you like to be well?" He asked, and suddenly, unexplainably, hope surged in my heart.
Then reality tumbled back into my mind and, discouraged once more, I said, "I have no one, Sir, to help me into the pool when the water is stirred."
He appeared not to notice my reply. With a look that seemed to penetrate my soul, He said slowly, deliberately, and with authority, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk out of here!" At that same moment, my whole body tingled (like your foot or leg sometimes does after it has fallen asleep). With the tingling I felt new life and strength surging through every limb. Almost reflexively, and without stopping to consider the impossible, I found myself doing what He had commanded. I was WELL!! After thirtyeight years, I could move on my own! Ecstatic, I stooped and rolled up my mat, as He had said to. When I stood again and turned to thank Him, He was gone. I didn't even know His name!
If you've ever seen a colt let out to pasture after being confined in a stable, then you may have some idea how I responded to this gift of healing. Leaping high into the air, arms outstretched, I landed with a spring in my step and broke into a run. I was laughing and shouting and crying, one after the other. People stepped out of my way and stared as I raced up Sheep Street toward the temple, praising God.
Some Jewish leaders met me in the temple courtyard, and with lowered brows asked me why I was carrying my bedroll on the Sabbath. When I laughingly told them, "Because the One who just healed me said to," they angrily demanded to know His name. I told them I hadn't a clue, though I would very much like to know! Later that day, I met Him again and this time learned His name, --Jesus! It's a good name! Did you know it means Savior? He sure saved me!! Ever since then, Sabbaths have been special for me-you know what I mean?
As I mentioned earlier, that all happened just three years ago. Here it is Passover Week again. Did you see Jesus today, as he rode into Jerusalem while the whole city cheered? I heard that some of our leaders asked Him to quiet the crowd, but He refused. Even though they are jealous of His popularity, I think at last they will have to accept Him. After all, nearly everyone in Jerusalem wants to make Him a king!!! I have a feeling this is going to be a Sabbath that will be remembered for years to come!
Lesson 12 - Conclusion