Thirty-eight years. That’s a long time to be sick and unable to go about a normal life. But for the man lying at the pool of Bethesda, that’s what he has faced. After so long a time, it is easy to lose hope. When Jesus asked, “Do you want to be healed?” he didn’t even answer the question. Instead, he described his hopeless situation. He told the Lord how he had no one to help him and that the cure he desperately desired seemed always just out of his reach.
I would think that the answer springing from his lips would be, “Oh yes, I want to be made whole!” But he didn’t say that. His words reflect the hopelessness that had gripped his heart. Beaten down by his condition, he could not bring himself to expect anything better. Perhaps he offers some insight into the hopelessness that grips many in our day.
Hopelessness. It is one of Satan’s lies. “You are so bad and you have made such a mess of things that there is no hope for you. How could God ever give you another chance?” But Satan’s message is always a lie. Of course, without Jesus, there is no hope – without exception – no matter who you are. But the message of the gospel is that with Jesus there is always hope. We see it over and over in the gospel accounts – people in seemingly hopeless situations lifted out of despair when they meet Jesus.
Satan may seem to know just how and when to tempt you. Addiction may have you in its grip. You may feel like it is only a matter of time until you mess up – again. But that hopelessness can be conquered. It can be driven out of your heart by faith and trust in Christ. Whether we overcome depends on who we listen to.
Just as Jesus told this man to take up his bed and walk, the gospel tells those who are crushed under the weight of sin, you can get up again. Just as Jesus encouraged him to “sin no more,” so his message today calls for us to lay aside the destructive behavior of sin and take up the wholesome life of righteousness.
But for the grace of God, all of us, like the man at the pool of Bethesda, would be without hope. But with the grace of God, we all can find hope in Christ.