“Jesus said to him, ’Rise, take up your pallet and walk.’ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked” ( John 5: 8-9, RSV)
The verses above describe just one of the many episodes of Jesus’ healing in the New Testament. Imagine a lame, fallow-looking, pathetic wretch of a man lying on his hard, makeshift bed. He is looking on hopelessly as other crippled or diseased unfortunates make their way or are helped by others into a pool where they can gain some salutary relief, however brief it may be. Until Jesus appears on the scene sympathetic to his plight, I can imagine him continuing to live out his existence in pain, suffering, and depression. But that did not happen. Jesus healed him with a simple command and he took up his pallet and walked.
It is possible the man was afflicted by some awful malady or was perhaps crippled by a terrible accident, but it is also possible that he might have been paralyzed by his own self-pity and sense of victimhood. Before Jesus issued the command, he asked the man, “Do you want to be healed?” Instead of answering in the affirmative, he complained that no one would help him and that if he tried to help himself he would be obstructed by others. Irrespective of the cause of his problems, Jesus healed him and he took up his pallet and walked.
Whether our own travails are real or self-inflicted, Jesus’ healing power abides. Sometimes it comes in the form of direct healing: a fever reduced, pain subsided, or a cancer in remission. Sometimes it may also come in the form of a kick in the pants: stop feeling sorry for yourself, pull yourself up by your bootstraps; take control of your life. With Jesus’ help we can be healed or we can be helped to heal ourselves.
Oh, Lord, if we become sick, hasten our return to health. If we injure ourselves, mend our broken bodies. And if we are afflicted by our own self-pity or are the cause of our own suffering, help us to realize our complicity so that we may take up our pallet and walk. Amen.
St. Andrew’s, Colchester