Readings: Ezekiel 47:1-9. 12; John 5:1-3. 5-16
"Who is the man who said to you, 'Pick up your mat and walk?'" (John 5:12)
In today's Gospel we step into a busy scene. Among the noise and bustle of the crowds visiting the Temple are the sick people who gather in the shade of the building called Bethzatha, or in some translations, Bethesda, which means "house of mercy". It was close to the pools of water which were used in the Temple. People believed that an angel disturbed the waters at intervals and the first person into the water after that would be cured.
When the water was disturbed it would have been a mad rush, with people pushing, shoving and cursing to get there first. The more helpless the person, the less likelihood of getting there. The man Jesus spoke to had no chance. Perhaps Jesus chose to heal him because he was the most vulnerable and had been ill for so long.
It's hard to imagine that the religious leaders didn't know this man. Even if they didn't take much notice of the crowd of sick people, in the thirty-eight years he had been ill his presence must have registered on some of them. Besides, the buzz from the crowd would have let them know something special had happened. But the leaders weren't interested in sharing his joy. They didn't say, "Thank God, how wonderful that you can walk again." No, they felt control slipping away from them, so they hid behind the law, asking who had healed him on the sabbath. They found it was Jesus, and so they began to plot against him.
Father, save us from a mean spirit and pettiness. Teach us to be touched by other people's joy and be glad rather than try to belittle it. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.