Do You Want It?

Just outside the arching doorway, little white flowers gently perfumed the air. She paused on her way inside to inhale deeply, filling her lungs with a pleasant smell, hoping to hold it in, hoping to not need a second breath until back outside.

The delicious scent met the rank and putrefying not two feet inside the door. There they seemed to battle it out, good versus evil, always a stalemate.

She entered slowly, stepping carefully around legs half wrapped by dirty bandages, letting her eyes adjust to the darker light. The one she visited lay on the far side of the room, far from the sweet smells, deeply encased in the smell of death.

She glanced toward the pool of water, still as could be. Not the cleanest of waters, yet no one would hesitate to jump in at the slightest motion. She could have dropped a crumb into the water and inspired a human stampede. So she walked slow, almost on tiptoe.

The one she came to see, an elderly woman, had been there for as long as the young girl could remember. Blind and half crippled from old age, the old woman sat in the corner, discouraged at the passing of time without healing, frustrated that no one was ever there to help her get to the water when it stirred. She sat, unaware of anything but smells, sounds and movement, in a dark world of self-pity.

She could sense the small form before the youngster spoke, but before either of them could speak greeting, a louder voice echoed across the still water.
"Do you want to get well?"
Murmurs of all who thought the question might be directed to them.
"Of course we do, if only someone would carry me, it's been months since the water moved..."

But Jesus wasn't asking all of them. He was asking the old-timer. The man who had sat there for thirty-eight years, locked even deeper in self-pity than the old woman. For him, this was his identity, his legacy. The Invalid. The Man Who Sat The Longest. Excuses were his prison. He wasn't even sure what he would do if he COULD be healed.
"Do you WANT to get well?"
Or are you pretty happy sitting in that pile of dysfunction?

Girl and woman listened. Everyone listened. The room had never been so quiet, so still.
"But sir, 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."
More murmurs of agreement. Life is hard. There seems no way out. The one door to freedom is locked. Blame and excuses are their bitter friends. The room fills with the complaining voices of the resentful and vexed.

So very loudly, Jesus commands,
"Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."
Her eight-year-old eyes stare as that old man's face moves from despair to questioning to hope. She watches the glimmer in his eyes that seems to move throughout his crippled body as he decides to test out long-forgotten muscles and joints.

He moves a leg, ever so slowly, stretching out first knee, then ankle. Then the other leg. Jesus waits patiently, hands outstretched to lift him to his feet.

He looks up, smiling in amazement.
Grabbing onto those life-giving hands, he pulls himself up and stands firm, for the first time in almost 40 years.

She asks the young girl, "Did he do it? Did he get up?"

"Yes," she breathes, now unaware of the foul smells, eyes glued to the Healer and the healed.

"Yes, Grandma, he stood up! He can walk! He is picking up his mat and leaving this place!"

Incredible. She isn't sure whether to be jealous or happy for the man. She isn't exactly sure how to respond. 

So, she asks her granddaughter what was in the basket for lunch.

And she contemplates moving her mat a little closer to the doorway, in case He returns. At least she would be able to smell the little white flowers.