Sunday June 2, 2019 | Nicole Bullock
Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days.
Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda with five
covered porches. Crowds of sick people –blind, lame, or paralyzed– lay on
the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked
him, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have
no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else
always gets there ahead of me.” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your
mat, and walk!” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” One
more time, for the Holy Spirit. Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat,
Our guest speaker, Nicole Bullock, focuses on John 5:1-8 and unpacks what it looks like for us to “take up our mats and walk.”
Many times, we read Scripture as if it was just something that happened in the past, and we don’t always make the connection for its relevancy for us today. It’s important for us to insert ourselves into the text and find out if there are any parallels. We’re not simply looking for ourselves in the story, but also asking, “Where is Jesus?”
We are in the story of John 5:1-8, where Jesus heals a disabled man. He has been sick for 38 years and is awaiting a miracle in Bethesda, which means house of mercy. How many of us can relate to what he’s going through? We are people who are consistently showing up in the house of mercy, a place flowing with miracles, yet many of us are still awaiting the promise and blessing we hope for. Imagine how the disabled man might feel in the waiting.
The breakthrough comes when Jesus shows up. However, he doesn’t immediately heal the man instead he asks a question. He already knows the answer, yet he asks the question for the man’s sake. He asks, “Do you want to be well.”
After the last time Nicole spoke at Woodland (two years ago), she became really sick and discovered that she had lupus, an autoimmune disease. She then identified herself with the sick man on the mat. She felt like Jesus asked her the same question, “Do you want to be well.” Instead of answering, she said, “Look at my mat. Look at all these things going on.” Then she felt like Jesus asks her the same question and said, “Well stand up.”
We all have a mat. It may not be physical like Nicole’s, but it could be circumstances – job, kids, marriage, money. We know that the mat exists, but we also know that Jesus will show up, invite us to be healed and ask us to “stand up.” Standing up is an intentional choice to trust in God’s promises even when you don’t understand.
Then Jesus says, “Take up your mat,” which requires us to start taking steps in action. For Nicole, this meant looking at things differently. She began to see where she was in God’s truth and revelation more clearly. She learned more about her identity as a follower of Christ. She started picking up her mat and taking steps of faith. Walking was not easy, but it led her into a new purpose and understanding.
As we walk with our mat, we share the testimony of God’s work in our lives. However, not everyone will celebrate this healing. There will be objections, similar to the man in the story. Not everyone will understand your journey, but just like the man – we can continue speaking our truth.