When Jesus saw him lying there and realized that he had spent a long time in this condition, He asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
I love reading the gospels. I read the story of the man who Jesus healed at the pool of Bethesda recently. Wow! What a miracle. This man had been crippled for 38 years! But this time when I read the story, it wasn’t the miracle of his healing which jumped out at me! It was something entirely different.
To put the story into context, when Jesus found out he had been there for all those years, He was FULL of compassion. He said to the man “Do you want to get well?” The man then explained that he had no one to help him get into the water first when it was stirred. (There was a belief at that time that sometimes an angel would stir the waters, and whoever got into the water first, could then be healed).
Then Jesus said to him “Get up. Pick up your mat and walk”. At once, this man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (verse 8)
The part of the story which God seemed to highlight to me were the words “PICK UP YOUR MAT AND WALK”.
“Pick up your mat” … I wondered … Why Jesus chose those particular words?
Why didn’t He just say “Be healed” or “Your faith has made you well”?
“Get up, pick up your mat, and walk” (John 5:8)
I felt sure that Jesus wasn’t just reminding him to be clean and tidy and not leave his belongings for someone else to pick up! Jesus words are always well chosen, so why did he specifically say: “Pick up your mat”? What did the mat represent?
And then I saw it. It represented his life! His story. His experiences and everything he had been through as he lived at the pool for ALL of those years. I’m talking about his pain, hardships and disappointments. This includes feelings of isolation from society due to not being able to live a “normal” life. He was not able to have a family or have a job like other men. Instead of earning a living he had to beg and rely on others to survive. Can you imagine what that would have been like? After 38 long and difficult years, it would have really impacted his sense of self-worth and identity!
So when Jesus said to him “pick up your mat” I sensed Jesus was saying to him (my paraphrase) “Pick up your life! Pick up everything you have been through … and carry it with you, into your future.
And that’s exactly what this man did. He picked up his mat and walked right back out into society. He took with him not only the story of his difficult life at the pool, but his testimony of how Jesus came along one amazing day, and healed him!
I can just imagine him full of joy and walking around with his mat under his arm! When people said “Hey, aren’t you the guy who used to live at the pool”? He would say to them “Yes”! I was once crippled, I used to beg, I couldn’t live like you do. But Jesus set me free. He healed me and now here I am!” That man became a walking, talking testimony of the goodness, love and healing power of God!
I realised when I read this story that each of us have “a mat”. I have one and so do you.
Our mat represents our lives. It is our story. It represents our life experiences. So, let me ask you: What have you been through? What challenges, difficulties and hardships have been uniquely yours? Perhaps you have experienced financial loss, a relationship breakdown or a health issue …. Or, something else? What hardship or set back have you gone through in your life? This is ALL part of “your mat”. But then, importantly, so is your testimony and your experience of how you encountered Jesus’ powerful love! This is all a part of your mat. So, let me encourage you to reflect … “How have YOU experienced God’s grace, love and power? How has He set you free? How has he given you hope? How has He restored your life? This is all part of “your mat” because it is YOUR story!
I am on a mission today! I want to passionately encourage you to realize the importance of your own story to help others. When I say “your story” I am not talking about the sanitised version! I bet the man at the pool didn’t spin his story to make it “look good”. I’m sure he didn’t say “Hey look, it was just great there at the pool! It was a bit of an oasis really, especially on really hot days. There were palm trees swaying in the breeze and I could just slip into the refreshing water anytime I liked”. No! He would have shared the true story. That would go something like this … “Once I despaired of life! In fact, I didn’t know if I could go on. I thought ‘what’s the point’? I looked at all the other men and saw them with their kids and felt like giving up” … But then Jesus came along! He reached out to me in my pain. He reached out and touched me with his healing power. He didn’t leave me by the pool. He changed my life! And now I have a future!!”
So, my friend, I want to encourage you to “Pick up your mat” and share your real, true and honest story, the one without any “spin”. It’s “that” story which is really going to help people when you ADD to it the power of your testimony! How one day, the One who loves you the most – Jesus – stepped into your broken and messy life and miracle of miracles – He set you free!! You encountered his unconditional love and saving grace. He gave you a hope when you had no hope. This Jesus restored your broken life and gave you a brand new future. Now that’s the story which others want to hear about! That story of redemption and restoration is going to lead others to Jesus. . That’s the story which is going to set them free.
God uses broken things in which to display His glory.
Pick up YOUR mat – (Your Own Story) and walk into the world, and share it.
Carolyn Conway is the director of Almond Tree Ministries. She speaks and teaches on a range of topics at churches, conferences and women’s events. Her passion is to see the Body of Christ arise and be God’s power and presence in the world. She is also a certified Life Coach.
Enquiries: email@example.com or call 0411 152 524
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