Friday, June 18

Sabbath Monologue

This is a monologue from a Christian perspective using the story found in the Gospel of John, chapter 5, verses 1-15. It definitely touches on what Sabbath is and isn't. But we each have our own point of view. What is important to you?

He’s the one! (point) He’s the one! Jesus, I tell you, he’s the one who told me to carry my mat on Sunday. He’s the one who healed me. Haven’t you heard the story? I thought everyone at the Temple had heard by now.

My name is AESCHYLUS.[1] That is a variation of the word “shame.” I have felt shame each and every day of my life. As other boys played, I sat still, shamed by paralysis. As young men wooed their loved ones, I struggled simply to move from room to room. As zealots fight against the Romans, I can do nothing. I struggle with understanding myself as made in the image of God.

I remember when I was a teenager, all the families came to Jerusalem, to the Temple, to celebrate Passover. It was so hard. They put me on a mat and would carry me around as much as they could.

I suppose I was really lucky. My family did not abandon me. Believe me, they could have. Being a life-long paraplegic was a sign of shame to my family. Sometimes people believed that the verse in Exodus[2] that says that children are punished for the sins of the parents is true. And then they blamed my parents for me being born this way. They asked them, “What did you do?” Or worse, said, “You must have cursed God’s name!” They forget that God told Ezekiel that was no longer the case. That old law was dead. The new law is that all lives belong to God and that only the one who sins will be held responsible.[3] So clearly, under that law, being born a paraplegic is not because my parents did something wrong. Who knows why it happened. Sometimes I just have to let God handle the mystery.

Anyway, so when I was a teenager and all the families were here in Jerusalem, I thought I would have a chance and being healed. We were in Jerusalem, where the Bethesda Pool is. The Bethesda Pool has a reputation as a place of healing. It is a place of ritual cleansing called a mikveh. But here, at this one place, not only was it a mikveh, but an angel would occasionally stir up the waters of the pool and then! Then it would happen! Whoever entered the water first would be cured. My family left me there, near the pool, on my mat. I waited and I hoped that the waters would be stirred, but it never happened. Then they just left me sitting there. I watched the waters of the pool. And I watched the people. And I listened to the stories.

Oh, there was this story about a young man at the Temple back then when I was there. I heard he gave the Rabbis a run for their money!

After Passover was over, we left. I was pulled along on my mat. It makes for a very rough and bumpy ride. We came back to Jerusalem year after year on Passover, but I never did see the waters stir. Honestly, I nearly became hopeless.

This year is probably the last year my whole family could come to Jerusalem for Passover. I’m 38 now and they are getting old and frail. We decided to just stay all the way through to Pentecost.[4] I love Pentecost! It is the celebration of the giving of the Torah. What a wonderful time to contemplate God’s gifts to us. I am always holding that in tension with the difficulty I have with being the way I am. One the one hand hope given to us as a gift from God, on the other hand hopeless in having an untreatable malady for 38 years. It can be very tiring.

During the 7 weeks that lead from Passover to Pentecost, I would have my friends carry me and my mat to the Bethesda Pool. I still believed in the promise of a miracle. So maybe I never quite become totally hopeless. Anyway, every day I would come to the pool and every day I would be disappointed. Either the waters would not stir. Or they would stir and I would not be able to get to the waters to be the first in the pool. Someone would always beat me. And this place is so sad. It is surrounded by the blind, lame, diseased, and paralyzed. The most hurting people are here. At their place of last hope. But even the blind can move faster than I can!

I was sitting by the pool, waiting yet again for the waters to stir, and this man came over asked me, “Are you here hoping to be healed.”

Inside my head, I was like “duh,” but what I said was, “Kind sir, like everyone here, I am waiting for the waters to stir. But I can’t walk. If I’m going to be healed by the living waters, someone will have to carry me into the pool. Without help, someone beats me to the water’s edge every time.”

Then he said it, “Stand up, carry your mat, and walk.”

When he said that to me, an energy coursed through my body like no other and for the first time in my life, I stood. I walked. I carried my mat! I was shocked and amazed. I had no other thoughts in my head but to keep walking. And so I did. I walked and then I ran. Joy coursed through me like no other feeling. I was healed! It was freedom. It was amazing!

As my running slowed to a walk, my stamina was really bad, I realized a couple things. It was the Sabbath and some people have problems with healing on the Sabbath although Torah is clear that Sabbath is to serve life. I have had a lot of time to study Torah lying on my mat and I know that Torah and the Rabbis have said that what is prohibited on the Sabbath is the kind of physical labor or work that exercises control over your environment. So no building things or plowing or reaping or grinding. But things that save lives, those are allowed![5] I really think that my life was saved that day. Not everyone knows the intricacies of Sabbath law or people become too attached to their own understanding of Sabbath rules. A lot of people just think everything you do is against Torah. Everything! Not only plowing, reaping, or grinding, but also things like putting a fire out, healing the wounded, or rescuing a sheep! It’s ridiculous.

However, I probably shouldn’t be carrying my mat around. That is not saving anyone’s life! But the healer told me to carry it, so carry it I shall!

Second, this is the actual day of Pentecost. The celebration of the giving of Torah. Torah is life for Israel. It is as if this healer became Torah for me. He gave me life.

Third, I realized that I had ran all the way to the Temple. Well, I have a lot to be thankful for. My steps unknowingly led me right there to worship.

So there I was, ready to offer my prayers to God, and some of the leaders told me, “Hey! You’re not supposed to carry your mat today! It’s Sabbath!”

I can understand that. But they don’t know what happened! I told them, “Until moments ago, I had been paralyzed my entire life. A man healed me! And when he did, he told me to carry my mat and go. So I followed his instructions exactly.”

Then they asked me who the man was. It was then that I realized that I had been so overcome with joy and the ability to move, that I had forgotten to ask his name! I am definitely a numbskull. So I told them that I had no idea. Then they left me alone and I stayed in the Temple to pray.

I prayed and prayed. Nearly all day. As I was there, that man came to me again! We chatted for a while and he said the strangest thing to me. “Take a look at yourself,” he said, “You have been made whole and strong. Go and live a life free of sin so nothing worse will happen to you.”

Hmm. That seems quite serious. What could be worse than what I experienced? There were so many times that I had hoped I was dead. When I struggled against being a burden to my family. Or when I just felt like giving up. Or when I was lonely. That was really hard. I felt like I had “been there, done that.” Physical and spiritual woundedness.

What could be possibly worse?

As I sat there contemplating “worse,” I saw the Jewish leaders out of the corner of my eye. I ran over to them … ran! … and pointed out Jesus, the man who had healed me.

But still, I wonder about the mystery of his words. I wish I could have more time to learn from him.

I will go and live a life made whole by Living Water. But I think I’m just going to leave my mat here.

Pool of Bethesda


[1] From αισχος, “shame”

[2] Exodus 20:5

[3] Ezekiel 18:1-4

[4] (logic of why Pentecost is the holiday)


Leave a Reply