For those sitting in the shade of the balconies, the water before them represented hope. The sick, the blind, the crippled and the paralysed. All of them here in the hope of being healed. It was said that the first person to get into the pool when the waters stirred would be healed of what ever it was that afflicted them. And so they waited. Watching. Hoping.
There was one particular man there, lying on a mat. Like everyone else at the pool, he was waiting for his opportunity to be healed. But he had a problem. He had no one to help him. He had been this way for 38 years.
Suddenly, he noticed a stranger standing before him. “Would you like to get well?”, the stranger asked.
“Yes I would”, he replied. “But I can’t, because I have no one to help me! I’ve tried many times but someone always gets to the water before I can.”
On hearing his reply, the stranger instructed the man, “Stand up! Pick up your mat and walk.”
The moment the words left his mouth, the man was healed. So he stood up, rolled up his mat and started walking. He had no idea who the man was and didn’t see which direction he went as he slipped back into the crowd. But what had happened to him hadn’t gone unnoticed.
Some religious leaders from the Temple saw the man carrying his sleeping mat, so they approached him and objected, “You can’t carry that mat. It’s the Sabbath and you are not allowed to do any work on the Sabbath!”
The man was stunned. “The man who healed me told me to pick up my mat and walk, so I did.”
“Who would say such a thing?” the religious leaders demanded to know.
But the man couldn’t tell them.
It wasn’t until later the same day that he would learn the identity of the stranger who had healed him. And soon the religious leaders would know too.