the multitude of invalids

We use iTunes to shuffle music in the bookstore, and in among the various bits of music I have mixed in the reading of Scripture – from the Listener’s Bible [NIV] by Max McLean. One of my particular favorites is this passage from John 5 [ESV]:
    2Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3In these lay a multitude of invalids--blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

    6When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be healed?"

    7The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me."

    8Jesus said to him, "Get up, take up your bed, and walk." 9And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
Now, there’s a lot more to this story – like the apparent offense the Jews take at Jesus healing on the Sabbath, and the working of the Father through the Son – but I want to take a look at something else here for a second.

The first thing is this: there’s nobody in their right mind who would say that the invalid in this story cures himself. He has been an invalid for 38 years, right? And when he answers Jesus’ question “Do you want to be healed,” he has enough sense to say, “I have no one to put me into the pool” – that is, I cannot heal myself; what I want is help because I cannot help myself.

Another thing to take note of is this: there is also nobody in his right mind who is preaching from this passage that Jesus is being cruel to others by healing this man only. One thing apparent to anyone who can read English is that at the pool, in the 5 roofed colonnades, are “a multitude of invalids – blind, lame and paralyzed”. Yet Jesus does not walk out there and lay hands on everyone: he speaks to one man, and it is one man who offends the religious leaders for his disobedience on the Sabbath; and the accusation (if you read on in your Bible – I didn’t paste it here) of the Jews is that Jesus healed this one man on the Sabbath. Jesus’ love is not put into question here over healing one and not all even though it is readily evident that he has only healed one and not all.

You can draw your own conclusions from that, but the next time someone wants to have an argument with you about how God can be loving or merciful if he doesn’t treat everyone identically, open your Bible up to John 5 and talk about this passage.