Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate is a pool called Bethesda
which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a
great number of disabled people used to lie -- the
blind, the lame, the paralyzed -- and they waited for
the moving of the waters. From time to time an
angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the
waters. The first one into the pool after each such
disturbance would be cured of whatever disease he
(John 5:2-4; late manuscripts)
In Abba's Child
, Brennan Manning uses a
powerful illustration that deserves repetition here.
Thornton Wilder's one-act play, "The
Angel That Troubled the Waters" (1928), based on
John 5:1-4, dramatizes the power of the pool of
Bethesda to heal whenever an angel stirred its waters.
A physician comes periodically to the pool hoping to
be the first in line and longing to be healed of his
melancholy. The angel finally appears but blocks the
physician just as he is ready to step into the water.
The angel tells the physician to draw back, for this
moment is not for him. The physician pleads for help
in a broken voice, but the angel insists that healing
is not intended for him.
The dialogue continues -- and then
comes the prophetic word from the angel: "Without your
wounds where would your power be? It is your
melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the
hearts of men and women. The very angels themselves
cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children
on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels
of living. In Love's service, only wounded soldiers
can serve. Physician, draw back."
Later, the man who enters the pool
first and is healed rejoices in his good fortune and
turning to the physician says: "Please come with me.
It is only an hour to my home. My son is lost in dark
thoughts. I do not understand him and only you have
ever lifted his mood. Only an hour.... There is also
my daughter: since her child died, she sits in the
shadow. She will not listen to us but she will listen
As we pray for healing and yearn to be
first into "the troubled waters" may we grow aware of
those in the shadows to whom the Father may send us.
Ultimately, in a broken world our healing is less
helpful than our woundedness. Our pain, in His hands,
can "tremble into the hearts of men and women" and,
miraculously, become a balm.
Our grief, pain, brokenness, and sorrow
all have healing power in the hands of the real
In HOPE --