"When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, 'Do you want to be healed?'"
Perhaps you've heard the story about the man whose brother-in-law believed himself to be a chicken. The man finally got fed up with his brother-in-law's scratching, clucking, and pecking - not to mention the nest-building in every corner of the house.
The man went to see a psychiatrist to explain the problem. The doctor said, "Sounds like a simple neurosis. Bring him in, I'm sure we can cure him."
"Oh no, Doc," said the man, "we can't do that. We need the eggs."
When Jesus came upon a man who had been sitting beside a healing pool for thirty-eight years without ever getting in the water, he asked, "Do you want to be healed?"
The truth is that in churches (but not only there) we sometimes get a lot of eggs from people who are suffering in basic ways, i.e. deep down they don't experience themselves as worthy of God's love and grace. Often those who suffer such wounds deal with their pain by over-functioning - constantly doing for others, taking on every job, or taking responsibility for other people who aren't being responsible for themselves. We in the church may even encourage this. We've gotten used to the eggs.
But here's the really shocking thing in this story: Jesus asked if the man who had sat there for so long wanted to be healed, but he didn't wait for an answer. He just ordered the man to get up and walk. Jesus took away the eggs.
So watch out, because so far as I can tell Jesus is very likely to bust in on our little arrangements and take away the eggs. Jesus is intent on taking from us all the ways we've learned to keep true life and real healing at bay.
Come Holy Spirit, break us open and make us new. Amen.
Anthony B. Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul's Letters to Timothy for a New Day, and he is also the author of Book of Exodus: A God is still speaking Bible Study. Read his weekly reflections on the current lectionary texts at www.anthonybrobinson.com by clicking on Weekly Reading.