Once upon a time, there was a man sitting quietly by a pool of water. He was a very sick man, and doubted that he had very long to live. While he stared into the water, something stirred the water. It was almost as though a hand had swished the water back and forth, but no one else was there. Wondering, the man reached out his own hand and swished the water back and forth. As he did so, he began to feel better. Standing, he noticed that his pain was gone and he felt stronger. As the day went forward, he realized that he simply was not sick any longer.
His friends were totally surprised at his recovery, and in the natural course of events, they learned about the pool and the moving of the water. For some time after that, all kinds of sick people went down to the pool and washed in its water, but no one else was helped…until the same season the next year, when another very sick man was healed after a similar moving of the water. A lame man, touching the water just after the first man was not helped in the least. This happened again the third year. Unfortunately, only one person was healed each year, and although it was at the same season, it was not entirely predictable. It could be on any one of several days.
Many years passed and then one day a man walked into the area of the pool and looked around at all the sick people there. It was the season of the year when an angel was said to stir the waters and the first person into the pool would be healed. The name of the pool was Bethesda and the man who walked in on this day was none other than Jesus of Nazareth.
And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.
What lies behind this story is even more interesting than the incident itself. But that isn’t what especially caught my interest. What I thought was fascinating about the encounter was the resemblance to a lottery. Year after year, only one person was healed, and the selection was absolutely random. A blind man might not see the moving of the water. A deaf man might not hear it. A lame man couldn’t reach it fast enough. And even Jesus healing on this occasion had the same random quality to it. Maybe Jesus selected this one man for a reason, but if he did, he didn’t say so. And more important, he only healed one man on this day, just as the waters might have done. That one man won the lottery. The rest did not. On the surface, it seems unfair, doesn’t it? But at the same time, it is a lot like life…