There’s a fountain at our mall. During the day, the fountain runs, keeping the reflecting pool around it stirred up. There are always people sitting on the benches around the pool, waiting for something. Or someone. Kids toss coins into the pool, which are gathered and given to Habitat for Humanity and the Rescue Mission. You could say it is a healing kind of fountain.
Early in the morning, the fountain is quiet. The benches are mostly empty, except for a couple guys who wait for walking buddies. And, this morning, Saint John of the Mall. The fountain is three-fourths of the way around our path. And I’d been wondering if John was at the mall this morning. We didn’t see him until we stopped at the blood pressure machines which face the water. As I sat there, I noticed John, talking with one of the men. The man’s cane was resting on the bench next to him.
Our blood pressure was fine. We walked toward John and the man. I heard John say, “Do you want to get well?”
The man talked about how long his knee had been hurting. He talked about how hard it was to get a doctor to listen. He talked about how much work it was to get help. He talked about a friend who dragged him along to the mall, just to get out of the house.
John asked him again: “Do you want to get well?”
I thought the man was tired of being picked on, so I walked up to them and greeted John. He introduced us to the man, Jakov. John said, “I’ll be back after a bit. Think about my question.” And then he started walking with us.
“We overheard your conversation,” I said. “Do you ever get frustrated when people make excuses rather than answering you? I mean, what would happen if he demonstrated a little faith? Wouldn’t you want to heal him then?”
I was thinking about the time that Jesus healed a man by a pool. And the time that Peter and John healed a man after Jesus had ascended.
John scowled at me, just for a moment. “You don’t know the text very well. Both of those times, people were healed without any great belief at all. The only thing they did was to look up at the person talking with them. Healing’s not a reward for faith.”
We walked for a bit.
John started to smile, slowly. “In fact, I’ll say to you what Jesus told that man he healed. ‘Stop sinning.’ It’s what he usually said after he healed people. As if the physical healing was what the people cared most about, and the relationship with God was what Jesus cared most about.”
From a story in John 5.