There once was a crippled man sitting around a pool called Bethesda. This man believed that if he could just be the first to get into that pool, after it has been stirred, he would be healed by it’s waters. But what’s the problem? He is crippled! He cannot get into the pool before someone else gets in before him. How ironic. The very condition he is trying to fix is preventing him from doing so. Imagine a man so weak from hunger that he cannot even pick up food to feed himself.
This story is a paradigmatic picture of the human condition. Like this cripple, man is broken, we are sick, and it is our infirmity that prevents us from doing anything about it. Scripture would say that this is because we are dead in our trespasses. Like the cripple, we cannot get ourselves into the saving water; we need the water to come to us.
Enter stage left, the Word (Jesus Christ). In one of the most shocking verses in all of Scripture, John tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). The Creator of heaven and earth, the Alpha and Omega, the Perfect, the Holy One, the Second Person of the Trinity came down to earth and took on lowly human flesh. This has become known as the Incarnation which literally means embodied in flesh or taking on flesh. The Living Water came down to our level, we who cannot save ourselves.
Jesus cuts to the core of the cripple’s condition “Don’t you want to become well?”. Notice the man’s answer, the sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I am trying to get into the water, someone else goes down there before me.” (John 5:7). Notice, he didn’t answer “yes, I want to become well!”, instead he explains why he hasn’t been able to make himself well. I have no one to help me and because of my condition I cannot help myself.
This is the profound truth about ourselves. There is no one else to help us and we cannot help ourselves. When we are confronted by this depressing fact it is no surprise that whole ideologies and schools of thought have been built around the belief that life is meaningless and empty. But it is also when we are confronted by this depressing fact that Christianity shines brightest. It is in the stormy waters of our own inability that the incarnation speaks the loudest. I cannot save myself, I am in the dark. I cannot build my own life raft. I don’t have the resources; I am spiritually dead. I need some one to bring the light to me. I need someone to throw a life raft to me. And that is just what Jesus Christ did. He came to us. And like Lazarus, He raises us from the dead.
Jesus said to the crippled man, “Stand up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (John 5:8). What was His response to the cripple’s condition? Here, let Me save you. What is His response to our condition? Here I am at your level, let Me save you. We often focus on the humility of Christ’s death. And rightly so! But we cannot forget the humility of His life. In love that surpasses all understanding, the Transcendent One took on a human body. The Creator took the form of His creation, so that we could be healed and made alive.