Obadiah shifted uncomfortably on his thin mat on the hard porch. His hands unconsciously rubbed at his withered legs as his eyes strained to see the waters of the pool next to him through the dim morning light. Already that day anticipation seemed to fill the air. Today, Obadiah knew, today something would happen.
He felt a tingle of excitement, but intermixed was enough fear to make him light-headed. He licked his dry lips and pushed himself upright. If the angel were to come today, he could not hesitate. Be strong, Obadiah! Be fast!
He tried to push away the nagging memories of his dream. Just last night he had dreamed that the thing he most wanted had happened. The angel had come to disturb the pool! Obadiah had given a mighty shove and tumbled right into the water, even as it still churned with healing power. Such exhilaration, such power he had felt! But instead of health and strength returning to his legs, he had only found choking water. It filled his lungs, thick and burning, and he had woken, thrashing and coughing in a panic.
But today he would be brave. Today if the waters stirred he would leave his fear. Obadiah would trust in God and tumble into the healing waters.
Of course, just because he was brave enough to push into the pool didn’t mean it would actually happen. His only means of movement was to pull himself rather painfully forward by his arms. Obadiah had no friends to help. No friends to lift him into the pool. Someone else was sure to touch the water before him. Someone else would be the one special person who was healed. But maybe not! Maybe the angel would come right then, before anyone else was awake or even at the pool.
Obadiah decided that when he was healed he would come everyday in the chance the angel would come. Then he would lift some friendless soul into the pool. And maybe he would be fast enough that they would touch the trembling waters first.
Just then the sun sent its first ray of light over the horizon, illuminating the mist that rose from the pool into the crisp morning air. Obadiah strained to see through the swirling vapor. Strained to catch a glimpse of an angel’s wing. There! Was that a flutter? Yes! A shadow was coming through the mist. A form was moving right toward him!
The mist shifted suddenly, revealing the form clearly. It was a man. A plain, ordinary man going about his morning duties. Obadiah gave a bitter laugh. So desperate for the angel, Obadiah? he mocked himself. So desperate that you see an angel in every swirl of mist?
The man had stopped and was looking down at him. Obadiah was suddenly aware that the sun had come up in its full glory now, and the area was growing busy with people. He sighed.
But the man was speaking to him. “Do you want to be healed?”
Obadiah stared. No, he wanted to retort. I am only lying here next to the Pool of Bethesda because I like to see the sun shining on the water. But something in the man’s expression made him answer seriously.
“I have no one to put me in the pool when the water is disturbed; and while I’m trying to get there, someone goes in ahead of me.” To his shame, a tear slipped down Obadiah’s cheek. But he peered through the tears at the man and a bit of hope brightened in him. Maybe this man would be a friend to lift him into the pool.
With a smile that lit up his face, the man said, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk!”
And just like that, Obadiah was healed. No winged angel, no swirling water, no crowds shoving to touch the water first. Just a man and simple words.
Obadiah found himself standing on strong legs, clutching his mat. He threw back his head and laughed. Maybe the man had been an angel after all.
Obadiah didn’t have to wonder long about who the man was. In fact, later that day the man found Obadiah in the temple and spoke to him. Then Obadiah knew; it was Someone much greater than an angel.
This story is based on John 5:1-15. The words of the invalid and Jesus are quoted from the Jewish New Testament translated by David H. Stern.
Read more articles by Amy Michelle Wiley or search for articles on the same topic or others.
I so appreciated your account of Obadiah's expectation for healing through an angel "with wings" versus the simplicity of Jesus. Quite symbolic of our worlds facination with extraordinary manifestations.