What do Zamperini and the man at the pool in Bethesda have in common?

I was reading the other day about the man at the pool at Bethesda (John 5: 1 – 17). It had never struck me before that this particular man never said thank you to Jesus or praised Him for what He did. I don’t know why I never noticed it before, but I guess I always had skimmed over it, assuming that clearly that man must have at some point, thanked Jesus. But for whatever reason, after reading this part of Scripture I was reminded that, for example, only one of the lepers turned back to thank Jesus for their healing (Luke 17:11 – 19). In other words, not everyone thanks Jesus. They take the blessing without even thinking about Who gave the blessing.

Upon thinking more about this, I thought it was fascinating that this man was even healed in the first place. He didn’t even know Who had healed him. The Pharisees had surmised it was Jesus, and this man later confirmed their suspicions. But the man didn’t defend Jesus, he just said, “Yep, that’s the guy who told me to pick up my mat, and He healed me.” Essentially he tattled on Jesus. He must have known the Pharisees were not happy with what happened and they were not anxiously looking for the Man who did this healing in a good way. But this man went back to point out Jesus to the very people who never helped him and who would have excluded him from entering the temple. That’s pretty crazy if you think about it.

My epiphany – Zamperini

So I was thinking about it again when I went on my run, and I had an epiphany – this story reminded me of Unbroken. For those of you who have not at least watched the movie, you really, really need to. But the book is the complete story of Louis Zamperini’s incredible life. I won’t go into details, but I found it hard to believe that he survived being a POW in Japan. There were just so many things that happened to this young man that were truly unbelievable. He was beaten, and then beaten again at the POW camp where he was routinely targeted. Before the POW camp, he survived shark attacks, starvation, and a plane crash. Several times throughout the book, I would think, surely it can’t get worse. Then I’d flip to the next chapter, and Father God, it got worse.

If you were to watch the movie, you’d know that miraculously this man survived and comes back to the United States. However, I’d argue that rather than the movie being called “Unbroken” it should have been called “Broken.” Although Zamperini survived all of his hardships, he was still a very broken man at the end of the movie. In the last few minutes of the movie, they briefly explain that he found Christ (i.e. why he was “Unbroken,” which I explain below). Incredibly, he eventually lived His life serving Christ, he stayed married, and lived until he was 97! Insane!!

What’s the connection?

My point of bringing up Zamperini and comparing him to the sick man in John, is that although both men survived their awful predicaments, neither seemed to be whole immediately after their “healings.” Neither seemed to fully grasp the miraculous fact of their survival they were both given.

It’s interesting that Jesus told the sick man, “…Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14). I’m not trying to imply that Zamperini deserved all of the hardships he experienced. And for that matter, the sick man may not have either. But I think Jesus was trying to get the man to see that we must turn our lives over to Jesus, no matter what our backgrounds are. No matter what we’ve been through. We are not entitled to be angry, or bitter, or frustrated over the things that have happened. Do we need to work through them? Absolutely. However, when we stew over our past and think about the unfairness of our difficulties, we will only end up in a worse situation than we started.

Who makes us whole?

We don’t know what happened to the sick man after his encounter with Jesus, but I can tell you what happened with Louis. He was angry and abusive to his wife. She almost left him. He lost his ability to run competitively because he was pushing himself too hard. All because he didn’t know how to deal with what he’d been through. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone can without Christ. He eventually found Jesus through a Billy Graham revival meeting. And although he had been broken, Christ made him whole.

Such an incredible story of redemption. I can only hope that something similar happened to the sick man that Jesus healed. God’s hand was evident throughout the lives of both men. I don’t understand why they both had to go through what they did. It seems incredibly unfair. But I also know that God is good. We can trust Him to turn all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good. Amen?

©2024 Mud Hen Mama


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