It’s got to be one of the weirdest questions in all of Scripture. But, chew on it a bit, and it’s also has to be one of the most penetrating.
Where? At a pool called Bethesda, in Jerusalem, by the Sheep Gate. Who? A multitude of individuals–blind, lame, and paralyzed. In particular, one man who had been an invalid for 38 years. Why? According to the margin (not in my ESV’s main text), they were waiting for an angel to stir the water and whoever was the first person in would be healed. What? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Never had the man made it into the water first. Still lame after 38 years. Why? For an encounter of the divine kind. Cue Jesus.
Jesus sees the man. Jesus knows he has been there a long time. And, Jesus engages the man. Here comes the weird question.
When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”
(John 5:6 ESV)
“Do you want to be healed?” Do you wish to be made well? Are you wanting to become whole?
What kind of question is that?
Lame for 38 years. Trying to get into the pool first for a long time. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Of course he wants to be healed. Why ask?
But that’s exactly what we should be chewing on. Why would Jesus–the Creator and Sustainer of all things, the One who knew this man better than the man knew himself–why would He ask such a question? That’s the question we should be asking.
For 38 years this man had been unable to walk. For 38 years no one expected him to get a job. For 38 years others provided for his needs. For 38 years there was no expectation that he’d stand on his own two feet because he had no power to stand on his own two feet. Being healed would change all that.
If he were made well he’d be expected to live as well people should live. To carry his own mat and, maybe, take flack for doing so (Jn. 5:9-10). He would be responsible to steward his regenerated body in a manner consistent with his body now being a whole body. He might have to say good-bye to the camaraderie of living as did the other invalids around the pool, and say hello to interacting with the world at large. To think about serving those around the pool rather than being served. If he were made whole, his whole way of living would change.
Are you up for that? Are you ready to no longer be the center of attention? Are you ready to no longer be the object of low expectations. Do you want to be healed?
Being healed would be a step of faith. Believing that the One who could give him legs to walk would also be there to direct his steps. That the power to heal would be the same power that could sustain. That the divine determination to make him well would come with the divine direction as to how to live well. Even if it meant that taking up your mat would also mean taking up your cross.
Do you want to be healed?
Lots of reasons for the man to tap out. To decide that new life might be too hard a life. That staying with the familiar might just be easier. To say, “Nah, I’m good. I’ll settle for this.”
But for those who say, “Yes, Lord. I want to be whole.” Let the adventure begin! Walking is the way to go. Walking with Jesus is the way to be made whole.
By His grace. For His glory.