Today I want to begin to take a look at the story in John 5. Here are the basics.
Jesus is in Jerusalem and ends up by a pool near the sheep gate. It was believed that when the waters were stirred (perhaps a spring occasionally bubbled up there) that the first person in the water would be healed. Because of this there were many lame, blind, and otherwise ill people laying there. One such man was paralyzed and had been in that condition for 38 years.
Jesus approaches the man and asks him, “Do you want to get well?” Wait! What?!
I want to stop here and consider this moment. First, let’s just get a few facts out of the way. Jesus can for sure heal this guy. He’s already done some healing previous to this. He has the power to heal this man. And this man has been in the condition for a long, long time. Frankly it’s a minor miracle that he lived that long in those times while in that condition. He is also at the pool, hoping to get in at the right moment. Why else be there but for the hope of being healed?
So why does Jesus ask him if he wants to get well?
It should be noted here that Jesus was a question asker. Now Jesus had the answer to every question he asked. But for a guy who has all the answers, which He does, He sure did ask a lot of questions. Why did he ask this one?
I think there are a couple of probable reasons.
The first reason that comes to mind is that this guy has been this way most of his life. This has been his mode of operation for better or worse. He somehow has survived. He’s made it to this pool. He has a certain way, a certain lifestyle. He has a certain social circle even if it is the lowest one in the culture. Frankly this is his identity. He’s the paralyzed guy. If he is healed all of that changes . . . completely.
If he is healed he will walk. He will have a whole new life. There’s no more laying at the pool. No more being in the position of needing others to make it. He could now work for a living. Now to be sure he would have new freedom. He would be able to do things that he has only dreamed of for 38 years. But with that would come a complete change.
The bottom line here is that he could be comfortable overall, at least emotionally and mentally where he is at. Maybe Jesus is making sure that he wants this change. Maybe he is comfortable the way it is. Not everyone wants change and Jesus is not one to force change, at least not in this way.
A second reason for asking could be that this man deep inside has resigned hope. Yes he’s at the pool. Yes he seems to hope he can get well. But maybe in reality he has pretty much given up. It would certainly be reasonable for him to be resigned to the life he has had for four decades.
Maybe Jesus first wants to stir his hope. Maybe Jesus wants something inside the man that has been lost to be rekindled before he gifts him with healing. Jesus often does this. He is not just interested in making things on the outside of people better. He wants the whole person to be healed. This is obvious from many if not all of the healing encounters in the gospels.
In part two of this series we’ll look at the man’s response to this question. But for today I want to shift to what this might mean for us today.
I think that Jesus often asks us, “Do you want to get well?” It probably isn’t a physical thing but I think He asks. He offers. He doesn’t force. This is true of our salvation and every part of our sanctification.
Grace you see is given and offered, but it isn’t forced. It can’t be. This is the problem by the way with the idea of universalism theology or the idea that everyone gets to heaven. What that would mean is that you have no choice in the matter. God is forcing you to go to heaven. You might think, “why does that matter?” Well God gives us free will. We aren’t puppets on a string. That’s not how we were created. If God forces salvation on us then we have no free will. If he forces sanctification on us then we have no part and we know reasonably that’s not how it works. We can’t love God if we are forced to. Love is a choice.
Jesus asks us if we want to get well. He asks us because some of us are actually really comfortable where we are. We are comfortable in our sin and even in our wounds. They become our identity and the lens we see the world through. If we were made well – really made well – all of that changes. Catch this: Our whole identity changes. And in a culture that seems to say what we do or “how we are” or what sex we are attracted to or what job we have or lifestyle we lead is our identity, changing that identity is a huge deal. So Jesus asks.
He also asks because many of us have resigned to “the way it is”. We’ve lost hope. We think it can’t change or that we can’t change. We think we are stuck with no way out. The spirit of resignation is strong in us. It’s not just that we suffer in whatever from the outside so to speak. We’ve become dead on the inside. Jesus wants to rekindle that child like hope that we were created with. That hope that things could could be different. That we could be different, live different, identify differently. And so Jesus asks.
So let me ask you today, “Do you want to get well?” Jesus is asking.