Do You Want To Get Well?
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda, and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well. So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
1. What does this story say?
2. What does this story say about Jesus?
3. What does this story mean for you?
Do you want to get well? For the man at the gate of the pool, the question seems nearly ridiculous. He had been there for 38 years, unable to live a real life. When he got up on the morning of his encounter with Jesus, I doubt that he thought “today is the day my life is really going to change.” He was just showing up to do what he had always done, ask for help at the gate. For 38 years the man’s body refused to function properly. We can only imagine the emotional trauma that accompanied the physical deficiency. Jesus’ question is not rhetorical, but with laser precision Jesus cuts to the heart of the matter for this man. He had been there for 38 years. All of us begin life completely dependent on the love and kindness of others in order to survive. We begin life unable to clean ourselves, clothe ourselves or even feed ourselves. As we grow and mature we begin to take on more and more responsibility until reaching an age where we are not physically dependent upon anyone else. At some point, hopefully, we become responsible for our own life. He had been there for 38 years, completely dependent upon others and not required to assume much responsibility for his own life. When Jesus asks the question, you would assume the man’s response would be, “hell yes!” But maybe not! He was not living the abundant life, but perhaps it could be seen as an easy life. His responsibilities were very limited. He had to get himself to the gate and ask for help from others. I imagine that it had become so common to see him at the gate that people did not give a second thought to his presence. Maybe at the moment of Jesus’ question he became conscious of the fact that if he were made well, then he would have to take on responsibility for his own life. He would have to actually get a job, but doing what? I assume he had never been trained to do any work. I can imagine that prospect producing thoughts of fear rather than freedom. We cannot know the man’s attitude or heart, but we do know that he didn’t even take the time to ask Jesus who he was or to even catch his name. The religious leaders grilled the man because it was the Sabbath when Jesus healed the man and they had rules against working on the Sabbath. The sign showed not only Jesus power, but in his encounter with the religious people Jesus reveals that he is equal to God (John 5:18). Jesus’ question is not just for the paralytic by the pool, it is also our question. So, do you want to get well?
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