Do you want to get well?
Jesus asks some simple, but searing questions; if you have been around the Gospels for any length time you know this to be true. But this particular inquiry captured in John’s gospel is one that disquiets my heart. Maybe it will yours as well.
Here’s the scene: Jesus is on his way up to Jerusalem and, in so doing, passes the pool of Bethesda near the Sheep Gate. This famed sight is akin to a modern hot spring which occasionally bubbles up from the earth and is reported to have curative properties. Throngs of “disabled” people would gather, awaiting the water’s stirring, with hopes for healing. Among the many gathered this day was a man who had been lame for 38 years.
In passing, Jesus spies him, approaches and asks, “Do you want to get well?”
My initial response? What a silly question! Of course, this lame man wants to be healed. He has known sickness for nearly four decades; he’s at the edge of the pool of healing; his very posture and position call out his deep desire for remedy. So why does Jesus single this man out of the crowd, address him alone, and pose this seemingly obvious question?
Because Jesus knows that this man, and by extension, all of us, need the gravity of the real question to sink in. Do we really want to get well?
Being healed is a life changer. Big time. For the man at the well, healing means 38 years of lameness and all of its identifying iterations will be gone in an instant. His helplessness and paralysis -- how he has known himself and how the world has known him -- hang in the balance with his answer and Jesus’ healing. Undergirding Jesus’ question, “Do you want to get well?” is a more complex ask:
“Are you ready to receive my divine healing and have your life utterly changed?”
Well, that’s a question of a different sort. And the answer may not come so easily.
This is why Jesus inquires of the man first. Jesus knows that his words of healing may mean:
- An entirely new way of walking in and engaging with the world will be required.
- Old habits and tired excuses must die to give way to new life and re-formed identity.
- The props of helplessness will be kicked away and the power of His ability provided.
- The disabling weight of sin will be lifted and a new path of life offered.
The remedy Jesus affords will give way to a completely different, utterly changed life. His healing comes in a simple spoken invitation:
“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!” (5:8)
Jesus’ inquiry and instructions plunge deeply into some raw reality.
The sad truth is sometimes I don’t want to get well. My striving ways, commitment crunch, and juggling act are part of the warp and weft of my fabricated identity. I’ve learned to manage my disability, but at heart -- in the quiet of deep fellowship with Christ -- I know that I need His healing words. I know that He can restore my brokenness. I know that His offering is one of wholeness: mind, body, and soul.
Jesus’ question is not foolish nor simple at all.
“Do you want to get well?”
Friends, let us humbly say “yes” and watch how He makes us well in Him.