Leaders in Faith: Do you want to get well?
By Jon McClarnon
Have you ever considered how many questions you are asked in a day? When you think about it, many of those questions aren’t very important. Every once in a while a question comes your way that has the potential and power to change your life: for example, “Will you marry me?” or “Do you want to start a church?”
Questions are much more powerful than statements. To say, “I love you,” is very powerful, but it tells you nothing about how the other person actually feels about you. If you wanted to know what they thought, you would say, “Do you love me?” or “Why do you love me?”
Jesus asked a lot of questions of people for the same reason. He wanted people to wrestle with what they believed. He wanted people to verbalize what they were thinking. He wanted people to declare and choose where they stood.
The Gospels record Jesus’ asking more than 300 questions. Today those life-changing questions Jesus posed in his lifetime still hang in the air and beg to be answered.
One of the most life-changing questions Jesus asks is found in a story in John 5. Jesus walks into a pool area filled with disabled people, all of whom are counting on a local urban legend that says an angel will visit the pool and, with a tip of its wing, stir the water. The belief was that the first person into the water after it began to move would be healed.
Jesus comes upon a man who has been an invalid for 38 years. Jesus walks into a virtual sick ward, picks out one guy and asks him a seemingly ridiculous question: “Do you want to get well?”
Imagine what it’s like to be this man in the first century. The majority of his life has been lived on a mat that is 3 feet by 6 feet. He is dependent on everyone else to feed him, carry him, clothe him, clean him and help him get to the pool area. With no job and no friends, he lies by the pool day after day, so close to what he believes is the solution to being well and not being able to do anything about it.
And he’s suffering from a social stigma in the ancient world where people believed that he brought this condition upon himself though his own sin.
I think the emphasis of Jesus’ question should be understood to read, “Do you really want to get well?”
Believe it or not, some people would rather be sick. It’s not an ideal life for this man, but considering it’s been 38 years, it’s a comfortable life. Other people, after long periods of sickness, seem to lose the will to get better or believe that things can ever change. Not every sick person wants to get well.
When Jesus asks, “Do you want to get well?” the lame man offers excuses. In his opinion, he’s tried, but he can’t. This is the moment in the story that, while I’m reading it, I want the character to hear me yelling at the pages, “Stop making excuses about why you can’t get well and look in front of you! You’re talking to the son of God who has the power to heal you. Just say it: ‘If you can heal me, do it!’”
Jesus seems to have had enough of his excuses and simply commands him to pick up his stuff and walk away. This healing is not accompanied by the normal celebration. He doesn’t run, jump or shout. He just walks away, healed. He doesn’t seem to exhibit much faith. He doesn’t even know Jesus’ name.
It seems that there is something bigger going here than just the magical power of Jesus. It seems that Jesus heals this man just to prove that he can. To prove that he alone, as the son of God, has the power to make him well.
I think in a sense we’re all invalids. We are all sick in some way. Whether that sickness is being blind to God, struggling with years of baggage because of abuse, addiction or fear, our sickness has a way of paralyzing us. We’re all invalids, but the question still deserves to be answered: Do you want to get well?
Some people will choose to stay sick, not because they can’t get well but because they don’t want to be well. Some will choose to stay sick because it seems like things can never change and the sickness is too big.
But for those who want to be well and be healed and be free, God can do the miraculous. When we realize our sickness and believe God can make us well, we can, like the lame man, stand up and walk.