“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)
My next few blog posts will focus on this passage, because I've found much to glean from it. Whenever I read the account of this miracle, performed by Jesus, I find it intriguing. But it’s not the miracle that catches my attention. It’s the question that Jesus asks the man before healing him.
We see in this passage that Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and that he visited the pool of Bethesda. Invalids gathered at this pool because it was believed that it had healing powers. It was believed that an angel would periodically go into the pool and stir the waters. And whoever entered the pool first, after the water was stirred, would be healed.
As Jesus came to the pool, he saw a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. Jesus then addressed him, asking him the question in the above verse. Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be healed.
When I read this, my initial reaction is that this is a strange question. I react this way because who, after all, would not want to be healed? The answer to this question seems obvious. It seems like a question that doesn’t need to be asked.
I’m not an invalid. But I do suffer from a heart condition. And, even though I’ve learned to live with it, I would love to be healed. I would love to be free from the symptoms I experience on a daily basis. I would love to be free from the limitations it places on my life. So if Jesus asked this of me, there’s no question how I'd respond.
However, as I stop and think about it, I don’t think this is always the case. I don’t think that everyone wants to be healed. There are those who have grown comfortable in their present condition. There are those who, if given the chance for healing, would turn it down.
We see this often today. No matter what Jesus offers, there are some who will not receive it. There are some who are content to remain as they are.
There are many who like their life just the way it is. They don’t want Jesus to work in them. They don’t want Jesus to change them. They want Jesus to let them be.
Having worked in a treatment center for those struggling with substance abuse, I saw this frequently. Many were there not because they wanted help. They merely wanted to satisfy the courts. In reality, they liked their life the way it was. And once they'd met the requirements laid down for them, they fully intended to return to this life.
I’ve seen those who have embraced the poverty cycle. Although they complain about the things they lack, they’ve become accustomed to this life. And they are unwilling to receive the help which would enable them to break free from this way of life.
There are those who find their identity in their illness. I’ve seen this in many who suffer from a physical or a mental illness. And, for this reason, they don’t really want to be free. They don’t know who they are apart from their diagnosis.
So the first question this passage leaves us with is this: Do we want to be healed? Are we willing to receive the healing that Jesus can provide? Are we willing to leave behind something that’s become comfortable in exchange for something better?
I don’t mean, when I say this, that Jesus will heal our every weakness this side of eternity. I don’t mean that he’ll remove every temptation with which we struggle. Although he has the power to do so, he often chooses to leave the thorn in place. Like Paul, we’re often left with our struggle as a reminder that God’s power is made perfect in weakness. He does it as a reminder that he can and will use us no matter our circumstances.
Yet, we do have his assurance that we will be fully healed in the end. When Jesus returns, we’ll live in a place where sin and its consequences are a thing of the past. And this is a gift that is received by faith. We receive it by trusting in Jesus’ power and authority to do as he’s promised. But, for him to do so, we must possess a heart that's willing to receive the blessing he has in store for us.