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?” John 5:6
So here’s the deal. We’re all broken. We all have things about us that need to be repaired; made whole. The problem is being made whole sounds really good. And it definitely is good. But it’s hard. Being whole means being responsible and being just. It means learning to serve and wanting to as well. It means we become all we were intended to be, which is a great thing, and a difficult one.
So when Jesus asks a sick guy if he wants to be well he isn’t being cute or showing us his dry sense of humor. It seems like a silly question for Jesus to ask, but when we dig in a little deeper we find out just how important a question this is for us to deal with.
It comes from the gospel of John (5:1-15) where Jesus comes on the scene of a healing pool. This is a place where people believed that the water was being stirred by angels every so often. The idea was, when the angels stir the water if you can be the first in you might just be healed. So here’s the scene: a bunch of broken-down, hurting people with all kinds of things wrong with them. All gathered around a little, dirty pool of water. All their hopes and dreams rest on being the first in when the water ripples.
And Jesus strikes up a conversation up with one of them.
One of the things that I love about Jesus is that he doesn’t have a shtick. Think about it, he heals a lot of people, and he’s pretty famous at times (one could argue infamous, but you get my point) and yet every time he encounters someone in need of healing it’s unique. There’s no shtick, no one-liner that let’s everybody know that Jesus is about to do his “thing.” You don’t get the feeling that Jesus is just going through the motions or following “the five steps to make a healing memorable.”
Instead, what we find with Jesus is a healing that is responsive, tailor-made, individual. Whatever the person needs, Jesus brings. I get the feeling when I read the accounts of Jesus’ healings that there is usually way more that he is making whole than just what’s on the surface, just what’s physical.
So when Jesus begins talking to this guy lying by the pool, anxiously waiting to be the first one in so he can be whole again, Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush. He goes straight for the heart of the issue. He doesn’t pull any punches. He just walks up to him and asks, “Do you want to get well?”
Even as I think about it now I can’t help but here the words inside my head: “Of course he wants to be well! That’s why he spends every day by the pool trying to race the other invalids to be the first one in! Does he want to get well? What a ridiculous question!”
But then, the guy answers. And all my indignation flies right out the window because the guy Jesus is talking to, the one who by all appearances can’t wait to get well, doesn’t say yes.
Instead, he makes an excuse, or at best gives an explanation of why he can’t.
“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.” John 5:7
Isn’t this just like us?
God stands before us and invites us to invite him to make it right, to make it whole, to intervene. And all we can do is miss the point.
Sometimes I feel like that’s what I’m best at when it comes to my own spiritual journey. Missing the point. Clueless to the opportunity God is offering.
But I’m not alone. This guy is with me on this one. Jesus asks him if he wants to get well, and doesn’t get the answer I—and probably you—would expect. It’s almost like Jesus knew that this question was so much more than just a perfunctory way of introducing himself and his abilities to the situation. (This is where that whole thing about Jesus entering each opportunity to heal in a unique way to meet the needs of the individual shows up.)
The answer, as Jesus knows, says everything about who we really are, and where we are. It reveals what we are really up to when it appears that we are trying to be made whole. It unveils the heart. And that, after all is what Jesus was after anyway.
Jesus asks, “Do you want to get well?” The invalid man responds with an explanation of why he can’t be well.
“There’s nobody to help me. I’m on my own and someone always beats me to it.”
Can you say pity party? How often is this me? How often am I just more comfortable with being broken? Do I ever find it easier to just embrace limitations than dare to be capable for living beyond?
The problem here is that I can identify with this guy way to easily. And I would guess that many others can too. How often in our own lives is Jesus engaging us, inviting into a conversation where He is asking us, “Do you want to be well?” and all we can respond with is why it just won’t work?
We all have areas of brokenness and hurt in our lives. I fully believe that often times Jesus is asking us, “Do you want to be well?” and we are simply too afraid to believe it can actually happen, or too afraid of what it might mean for our future to accept it. We miss the point that we are being offered wholeness and instead focus on why it just can’t be.
I’m praying for ears to hear the invitation of Jesus. And a heart courageous enough to say, “Yes, today I want to be well.”