The Gospel of John is my favorite of the four Gospels in the Bible primarily because John gives us so many accounts of how Jesus interacted with people. In John’s Gospel we get to feel like we are walking along the dusty roads of Jerusalem with Jesus and his followers We get the most up close and personal encounters Jesus had with people in John’s Gospel.
When I read the Bible it is often the things that are unsaid that intrigue me as much as what is said. The story of Jesus’ encounter with a paralyzed man in John chapter 5 is an example of this.
I like how The Message records the encounter:
Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there was a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, with five alcoves. Hundreds of sick people—blind, crippled, paralyzed—were in these alcoves. One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?”
The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.”
Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off.
There are several reason why this encounter intrigues me:
- Jesus knew this was a place where sick people gathered hoping for healing as well as to beg for alms
- Knowing the history of the pool and knowing how long the man had been an invalid the question “Do you want to get well?” seems obvious
- It seems as if the man doesn’t even answer Jesus’ question but gives an excuse
- Jesus heals him anyway
- The man doesn’t even know who Jesus is because later on we read that he was asked who gave him permission to carry his mat on the Sabbath and he doesn’t know who healed him. Jesus healed him anyway.
I’ve asked hundreds if not thousands of people this very question as I’ve counseled, pastored or simply befriended them: “Do you want to get well?”
Who doesn’t want to get well?
Because I have worked with hurting people for so many years I have read this encounter many times asking the Holy Spirit to help me understand it and to get what is not so obvious in the words. And then one day I read it completely different. A whole new perspective opened up to me.
I believe the paralyzed man (in most other translations it says he was paralyzed) actually did answer Jesus’ question with a “Yes I do want to get well” but he was saying I want to get well in the only way I know how to get well, I need someone to help me get into the pool when the angel stirs the water and since I don’t have that I can’t get well. (Legend has it that an angel would periodically stir the waters of the pool and the first one in received healing).
In the man’s experience the only way to get healing was to get in that pool so he was answering “Yes, I want to get well I just don’t know how it’s going to happen because I can’t get in the pool.”
Back to Jesus’ original question. After a bit of research I discovered that people like this man became dependent upon their family and friends to carry them to and from the pool. This was also an area where the man could beg for alms. Jesus wasn’t just asking him do you want to get well from your paralysis, he was asking a whole lot of other questions in that one question: “Do you want to be healed of your paralysis?” to be sure but also “Do you want to stop relying on your friends and family to cart you around?” “Do you want to become a productive member of society and earn a living rather than beg for alms?” And lastly and most importantly “Do you want to get well my way?” Because Jesus had a whole other ideas about healing. Jesus had power to heal unlike anything this man had encountered before. Jesus was about to heal way outside the box for this man.
Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” Not the avenue of healing this man was expecting or looking for.
“Instantly the man was healed” is what John tells us. How did he know he was healed? I don’t know but I do know he responded with faith because he picked up his bedroll and walked off. Hmm, not even a thank you recorded. He just walked off.
I think this story has HUGE implications for those of us today regarding healing of any sort. It seems like such an easy question to answer, “Do you want to get well?” Of course I do! Who doesn’t want to get well?
But do you want to get well the way Jesus’ has for you to get well? Or are you stuck in your perspective of how you should get well?
- Has a friend or relative been powerfully delivered of an addiction so you are now waiting for God to do that for you?
- Has someone you know had God miraculously pay off a debt and now you are waiting for God to do it the exact same way for you?
- Has someone been healed of depression and is now off antidepressants and you are wondering why you can’t get off them?
- Do you read the stories of healing in the Bible and expect it to happen exactly like that for you?
You get the idea. My point is that God DOES have healing for us but if we are fixated on the way we think healing should happen because that is how He did it for someone else we may miss the unique way He wants to heal us. The Bible records so many ways that Jesus healed we cannot afford to get fixated on one way. And since Jesus is the same today, He is still in the business of healing His way according to what you need.
Jesus created you and designed you. Nobody knows you better than your loving Creator. No one knows what you need to heal and how you need to heal better than Jesus who loves you and accepts you 100%.
So I think Jesus was asking a much larger question: “Do you want to get well my way? Will you consider a whole different plan for healing than the one way you think healing will come?”
Less obvious but likely true based on the research I did Jesus was also asking the man “In getting well are you willing to take responsibility for your life? Because you can’t expect your friends to carry your burden any more and you can’t come here begging for alms. You are going to need to be a productive member of society.”
That’s a powerful question “Do you want to get well My way and make the changes necessary in order to have this healing?”
What is hurting in your life today?
Do you want to get well?
Do you want to get well God’s way?
Will you trust Him to know exactly how healing should come to you? Will you trust Him to speak into your life exactly what you need to heal?
Will you embrace the changes that healing will bring into your life?
Just asking it out loud for you to ponder on the inside.