Do You Want to Be Healed?
Do You Want to Be Healed?
Scripture: John 5:2-18
If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent a lot of time eating and watching sports for the past several weeks. The weather has kept us inside a lot. There’s been plenty of soccer and football to watch. The holidays in general involve lots of food and sitting around.
And now we are starting to feel that post-holiday let down. I feel like I need to make some changes. And I’m not alone. Far more people buy exercise equipment in January than any other month. Far more people sign up for gym memberships. Far less people eat fast food. Most of us try to make healthy changes at the start of a New Year.
And I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing that. But we also know how difficult it is to change. Statistics show that most Americans “fall off the wagon” by February 9 – just 40 days into the New Year.
And it’s not just health decisions. A lot of Christians start the New Year with goals to read the Bible in a year, to attend church regularly, to give more – but for many it doesn’t last.
Why is change so difficult? Why does it feel like there are powerful forces working against us? I’m sure we could find some helpful information in the world of psychology, but at the end of the day I would argue that we don’t really want to change. We don’t change because we don’t want to. We want something else more.
We’re going to look at a story from the Gospel of John today – John 5 beginning with verse 2.
2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.
This pool is still there in Jerusalem, to this day, just as John described it, but without the people.
The reason so many people were gathered at this pool back then was because they believed it was a source of healing miracles.
In most of your Bibles, you may notice that verse 4 is missing. That’s because it was probably added much later and not written by John – but this is what the verse said:
4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.
That explains why so many people were gathered at the pool. But it was a false hope – a superstition. And John tells is in the next verse that:
5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
Imagine this. At first glance, it seems like this man had some serious conviction. He’s waited by this pool for 38 years waiting to be healed! Most of us give up on change in 38 days.
This is remarkable because 38 years is longer than the life expectancy of half the population back then! It’s a really long time to be waiting for a miracle. But watch what happens next.
6 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?”
Do you want to be healed? Do you want to be healed? That seems like an ignorant or insensitive question to us. Of course, this man wants to be healed! Doesn’t he? Why else would he be here? Why else would he have waited so many years? But look at what he says.
7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”
Does he answer the question? No. Instead, he invites Jesus to what we might call a pity party. Everyone always beats me to the water. It pulls at the heart strings. It makes sense. But I have a hard time believing that he’s been waiting for 38 years with no chance of being first in the water.
And he doesn’t really answer the question, does he? I think this tells us something about human nature. It shows us why change is so difficult. The man is so focused on his own solution to the problem, he ignores the possibility that Jesus has a solution.
Listen to how one writer describes this dilemma with reference to addiction.
“It seems like overcoming addiction should be so simple, and especially for the Christian: Instead of doing that thing, how about next time you just don’t do that thing? Instead of opening that bottle, keep it closed. Instead of buying those pills, buy some groceries. Instead of typing in that web site, type in a different web site. Instead of walking through the doors of the casino, choose not to even go near the casino. But addiction is far more than making bad choices instead of good choices. Addicts are not simply satisfying a need or following habits, though they are doing those things as well. Addicts are actually seeking the good life and are convinced it can be found in and through the addiction.”
We could say the same thing about our failed resolutions. We give up on them because we convince ourselves we would be happier doing the opposite. And maybe we even enjoy a little self-pity from the failure!
This is why change is so difficult. Whatever we believe will make us happy in the moment becomes our pool of Bethesda. But watch what Jesus does with the man’s pity party.
8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
Jesus solves the problem in an instant. But notice He does it on his own terms. No angel. No water. Just a few words. He doesn’t let the man find healing in the way he expects to find it.
This is irresistible grace. It is unexpected. It is unearned. It is a free gift. But it’s also a command to something different. And this is the only way God chooses to fix a problem. It will never be on our terms.
God’s solution to every problem must be received with empty hands. Otherwise, we run the risk of pride, and as the story continues, we will see that Jesus is far more concerned with the man’s heart than his feet.
Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’”
What are these men concerned about? They are concerned about someone breaking God’s law.
12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.
14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.
Most often, we are quick to judge this man. He runs to tattle on Jesus with the healthy legs Jesus just gave him.
But what does the man want? He wants to be accepted by His people. This is what all the Jews wanted. Their focus on the law was a source of national pride and honor.
On the surface, it’s not wrong to be concerned with breaking God’s law. That’s exactly what Jesus is concerned with. He tells the man to stop sinning! What is sin? Breaking God’s law.
But just as the crippled man ignored Jesus to focus on the pool, so also the people rejected their Lawgiver to focus on their version of the law.
16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
They weren’t wrong. That’s exactly what Jesus did. He made Himself equal with God. But instead of accepting that, the Jews rejected Him. They’d rather kill Him than accept His version of change.
And that’s the human heart. That’s why change is so difficult. Our pride always gets in the way. We will do what we believe is going to make us happy.
For some, it’s the path of self-help. We pride ourselves in making good choices and we look down on those who make bad choices.
For others, it’s the path of self-medication. We choose what makes us happy in the moment and we look down on those who judge us for it.
James 4:6 says, “God gives grace to the humble but opposes the proud.” That was the ministry of Jesus then. It’s still the ministry of Jesus now.
If there is a barrier between you and God, it is not God’s fault. In pride, you have refused Him. You have chosen self-help or self-medication. And in that case, what should God do with you? Is it his responsibility to fix you?
We skipped over an important detail in the text so that I can bring it up now. How many people did John say were sitting around the pool of Bethesda?
a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.
A multitude. And these are all people who arguably have it worse than most of us. And how many of those people did Jesus heal? One.
Why didn’t Jesus heal them all? Why don’t we ask that question? Jesus had the power to heal them all. Why didn’t He? Why did He only heal one man? And why that man? Did He deserve it more than the others? Clearly not… He didn’t even seem grateful.
It’s an important detail that Jesus didn’t heal everyone He met. That’s because every person Jesus chose to heal was an act of grace.
Fairness would have been that Jesus heal no one, because literally no one deserved it. The barrier between us and God is far worse than we think it is. The only thing standing between me and God’s anger is God’s grace.
We will never understand or even want God’s grace unless we first see our unworthiness to receive it. I did nothing to become an object of His grace. To say that at first, I didn’t even want it is the most honest truth of it.
Do you remember the very first question Jesus asks the man at the pool? “Do you want to be healed?” Do you understand now why he asked that question? Jesus could ask us the same question today.
The proud have no need for healing. We would never come to Jesus except on our own terms. He has to break us, expose us, bring us to life, and place us in a state of grace. He does it this way because there is no other way and because He gets all the glory.
Proud, self-righteous people make terrible worshippers. Humble people who know they have received everything as a free gift make excellent worshippers!
And if you have experienced the grace of God, that’s exactly what you want to do. You want to worship Him, not just on Sunday mornings, not just as a New Year’s resolution … but with your whole life! Not to earn anything, but because you already have everything in Jesus.