Today’s Reading: John 4-5
Today’s Reflection: John 5:4-7
5) One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 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?” 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.”
Do you want to be healed? What a curious question. Wouldn’t any sick person want to be healed? In fact, the place Jesus was when He asked this question, was a place where people who wanted to be healed went: the pool at Bethesda. It was believed an angel stirred the waters, giving it healing properties (John 5:4, omitted in some Bible translations), so the people gathered there clearly were seeking to be healed, right? So why the question? Well the reason is in the man’s answer.
The man complained about having no one to help him. He complained he was overlooked and passed over. He never actually answered the question. He never said he wanted to be healed. Yes, the man was at the pool, the place where people sought healing, but it would seem he had been coming there for a long time with no results—at least several of the 38 years he had been seriously ill. And after all of that time, when asked if he wanted to be healed, the man was more interested in complaining and making excuses for never having made it to the water and remaining in his invalid state.
Some of us have been going to church for a long, long time. We went there because it was known to be a place of healing and restoration. And many of us after going for years and years are still not healed or restored. Why? Because when we are asked if we want to be healed, instead of answering the question, we have complaints and excuses: If the pastor were better, if the members were more loving, if the theology and doctrines were right, if we had enough money to buy our own church building. Anything but answering the question, because answering the question is frightening. Saying yes means being willing to be changed and transformed by Christ’s power. Saying no means being honest with God and ourselves about the depths of our rebellion against Him. Believe it or not, either answer moves us closer to God, because honesty is the only place where He can really work with us (consider Job’s anger, Elijah’s fear, or Jonah’s frustration). But refusing to answer the question allows us to remain comfortable in our self-victimized, judgmental and blaming state, rather than taking responsibility for making a decision.
What we fail to understand is that refusing to make a choice, is a choice, and not a good one. This is why Jesus later sought out the man and gave him a warning:
John 5:14 – 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.”