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
The man had an unspecified “infirmity” for thirty-eight years. He was among the crowd who populated the porches around pool of Bethesda, and, with them, he waited for an angel to stir the pool. Popular thought was that the first person who got into the pool after the angelic visitation would be healed. Apparently, this infirm man was rather slow—he’d been waiting for thirty-eight years. Then Jesus happened to walk by.
The text states that Jesus knew the invalid had been there a long time, but he asked a question that most of us would say was rather (forgive me) stupid. “Do you want to get well?” Every single day for thirty-eight years someone had to transport the sick man to the pool. Every day the man was dependent on someone else to provide food and perhaps even more intimate assistance. And Jesus comes along and asks if he wants to get well.
In her memorable book, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells of her aunt’s distress over the anniversary of the death of her husband’s aunt many years prior. Tante Jans required a tonic and quiet in a household of lively children so that she might observe the somber occasion. Apparently, she wanted to embrace the event that had caused such grief. Tante Jans didn’t want to release the sorrow.
I have known folks who have suffered but who have also become so identified with their wounds that Jesus’ question would be offensive. Who wants to be healed of a malady that offers so much recognition, or pity, or admiration, or attention? Who wants to have to pick up his bed and start the hard, disciplined road to forgiveness, to personal responsibility, to healthy habits?
Someone I love has carried a grievance for many years; in fact, he has carried several grievances for many years. The bitterness in his soul has affected his body so that now the sickness is in his joints and other parts. When I urged long ago to let go and forgive, his reply was, “I’m not ready.”
Jesus’ question long ago was not so foolish after all. God doesn’t overwhelm us and force us to be well. His healing comes at the cost of our letting go of bitterness and injustice, of thoughtless wounds, of deception, of self pity. He won’t make us let go. He just asks the question, “Do you want to be healed?”
Yes, Lord, I release all the suffering I have carried. Please take it all and make me whole. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.