Do you will want to be well?
Do You Want to Be Well? (John 5:1-9)
In the midst of routine faithfulness the extraordinary can take place. A striking aspect of the Lord Jesus' ministry was His willingness to observe common religious customs practiced by everyone else. He went to the local synagogue in Nazareth, kept the obligatory feasts, and paid the temple tax. Even though He was the fulfillment of the Hebrew race, every feast, and the temple itself, He was not above commitment to the routine faithfulness of everyone else. We should remember this when we consider ourselves "above it all." The faithful were required to go to Jerusalem three times a year for required feasts. On one such occasion Jesus went to Jerusalem alone to avoid recognition because of His controversial presence. There He confronted a hopeless man who wanted to be well.
The Lord Jesus can make you spiritually well if you seize the moment of possibility and really want to be well.
Do You Want to Be Well in Spite of Hopelessness?
Most of us live with places and times of hopelessness. The pool of Bethesda represents such a place. The pool was northeast of the temple near the Sheep Gate where shepherds herded their flocks into the city. The pool was deep enough to swim in and was surrounded by five porches covered like an arcade. Around it gathered the hopeless people—those blind, lame, and with atrophied limbs. The picture would be comic if it were not so tragic. The blind stumbled over the lame and the paralyzed jostled with the atrophied. Their despair compounded itself because of their numbers.
At that place one person is singled out who lived in hopelessness for thirty-eight years. Time compounds hopelessness. At first he had hoped to walk again, but every year added an additional deposit of the sediment of despair to his life. By this time hope hung by a thread. For thirty-eight years he had "seen it all" around the pool and knew that there was nothing for him.
All of us have lived around the pool of Bethesda. We have been spiritually blinded, emotionally lamed, morally atrophied. Some of us have been there for so many years we have stopped hoping. That there could be radical change of life, spiritual revolution, and the dawn of a new day rests beyond our wildest dreams. Yet you must want to be whole in spite of a place and time of hopelessness.
Do You Want to Be Well at the Moment of Possibility?
Not every moment is equally possible for life change. Not every day can witness a spiritual revolution. There are a few moments in life which must be seized or the tide goes out. It is almost universally agreed by biblical scholars that verse 4 is not part of the original text written by John: "for an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water" (NKJV). Yet it does reflect a popular, early explanation for the bubbling up of the water from the bottom of the pool. There was probably an intermittent spring that caused the water to bubble from time to time. When that happened, the blind groped, the lame hobbled, and the atrophied lurched toward the water. The first in was made whole according to popular tradition.
This preserves a truth you should not miss. Not every moment of life is equally open to spiritual change. The Spirit of God comes, moves, and goes on His way (3:8). You cannot even make a move toward God without His initiative: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (6:44). The woman at the well had a moment to drink. Bartimaeus had but one moment to see, and Zaccheus faced a split second to come out of his tree. The same is true of you. There is a moment of spiritual dawn when you must awake and a moment of high tide before the water goes out. In the moment when God speaks, seize that moment.
Do You Want to Be Well as a Point of Fact?
Jesus Christ cuts through every superficiality about our spiritual wholeness or sickness. On the surface the answer to His question looks obvious: "Do you want to be made well?" The question almost appears insulting. Certainly! A man thirty-eight years paralyzed wants to be well. But just below the surface it is a profound question. We can love our woundedness, nurture our sickness. This man escaped all responsibility by his sickness. He did not have to walk, work, or be accountable. You can love the self-pity and the escape from responsibility that comes with spiritual sickness.
We can imagine procedural difficulties. This man dodged, avoided, and evaded the awesome moment of encounter with Jesus Christ (v. 7). Like Nicodemus wondering how a man could enter his mother's womb again (3:4), the paralyzed one raised trivial difficulties in the face of tremendous opportunity.
The Lord Jesus responds with power, not another proposal or procedure. He did not simply organize a committee for the lowering of paralytics into local pools! As only He in all history has done, there was a word of power: "Rise, take up your bed, and walk" (v. 8, NKJV). The man was instantly made whole and summoned to responsible living. The credibility of the Christian message rests on His ability to do this spiritually today. Do you want to be made well?