“One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 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?’” - John 5:5-6
To onlookers, the question from Jesus must have seemed a bit strange - offensive, even. There Jesus was, in an area reserved for the disabled and paralyzed, addressing a man who had clearly been there for a very, very long time.
“Do you want to be healed?” he inquired.
The answer appeared blatantly obvious. Why even ask?
One way to think about this little encounter is to look at our own lives. All of us have struggled from time to time with various forms of spiritual illnesses: addictions, destructive habits, negative patterns of acting or thinking. It’s incredibly easy for us to tell God, others, and most critically, ourselves, that we want to be healed of our condition, that we want to change, that we want to walk in the freedom and boldness of the Holy Spirit. But do we really?
We don’t know the whole story of the paralytic man in John chapter 5, but we can infer a few things. For one, healing for this man meant that he would have to completely redefine himself. After some 38 years of receiving donations from others, he would now have to find alternative means of income. He would need to develop new trade skills or find a profession. He would have to build new social relationships. He would have to navigate mainstream society for the first time.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that the man didn’t want to be healed. I’m certain he did, at least in an intellectual sense. But I also can’t help but wonder if he was truly as hungry for healing as he thought he was. If he was ready for change. If he was actually prepared to count the cost that leaving his illness would demand.
I can’t help but wonder if, on some level deep within his spirit, the man had reached a place of quiet complacency about his problem. If he had become okay with his illness. If he had embraced a narrative of victimhood. I suspect that Jesus was trying to address this.
Sometimes we need to give ourselves a frank talking to. Sometimes our assertions of paralysis and victimization need to be firmly challenged. We say we want to be healed. But do we really? Are we prepared to count the cost? Are we actually prepared to surrender our struggle and embrace the Healer?
The paralytic man from John 5 had defined a set of conditions for his healing. When someone helps me up, when an angel stirs the waters of the pool, when I reach the pool first, when it’s a sunny day, etc. But the Healer wasn’t interested in his preconditions. He was interested in transformation.
When I think about different spiritual illnesses I’ve struggled with throughout my life - be they addictions, habits, or patterns of behaviour - I realize that here too I’ve been guilty of defining the terms of my own recovery. I’ll stop this bad habit once I’ve finished this stressful season, I’ll tell myself. I’ll change this pattern of behaviour after reading this book. I’ll restart this life-giving action when life isn’t so busy. Self-assurance can be so dangerously comforting.
Thankfully, Jesus isn’t limited by my terms of recovery. He simply says “I’m here. Do you want to be healed?”
God created us to work in partnership with him. He doesn't offer to transform our lives while we sit passively by the pool. He wants us to engage with him, walk with him, and work out our healing in relationship with him. This healing brings strange new territory, the departure of comforting vices, and the release of old identities. It’s only when we fully embrace the Healer that we find the courage to actually get up, take up our mat, and walk.
If you seek healing as I do, let us not wait until we feel ready, or someone compels us, or life is convenient. Let's not wait for revival, a unique feeling, or a special touch from a spiritual celebrity. While we’re waiting for conditions to align perfectly, Jesus stands beside us, asking us if we want to be healed.
Let’s embrace the Healer, whatever the cost. Let’s walk.
“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?" 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." Jesus said to him, "Get up, take up your bed, and walk." And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.” - John 5:6-9
Prayer Focus: Pray for healing for you or someone you know? Ask for the faith to believe his promises for healing.