Do You Want To Be Healed?

“Do you want to be healed?”

This seems like a strange question to ask someone who had been paralyzed for most of his life. But it’s exactly the question Jesus asked a man who had been lying near a pool for 38 years, waiting for his opportunity to enter into the waters that were believed to have healing capabilities. 

For nearly four decades, this man had laid near the pool, unable to enter it so that he might receive healing. But how is it that he had always been so close to the pool but never actually entered it? 

According to some manuscripts of John 5, the pool only had healing power when the water began to move, when “an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred the water.” When the angel stirred the water, those who laid beside it clamored to wade into the pool to experience healing from their physical disabilities. 

It was only the quickest, or the person with the quickest friends to help them, that entered the water. 

“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,” the man told Jesus. Implicit in his reply was the fact that, of course, he wanted to be healed. For most of his life, he had tried to put himself in the best position to be healed. But healing always seemed just outside of his reach. 

And so there he laid. Waiting. Hoping.

But after 38 years, how hopeful could the man really be? It’s not hard to imagine that he had made a life for himself on his mat by the pool. It wasn’t a great life—people struggling with disabilities were marginalized and looked down upon in first century society. He was likely unable to provide for himself and thus needed to rely upon the kindness of others for daily sustenance.

Even still, he had developed something of a routine. He was safe in his brokenness. Comfortable. He knew what to expect out of life. At a certain point, he may have become like a dog chasing a car. What would he even do if he ever actually made his way into the pool and was able to walk again? He might not have even dared to imagine.

In the same way, many of us live with wounds that, at least ostensibly, we want to have healed. Addictions. Traumas. Wounds inflicted by the world, and even wounds inflicted by the church. We say that we believe in healing, even that we hope for it. But at a certain point, we start to settle for something a little less. We become less interested in radical transformation and more invested in maintaining the small comfort we have found in our routines. 

Life isn’t ideal. But it’s livable enough.

Jesus knew that the deepest desire of the man’s soul was that he would be healed. He knows the same about us. 

But it wasn’t going to come merely from the help of friends or the serendipity of being in the right place at the right time. It was going to require both a radical encounter with the Messiah and the willingness to obey his uncomfortable call to action. 

“Get up, take up your bed, and walk,” Jesus commanded. Jesus’ invitation to healing and freedom was radical. It called for bold, even countercultural action. After all, Jesus and this man were speaking to each other on the Sabbath—a day when the religious leaders regulated people’s activities so as to keep God’s command not to labor. 

Included in the list of banned Sabbath activities was taking up your bed and walking around with it. In order to obey Jesus, the man would need to disobey the religious leaders. 

And that’s exactly what he did. 

Shortly after the man walked away from the pool and Jesus had disappeared into the crowd, the man was stopped by the religious leaders, who rebuked him for exploring his newfound wholeness. “It is not lawful for you to take up your bed,” they scolded. 

The man replied that he was just doing what he was told. 

Quick to ignore the transformative power of his healing, the religious leaders fixated on the fact that the man was breaking the rules—rules that were not technically part of the Hebrew Scriptures but rather were part of their specific theological framework for interpreting and applying the Hebrew Scriptures. 

What’s more is that they fixated their rage on the healer himself, wishing him harm. 

How often do we do the same today? How often do we gate-keep who is and isn’t a “solid” Christian based on the specificity of our theological traditions rather than on the broad sweep of Christian orthodoxy? How often do we deny the validity of spiritual healing and wholeness if it did not originate from our particular tribe? 

How often do we keep ourselves from experiencing the power of healing in Jesus because we are more interested in obeying the rules made up by someone who isn’t Jesus? How often do we keep ourselves from finding wholeness because we don’t want to listen to anybody at all?

Do you want to be healed? Listen to the voice of Jesus. 

And to be sure, listening to the voice of Jesus does not mean we break with tradition entirely.

Sometime after Jesus healed this man by the pool, the two ran into each other outside the temple in Jerusalem.

“See, you are well,” Jesus exclaimed. Then he warned, “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” That seems like an ominous statement, but only if we don’t understand the manner of healing Jesus came to bring. 

In the biblical Greek, the word for “healing” and the word for “salvation” are one in the same. In a certain sense, to be healed is to be saved and to be saved is to be healed. 

Stated differently, wholeness and holiness are inextricably connected. 

Jesus didn’t come merely to solve our problems. He came to save us and make us whole. And while salvation, much like the man’s healing, is an instantaneous reality that we experience as soon as we give our lives to Jesus, our healing, much like the man’s salvation, is a process we must continually progress into. 

As we follow Jesus closely, we become more of who he created us to be. It’s not about keeping a code of conduct; it’s about keeping in step with Christ’s Spirit. It is a radically generous gift that only Jesus can provide; it’s also a life-consuming calling that he has placed upon our lives. 

May we not be content to sit by the waters, hoping that one day they will move for us. May we step into the remarkably beautiful yet simultaneously terrifying faithfulness of picking up our mats and walking.