Scripture: John 5:1-18 In this gospel, John takes us to the pool of Bethesda, where Jesus has a divine appointment with a paralyzed man. A man who had been paralyzed for 38 years and desperately wanted to change his life. The man at the pool needed CHANGE—desperately! And Jesus could help him! Jesus said three surprising things to him (and to us):
First Jesus says, “DO YOU WANT TO GET WELL?” Why would he ask that? Of course the man wanted to get well! Yet, instead of answering the question, the man explained why he hadn’t been healed.
His answer revealed a lot about him. He felt helpless, and maybe a little defensive. Perhaps he wanted Jesus to work something out: like creating a system to take a number or have some volunteers put the person with the next number into the water.
When we examine the man’s situation more closely, we find that he is just as stuck mentally as physically. He had been locked into one situation for 38 years, and it wasn’t working for him! If he had no chance of getting into the water when it was stirred, why was he even there?
Then Jesus shows up and says, “Do you want to get well?” Why would Jesus ask that, when the answer seemed obvious?
That question isn’t just for the man at the pool and the healing of this man is a SIGN. Other gospels call them miracles, but John calls them signs, because they point to who Jesus is. They were signs for people then, and they are signs for us now. This gospel started me thinking. Is there anything I would like to CHANGE about my life or circumstances? My health: physically, emotionally, or spiritually? “Do I want to get well?” Do I want change—really or do I just want other people to change??
Change is difficult: It upsets the balance of our lives, often in a good way! Yet it may be harder to be well than to be sick! Some of us are so busy, always feeling tired and stressed, running from one thing to another. What if we were less busy? I wonder would we feel guilty, or lose our sense of identity or worth? Would we miss the “bragging rights” to being so busy? (When people ask, “How are you doing, often we will say, “Really busy.” Nobody says, “I’m bored most of the time.”)
When we have free time, is it healthy time? Or do we mope around, glued to a TV, phone or tablet? Change is hard. If we unplug, we might have to talk to people! That might be a good thing, but what would we talk about? We might want some things to change, but the “same old, same old” is familiar and comfortable.
We may resist change, because it upsets the balance in the system. Change is hard in the family. If the kids open up about what is happening at school, parents might go ballistic. If you tell your husband or wife how you really feel, who know how they might respond?
If we change our patterns at work, or at church, breaking up alliances, refusing to play games, there might be chaos. If we refuse to engage in gossip with our friends, and reach out to include other people in our group, there might be pushback.
Change made life much more difficult for the man at the pool. He took Jesus at his word, picked up his mat, and walked. But not everyone was shouting hallelujah: It was a Sabbath, and Jews were upset.
For 38 years the paralytic man, had dreamed of this day, but he never dreamed it would be so hard.
Maybe that is why Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” Jesus said to the man…TAKE UP YOUR MAT AND WALK.
That was a great miracle—the kind that only Jesus could do. Let me ask you to think about this. Has Jesus ever told you to do something that would change your life? Maybe it meant trusting him for a small miracle: talking to someone who might not respond well, taking on a task you never thought you could do, getting out of bed when you are depressed. Will we do what Jesus commands?
We know and fully believe that Jesus has the power to change lives, but it won’t happen unless we make changes. If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we will get similar results. If we come to your work like we have for who knows how long, not much will change there. If our family life is pretty much the same as we learned growing up, it won’t get better. If we give our relationships with God and the church the same priority as we have always have, we are unlikely to grow spiritually and in other ways.
Many of us keep doing the same things, getting the same results. Why? Because we want those results? Maybe. But maybe, like the man at the Bethesda pool, we just can’t imagine any other way.