By Bruce Green
Teaching Minister at 10th Street Church of Christ
Can you imagine the social media firestorm Jesus would have instigated?
I’m referring to when he asked the man in John 5 who had been unable to walk for 38 years, “Do you want to get well?”
You can just hear some of the responses, can’t you?
• Wow, read the room Jesus! You just asked a man who has been unable to walk for 38 years if he wanted to get well. Where did you say you got your ministry degree from? Oh, that’s right — you didn’t.
• Some tone-deaf guy up here from Nazareth just asked one of the people at the Pool of Bethesda if he wanted to get well. First time in the big city no doubt.
Well, it does seem like a bad question, doesn’t it?
But let’s consider the context.
Jesus had learned something of his story (v. 6). Then of course, John has already assured us that “He knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for He knew what was in each person” (2:24-25). So, Jesus was fully aware of the man’s situation and that awareness prompted his question.
And while the question certainly does seem startling, we do know it’s true that people can sometimes become complacent about their circumstances. They give in to their situations in the sense that they give up caring. They yield to hopelessness and despair. Maybe that’s what is going on here. But we can be sure that something was happening or Jesus wouldn’t have asked the question He did.
But there’s something else to consider.
We’re told in v. 14 that, “Later Jesus found him at the temple.” The word “found” suggests He was looking for him — Jesus wasn’t finished with the man! He told him to stop sinning or something worse could happen to him.
“Stop sinning” — we don’t know precisely what this refers to, but it’s definitely saying something more than just that he was a sinner as we all are. It sounds like he was engaged in some specific sin. Maybe he had allowed anger or bitterness to overtake him. Maybe he verbally abused others. We don’t know exactly, but there was something — and it was substantial enough that Christ tracked him down and warned him it could lead to something worse than the suffering he had experienced for 38 years.
If we return to the question Jesus initially asked with this new information, it seems clear that it is capable of being understood on a spiritual level rather than a physical one. For although He could cure the man with or without his cooperation, He couldn’t help him spiritually without the man’s participation. All of this means there’s more to this story than the physical healing that takes place in v. 8 — there’s the deeper reach of Jesus when He finds the man in the temple. It’s the deeper reach that reminds us what is most important in life (Matthew 16:26).
You can find more of Bruce’s writings at his website: atasteofgracewithbrucegreen.com.