Today, we face many challenges that come from living in a fallen world. Whether it’s chronic illness, pain, depression (or other mental illness), addiction, financial struggles, etc. we all find ourselves wanting relief or healing at times.
Sometimes we pursue quick-fix avenues to help alleviate the issues or perhaps simply ease the symptoms. But many times those are only temporary and don’t offer the true healing that we are searching for.
I’ve been asked this question by both pastors and accountability partners in the past, “Do you WANT to get better?” There are issues that have been a part of my life that I let go on for YEARS while taking no real action to give it to God and recover. As a result, both I and my loved ones suffered.
So, in this article, we are going to explore the origins of that question, “Do you want to be made whole?”
THE HEALING AT BETHESDA
One of the great healing miracles of Jesus is documented in the Gospel of John.
“After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. 3 In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. 5 A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” 9 Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day.”
John 5:1-9 NASB
It was customary for the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem at certain times to celebrate the various feasts.
There was a pool In Jerusalem that was widely known to be a place of healing. While scholars debate the accuracy of verse 4 (since it’s not in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts), we do know from the other verses in the context that the Jewish people who were suffering from various ailments and diseases would go there to be healed.
Whether it’s simply folklore tradition or whether an angel of the Lord would actually perform the healing shouldn’t be our focus. What our focus should be, however, is the interaction between Jesus, and the ill man.
Not much is known about the man mentioned in this text. For instance:
- We don’t know how many times prior to this festival that he had gone to this pool, or even how he got there.
- We don’t know exactly what the illness is although it’s apparent that mobility and walking are an issue.
- We don’t know how many times he’s attempted to make it into the pool, yet failing.
What we do know, however, that he has been sick for a really long time. 38 years to be exact! Jesus, of course, knows all about this mans illness and even knows how long he has suffered from this condition.
One thing that I find interesting is that Jesus approaches him. Many other times we see the sick person trying to find a way to approach Jesus, but not here. Jesus goes straight up to this man and asks him a simple question. “Do you wish to get well?”
This is an interesting question. Of course, he wanted to be healed! He had been suffering from this condition for 38 years, so why wouldn’t he want to get well?
In his response to Jesus, he gives the reason/excuse as to why he hasn’t been able to receive healing and reveals his need for help.
After the man’s response, Jesus simply tells the man to “get up, pick up his mat (pallet), and walk.” Those words brought the man immediately to his feet and he began walking!
- He didn’t have to go down to the pool.
- He didn’t have to go through extensive medication or physical therapy.
- He didn’t have a slow progressive recovery.
Jesus spoke, the man responded, and was healed.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS?
These verses, when prayerfully meditated on, invite us to ask ourselves that same question: Do we want to get well/be made whole? I think about the meaning of these words and I believe that it goes beyond the surface.
As I reflect on that question, several thoughts come to mind about us today:
- Do we want to get better?
- Do we want to be healed (physically/mentally/spiritually)?
- Do we want to overcome that addiction (smoking/alcohol/drugs/pornography/etc.)?
- Do we want to be free from the bondage of sin?
- Do we want to be free from the chains of this world (debt/consumption/status/etc.)?
- Do we want to live a more simple, Jesus-centered life?
Or do we want to just lay there on our mat and watch as others get to the healing pool instead?
I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of knowing far too many people who have been diagnosed with cancer. I’ve seen full recovery/remission and I’ve seen people pass away within a few short weeks of the diagnosis.
For those that recovered, there was a common trait. There was a fight in them. I’m not talking about the typical, “I’m gonna beat this” type of fight. No. There was something different. There was a willingness to do whatever it took to get through it. Sometimes, it was the fight of others through intense, faithful prayer and fasting that brought about the recovery.
I watched a man go from, “Get your affairs in order.” to “The most recent scan shows that ALL of the tumors have vanished.”, simply because a group of believers prayed around the clock for his healing and God responded.
I watched my grandfather fight for several long agonizing months to get better after being diagnosed with stage 4 lung and liver cancer. His fight and determination kept him going for quite awhile. Then, after falling and breaking his arm, he gave up the fight. I was there in the hospital room when he looked at my mom and said, “I just don’t know how much longer I can do this.” A few short months later, he went home to be with the Lord.
That’s not to say that all those who leave us too soon have no desire to get better. But sometimes (not always), the pain of doing what it takes to get there just isn’t worth it.
That brings us to another question that we should ask ourselves:
WHERE IS OUR FIGHT? (WHAT IS HOLDING US BACK FROM BEING MADE WHOLE?)
There are many reasons why people don’t actually want to get better. These reasons can include:
- FEAR – Not only do we not like change, but we actually develop a paralyzing fear of it. For some, even the thought of things being different is enough to scare us away from taking the steps toward healing.
- COMPLACENCY – Much like the fear aspect, we actually become comfortable and complacent in our misery. We start having thoughts that “this is just the way it is” and nothing is ever going to change. The thought of learning new routines and shaking things up makes us prefer to stay where we are, no matter how damaging and painful it may be.
- ATTENTION– For some people, we just like the attention. We become, in a sense, addicted to the sympathy of others and don’t want to lose it.
- LAZINESS – For some, a few simple steps are all it would take to actually break free and be made whole. Yet the simple thought of putting in a little bit of work into the “Get up” aspect is enough to make us want to remain in our current misery.
- APATHY – For some, we have dealt with our situation for so long that we just don’t care anymore. We don’t even want to hear about new treatments, methods, or trials. Even if they are an obvious answer to prayer.
- LACK OF FAITH – All throughout Scripture we see the importance that faith has on healing and mighty works from God. (Mark 5:34, Mark 10:52, Luke 17:19, etc. )The best collection of examples documenting great faith can be found in Hebrews 11.
- LIP-SERVICE – I mention this in my Reflections For The New Year article. 92% of people fail at keeping New Years Resolutions. One of this reasons is because we are all talk. We love to talk about making changes and getting better, but when it comes to putting some faith and action behind those words and actually getting there, we fall short and hope people don’t remember all of our empty words.
In his book, Christians Get Depressed Too, David Murray writes:
“Doctors and pastors are often faced with the frustrating situation of people who need the help they can give, yet are not taking the steps required to benefit from this help. Perhaps they have just learned to live with the problem. Perhaps they have given up hope of getting better. Perhaps they lack the will to play their part in the healing process. Perhaps they are frightened of all the responsibilities of life that would come upon them should they be viewed as well again. Perhaps they would miss the attention and sympathy that being ill may generate. These are all possibilities.”
Many of us think that it was easy for the man at Bethesda because he had the healing words of Jesus to help him get better. We think, “Well, if I lived back in that time it would be different, I could just go to Jesus and get better.”
Here’s the thing though, we can. We can go to Jesus right now. Today. We can cry out to Him to begin the healing process.
It may not be as instantaneous as it was for this man. I’ve seen it happen, but it’s not the norm. It’s probably going to take some additional action on our part. Maybe even the help of counselors, medical staff, or accountability partners, depending on the type of healing we are seeking.
God can use all of those things to help us, heal us, and make us whole again.
But the question is, how bad do we want it? Are we ready to be made whole? I know I am.
Father in Heaven, we humbly come before You and ask for Your healing in our lives. As we reflect on the words of Jesus to the man at the pool of Bethesda, it challenges us to ask ourselves that same question. Help us to overcome any objections or excuses that are holding us back from Your healing. Give us the wisdom to know what action we must take to move forward in the healing process. Lord, may we look to You for true healing, and may it be used as a witnessing tool to bring others closer to You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
What about you? Have you called out to God and proclaimed that you want to be made whole? Share your story of healing/victory in the comment section below.
Mentioned In This Article: