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"Do You Want to Get Well?"

John 5:1-15

James R. Davis

Imagine the scene. It was a place with five porticoes surrounded with the maimed, blind, lame and diseased. This is a scene of hopeless despair with only impossible dreams of anything better.

Religion often leaves us powerless nursing an impotent faith. The religion of that day had nothing to offer. "At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.’" (John 5:9-10 NIV) Religious rules and explanations are usually ineffective to heal our lives.

How many times have you wondered if religion really makes a difference in our lives? Does it bring healing and enable us to face the difficulties we confront? We all wrestle with these doubts.

Jesus faced people like you and me at this well. They were good people who wanted to believe the capability of the power of God to heal their lives. They were beaten down tired and weary. To them God was seen in the heavens but painfully absent on earth. They practiced a religion that left them so blind they couldn’t see the Messiah in the crowd.

Personal Desire Essential

We can only imagine the thoughts running through the man’s mind when Jesus asked the all important question, "Do you want to get well?" (John 5:6). This seems like a silly question to ask a man who has been coming to this place of healing as long as he can remember—the text says he was crippled for 38 years. He probably thought, "Here we go again with another meaningless religious debate." However, Jesus asked the most important question one could ask one’s self. "Do you want to get well?"

Often people turn their backs on a way of deliverance because they do not want to be healed. They flee responsibility for their own lives.

There was a Mrs. Smith in the hospital. Every day she would lie in bed with a wet towel over her eyes and moan over and over again, "I’m dying, I’m dying." The fact of the matter was, she wasn’t dying. She had hardly anything wrong with her. She had a few minor medical problems, but she was going to love a long time. Interns would come around and say, "Mrs. Smith you are not going to die." We’ve looked at the charts and talked to the doctors and you are not going to die. She told an intern, "Listen, young lad, "I know living and I know dying and I tell you I am dying." Meanwhile her husband would sit by the side of the bed and just mutter "Look at her, she is hopeless." For those attending Mrs. Smith everyday, it became abundantly clear that Mrs. Smith was not dying. Her problem was that she had forgotten what it meant to be living. The hospital had become a very safe, comfortable place. Furthermore, she had lost all hope that life held anything more for her than lying on that bed day after day.

Usually when one has a physical disease one is anxious to be made whole, but the truth is there is a malignancy eating away our souls and not everyone wishes to be rid of this loathsome disease. Therefore let us make spiritual application of this question, "Do you want to get well?"

Spiritually all of us have found ourselves in this kind of predicament. We find ourselves paralyzed at times, unable to do what we know we ought to do and want to do. We may feel stuck where we are. We get paralyzed spiritually and emotionally. We get stuck in sinful habits. We just can’t seem to take the next step God is asking us to take. We know something is wrong, we know things aren’t right, but we are not sure that things will ever be any better. And deep down we may not be sure that we want them to be better.

Becoming a whole person is a risk. For this man at the pool it is a real risk. His life is going to change drastically. He will have to get a job or at least write a book telling of his experience. No more accepting handouts at the pool. No more poor me. He is going to have to take up his bed and walk for a change. He is going to have to cast off the restrictive roadblocks society has placed on him and do something for himself.

Too often our problems become our pool, which limits our lives.The problem becomes the focus of our lives. It becomes our pet and each time we are challenged to move beyond it we grab it and say, "You see I have this problem." It is easy to blame our problems for where we are in life. We would like to believe but we have this problem that must be solved before we can believe. We feel we must find a solution before we even begin thinking about a better life. We are not willing to expend the energy to solve it. We had rather think of it as insolvable.

John 5:5-7
One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?" "Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me." (NIV)

The reason this man is lying by the pool is because it is a hot spring. Every once in a while the water would start to bubble and people believed that when it did an angel had entered the water, and the first person that got into the water would be healed. The problem was that it was superstitious thinking. It was false hope; it hadn’t worked for thirty-eight years. So Jesus calls him away from his pool. He calls us away from our pools.

Jesus is calling us away from our pools of false hope and despair. What is the pool of false hope and despair you are lying beside in hopes of getting well. What is your pool that has offered you so much and delivered so little? Is it money? Is it relationships? Is it a debilitating need for comfort and security? We all become stuck in these false hopes, but Jesus calls us away from them. He knows we only get well when we leave those false hopes and follow him.

Faith is not a matter of overcoming every doubt. It is not a matter of having all the right answers. The better part of faith knows something is wrong inside and wants to get better. It is a willingness to look to Jesus Christ for wholeness. Do you believe there is someone out there with the ability to get you unstuck from your rut? Do you believe there is someone out there who can make you whole?

Today we are more interested in restricting our ability to do wrong rather than creating a desire to do right. External restraints leave hearts unchanged and problems unresolved. Restrict a person from doing evil in one area without changing the desire to be better allows evil to run rampant in our hearts. Evil will only find another area of fulfillment—another outlet. Personal desire is absolutely essential.

God is endeavoring to write his laws upon our hearts. He has made a new covenant with us and wishes his laws written upon our hearts.God wishes to create a desire in our hearts to respond to him.

Jeremiah 31:31-33
"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (NIV)

The importance of one's personal desires must not be ignored. God wishes to create within us a desire to come to him. Many wonder if they could really be the kind of person that God would have them to be. The real concern is "Do I desire to be the kind of person God would have me to be?" Paul spoke of the "earnest . . . yea, what vehement desire" the Corinthians had in carrying out the instructions concerning their personal problems which he had addressed in his first letter to the Corinthians. (2 Corinthians 7:7-11.) Their desire for spiritual wholeness enabled them to overcome their spiritual ailments.

Jesus said, "Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled." (Luke 6:21.) "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." (Matthew 7:7,8.)

David longed to be the kind of person God wanted him to be. David was a man after God's own heart. (1 Samuel 13:14.) After David's adultery with Bathseba he prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10). David cried out, "O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee: my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is." (Psalm 63:1.) David desired spiritual healing.

Even if you are not sure there is someone who can help you, you might pray, "Oh God, if there be a God, would you help me find you?" You might be surprised in your search.

Spiritual healing is not dependent upon a man's background, or his circumstances, but it is what is inside each of us that counts. It is not what lies behind us; it is not what lies before us, but it is what lies within us that really counts. Do we want to get well?

God Is In Pursuit of Us

Jesus is the one pursuing the man at the pool. There was a crowd at the pool. They were paralyzed, blind, lame, sick—all of them seeking the same thing—healing. You can only wonder why he focused on this one particular individual. The man didn’t even know who Jesus was. Later when he was asked who healed him, he didn’t even know Jesus’ name. You would think that he would stop long enough to get the name of the one who healed him.

Jesus pursues us to give us a full life. He did not come to give us a life sparingly measured out to us. He came to give us a life heaped up and overflowing with the measure of the fullness of God. Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’" (John 10:10-11 NIV)

We must take our eyes off the pool and focus on God’s desire for us. God is willing to increase our desire for spiritual wholeness. God spoke to Jeremiah concerning the captives in Babylon, "And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart." (Jeremiah 24:7.) "For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will. . ." (Revelation 17:17.) Paul said, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13.)

In our day of instant gratification, too many of us look at how this man was healed and expect God to zap us out of our problems. His healing did not end his struggle in life. "Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, ‘See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.’" (John 5:14 NIV)

When Jesus came it wasn’t his purpose to release us from the pains of mortality. He came to give us hope in spite of our mortality. Most of us are looking for a formula that will result in the final quick solution to our problems. We are not looking to be healed over a lifetime of struggle to remain in a relationship with God. Just give me some doctrine to believe or some magic words to utter.

Jesus doesn’t just heal the man---he pursues the man. He finds the man at the temple and tells him to stop sinning because something worse might happen to him.

Too often religion imposes restrictions, which make it impossible for us to discover God’s potential for our lives. "At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.’ But he replied, ‘The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.'’ So they asked him, ‘Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?’" (John 5:9-12 NIV)

Our healing not only threatens the religious, it also threatens the world. It threatens those who deny healing for themselves. Healing threatens those who prefer to live with restrictions problems impose. We prefer to manage our problems rather than overcome our problems.

We Must Rely On God’s Power

In his book The Fisherman and His Friends, Louis Albert Banks tells a story about two men who were assigned to stand watch on a ship out at sea. During the night one of them was washed overboard by a driving storm. But the other came through the raging tempest safely. The captain noted that the sailor who perished had been in the most sheltered place while the one who survived was more exposed to the elements. "What made the difference?" he asked. The answer was this: "The man who was lost had nothing to hold on to."

God is seeking to empower us by giving us something real to hold onto. He offers you himself but you must let go of yourself. Initially, when Jesus proposed his question to the cripple the man focused on his own inabilities. He saw his helplessness and admitted them. He responds, "I have no one to put me in the pool."

Jesus immediately transfers the man’s concerns from his own efforts to Jesus’ efforts. He must be thinking, "I must do it---but I can’t." Somewhere in there he must have been thinking, "If this man is going to help me, I must listen to him."

According to the Bureau of Standards in Washington, a dense fog covering seven city blocks to a depth of 100 feet is composed of less that one glass of water. That amount of water is divided into about 60 billion tiny droplets. Yet when those minute particles settle over a city or the countryside, they can almost blot out everything from your sight.

Many Christians today live their lives in a fog. They allow a cupful of troubles to cloud their vision and dampen their spirit. Anxiety, turmoil and defeat strangle their thoughts.

The chorus of a beautiful old song says: "His power can make you what you ought to be; His blood can cleanse your heart and make you free." God gives us power to overcome sin in our lives. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." (John 1:12.) God has given us power to come to Christ; power to become disciples of Christ; power to overcome through Christ.

God can make the weakest stand. Paul said, " . . . God is able to make [weak] him stand." (Romans 14:14.) "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. (Isaiah 41:10.) "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:29-31.) We can become "more than conquerors through him that loved us." (Romans 8:37)


For more than 20 years Professor Edwin R. Keedy of the University of Pennsylvania Law School used to start his first class by putting two figures on the blackboard 4 2. Then he would ask, "What's the solution?" One student would call out, "Six." Another would say "Two." Then several would shout out "Eight!" But the teacher would shake his head in the negative. Then Keedy would point out their collective error. "All of you failed to ask the key question: What is the problem? Gentlemen, unless you know what the problem is, you cannot possibly find the answer." This teacher knew that in law as in everyday life, too much time is spent trying to solve the wrong problem -- like polishing brass on a sinking ship.

The problem is SIN--The solution is JESUS! "Do you want to get well?" God’s power to make it happen is yours!!

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:27-30.)


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