Common English Bible (CEB)
1 After this there was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 In Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate in the north city wall is a pool with the Aramaic name Bethsaida. It had five covered porches, 3 and a crowd of people who were sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed sat there.[a] 5 A certain man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, knowing that he had already been there a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir,[b] I don’t have anyone who can put me in the water when it is stirred up. When I’m trying to get to it, someone else has gotten in ahead of me.”
8 Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 Immediately the man was well, and he picked up his mat and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.
10 The Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It’s the Sabbath; you aren’t allowed to carry your mat.”
11 He answered, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”
12 They inquired, “Who is this man who said to you, ‘Pick it up and walk’?” 13 The man who had been cured didn’t know who it was, because Jesus had slipped away from the crowd gathered there.
14 Later Jesus found him in the temple and said, “See! You have been made well. Don’t sin anymore in case something worse happens to you.” 15 The man went and proclaimed to the Jewish leaders that Jesus was the man who had made him well.
Of all the healing stories I read, this one really sticks with you, because of the one question Jesus asks of the man, and in turn, asks of us.
“Do you want to get well?”
On the surface, that seems like a pretty dumb question. The guy’s been sitting by a pool for 38 years, unable to help himself, living off the pity of others. In our heads, of course he would answer “yes.” Is that his answer though? Read it again. He dodges the question. He just tells Jesus of his problem.
Here’s something we need to learn about Jesus: Jesus ain’t stupid.
All that nonsense aside, Jesus isn’t blind to our problems. Obviously this guy has a serious physical problem. Jesus can see that, and he asks him point blank, without any qualifications, “Do you want to get well?” The fact that this guy didn’t answer him with an emphatic yes or no tells us more about ourselves than it does about that guy. Specifically, it tells us a great deal about another matter, not completely unrelated to physical illness: sin.
Let’s face it, we love to sin. We downright love it. We’re so addicted to it, it’s become second nature to us. Sin imprisons us. It hobbles us. It warps our vision so thoroughly we don’t even know we’re doing it sometimes, and when we know that we shouldn’t sin, we wind up doing it anyways.
And so Jesus sees this problem, and asks us: Do you want to get well?
And we hesitate. We hesitate because we aren’t really sure we’re ready to give up sinning. We hesitate because being made well comes with a host of obligations, chief among them being “Go and sin no more, in case something worse happens.” We hesitate, because we’re afraid being made well, being healed, is only going to make life harder than it already has been.
I’ve got some bad news for you. Yes, life will get harder.
However, while it may be harder, it will be better. No longer will you be shackled and imprisoned by sin. In accepting the gift of grace, of healing, you are set free, truly free. Not just free to choose which sin you want to do, but free to not sin. True freedom is freedom from the captivity of sin.
So when Jesus asks us if we want to be made well, he’s also asking us if we’re ready to accept the responsibility of being made well, and striving for new life not just for ourselves but for other people. Being made well gives us the responsibility of living into the gospel, the chief goal of which is to usher in the Reign of God.
So I guess the question remains: Do you want to get well?