The Questions of Jesus-Do You Want to Get Well?
We are in John, chapter 5 today. We are still in the preaching series where we are examining the various questions that Jesus asked. He used questions effectively in His communication with people, especially one-on-one, to help people go deeper in their faith experience and relationship with Him. This technique of using questions with people who are exploring faith or who haven’t demonstrated that they know who Jesus is, this technique, is a good way to get them talking. Even questions like, “Do you have a church home?” “Did you grow up going to church?” “What are your thoughts about Heaven and Hell or prayer” can be great conversation starters. As long as we are prepared to have a conversation, and not an argument, using questions to talk about our own faith is a great tactic.
I want us to read today’s text, and then we are going to walk through it, and I’ll try to make some observations along the way. Will you repeat the bold and italicized portions after me? There are quite a few, but I want you to see some things during the first read that I intend to address.
5 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  [b] 5
Notice that verse 4 is missing here, but is referred to in a footnote. We’ll come back to that.
One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 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?”
7 “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.” 8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” 11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” 12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” 13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
14 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.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.
The first set of words we highlighted were the words, “great number.” There were a great number of people around the Pool of Bethesda. Lots of people were there, and they were all sick or limited in some way. Imagine a hospital without any individual rooms, without any walls. That would be the scene by the Pool of Bethesda. Visualize what that would look like and how the atmosphere would feel. Bethesda means “House of Grace” or “House of Mercy.” That is important because what took place between Jesus and the man we read about was an act of grace and mercy.
I then had you repeat the word, “one.” I want to keep emphasizing Jesus’ commitment to “the one.” He engaged one man in the midst of a crowd of people. It wasn’t that Jesus wasn’t concerned for the crowd; it was simply that He planned to have an encounter with one person. What I want to highlight is that God deals with us as individuals. We don’t get lumped together. He does have a plan for us a church, but trust me, He has a plan for your individual life. He wants your attention. He wants to address your needs. He wants to challenge you to change. He wants to bless your life. We are all His ”one.” And He models this one-on-one ministry to teach us what we are supposed to be doing. We are to go after “the one” that is in our view, with whom we can offer the transforming hope Jesus offers.
The text then tells us that the one Jesus focused on had been an invalid for 38 years. We don’t know if he was a paraplegic, we don’t know if his muscles just atrophied over time from some other illness, we just know that 38 years is a long time to be in the condition he was in. We also don’t know how long the man had been laying by the pool, but we get the sense that it was a very long time.
I have to assume he saw lying by the pool as his only option for healing or as his lot in life. I believe he wanted healing, but on some level, after 38 years, he had accepted his condition as a way of life and located himself, somehow, with others who had the same situation or outlook. He may have been thinking, “I probably won’t get healed, but at least I’ll be with other people in the same boat.” I can’t say for sure, but I know from the way he spoke to Jesus, he continued to lay by the pool even though he couldn’t ever make it into the pool.” You know they say “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” I think he was stuck in a rut of hopelessness, but I think he found comfort in being in a rut with other hopeless people.
Do we ever find ourselves there? We group ourselves with others who have the same issues and struggles we do, thinking it will help us feel better about our condition, but often it just reinforces or perpetuates a bad situation, like in the case of addiction. If we hang out with other addicts who aren’t seeking to change, we are committing ourselves to an addiction atmosphere. If we are negative and hang out with other negative people who aren’t seeking to change, we are voluntarily placing ourselves in an atmosphere of doom and gloom.
The man put himself, probably at least initially, where he thought healing could occur, but after time, he was simply stuck in a spot that offered him no hope. He quit looking for other options. He just resigned himself to being where he was. I think, to some degree, he just gave up. Do we ever find ourselves in that situation? Instead of exploring the ways God may want to bring healing into our lives, because we tried an altar of prayer and didn’t think it worked or we tried a Christian counselor and didn’t think it worked or we tried reading a book about our struggle and it didn’t work, we just gave up.
Why were sick people lying around the Pool of Bethesda? If you have a KJV, NKJV, or NASB translation, you will see the answer in verse 4. If, however, you have an NIV, like I read from, or and ESV or NLT which are more recent English translations, you don’t have a verse 4! You do, however have a footnote or an explanation in the margin. Verse 7 gives us a hint about the reason they were lying there as the man spoke of how water bubbled up and how he wanted to get into the bubbling water, but he was unable to, and others would get in ahead of him. It was believed when the water bubbled that healing was created.
The reason some of us don’t have verse 4 is because the earliest copies of John don’t go into more explanation. However, somewhere in the succeeding centuries, somebody who was acquainted with the culture of the time included it in their copy to help us, who are removed from that culture, make sense of why the sick would gather there. In many of the Greek manuscripts, it is marked off as an addition. So, earlier translations of the Bible into English (like the KJV) included it, but later translators chose to put it into a footnote to indicate that it was not in the earliest manuscripts. Now, you can all sleep tonight. You’re welcome.
The text tells us Jesus saw this one particular guy. For sure He saw the crowd, but he was zoned in on this one guy, and He learned, or as other translations say, He knew that this man had been in the condition for a very long time. Jesus approached him and asked him a question. Y’all, there are some questions we just don’t ask, right? Don’t ever ask if a woman is pregnant. Don’t do it. Don’t ask a woman how old she is. That isn’t going to end well. I have never walked into a hospital to make a visit and started with, “Do you want to get well?” But Jesus boldly asked the question because He was leading the man to an understanding that his current condition involved more than a need for physical healing.
Here’s the kicker, the man never answered the question. You’d think he’d lift his head and say, “Absolutely, I’m not just here for a sick convention!” But he didn’t. Instead of seeking rescue he gave reasons why he wasn’t healed yet. He kind of went into victim mode. He talked about not having help to get into the pool when the water would start to bubble. That pool was fed by a spring and would start to bubble at times. Instead of saying to Jesus, “Yes, I want to be healed,” he gave the reasons why he wasn’t healed.
The point wasn’t whether people were actually experiencing healing if they got into the pool as it bubbled, the point was that the man believed that was what was happening, and day after day, he believed he was close in proximity to getting help, but was so far because he was alone. Maybe someone carried him every day and left him there until evening time and then they carried him home. He had to have gotten there somehow. Have you heard the quote, “If you see a turtle on a fencepost, it didn’t get there by itself.” Right? Someone would have to put a turtle on a fencepost. It could never climb up and sit on a fencepost. Well, someone or several people had to get this guy by the pool, but apparently that was the end of their help. And day after day, he sat there, watching others get their help, or believing that they did, while he was passed over. How high would your hopes be for something to change?
It was a really great question that Jesus asked. Not everyone wants to be healed of an addiction, or have their life dramatically change. Some people get used to experiencing life the way they do and “getting well” could mean starting over and that is too scary for them. “Getting well” could mean reconciling with family, and they are too proud to admit their role in the breech. “Getting well” could mean having to take responsibility for their life, to go to work, to work some recovery steps, to ask for help, to depend on others, to become accountable, to start going to church regularly, IDK what all could be involved, but the point is that not everyone wants to get well because of the way their life would change. For some people, if getting well means forgiving people or exposing hidden sin, well, they’d rather simply stay the same.
Perhaps the guy’s response to Jesus was an indication that, yes, he did want to get well, but that he knew that his healing would have to involve an outside person, that he knew he would need help from someone in order to find healing.
Jesus then gave him a command. “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” That sounds to me like an impossible command. How about you? How can someone who hasn’t been able to walk for 38 years all of the sudden get up? How could he even think it was possible? How many of you know this morning that Jesus enables impossible things to become possible. How many can testify that they know, “With God all things are possible?” (Matthew 19:26)
Verse 9 says, “At once the man was cured.” I don’t know if he felt his legs strengthen. I don’t know if his muscles bulked up after having withered away, you know, like Popeye after he eats some spinach? I don’t know if he felt someone underneath him, like undergirding him, but the text says at once he was cured, and he picked up his mat and walked.
He had no real reason to trust Jesus. He didn’t even know who Jesus was. He had no idea who he was talking to. But here is what I do know, he had a willingness to do what Jesus asked. That tells me he did have a desire to get well. I don’t know that I could call his response an act of faith because not knowing Jesus, he didn’t know what Jesus was capable of, but it was definitely an expression of his desire to get well.
To enjoy the healing that had taken place he had to get up and walk. To enjoy the new life that Jesus was offering, he had to pick up his bed and relocate himself elsewhere.
How tragic would it have been, if the man was healed, but remained where he was, in an atmosphere of hopelessness and sickness? How often does that happen to people we know? How often does it happen to us because in the final analysis we want status quo more than we want wellness.
You see, when Jesus asked, “Do you want to get well,” I believe He was asking the man, “Do you want the life I can give you?” As we are about to see, the life Jesus offered was about more than physical healing.
We don’t have time to deal much with the religious leaders’ response to Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath. They were so lost in darkness and man-made religion that they couldn’t see the Truth, they couldn’t see Jesus, as He stood in front of them. They told the guy he was breaking their religious laws by working on the Sabbath. Carrying his mat was considered, “work.” He told them, “The guy who made me well told me to pick up my mat and walk.” They asked him who it was who healed him. Look again at verse 13. 13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
Remember, I said that Bethesda means “House of Mercy” or “House of Grace.” The man was simply the recipient of the kindness, the love, the mercy and the powerful grace of Jesus. He didn’t pray for healing. He didn’t ask Jesus for healing. His name wasn’t in the temple prayer pots! He didn’t reach out in faith to grab Jesus’ robe like the woman with the issue of blood had done. He didn’t cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me,” like Blind Bartimaeus had done. He just received what Jesus freely gave. That’s our God, folks! He works in kind and gracious ways in our lives to lead us to repentance, to get us to trust in Him fully.
Verse 14: 14 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.”
Y’all, Jesus wasn’t finished with the man. Healing wasn’t his end game. It was just a step in the process. Jesus went and found him. He found him at the temple. I don’t know if the man went to talk to someone to try to make sense out of what had happened to him or if he just thought, “This would be a good time to go to church,” or how he found himself there, but the text tells us Jesus sought him out again and found him at the temple.
Though he didn’t know Jesus by name or reputation, he now knew Jesus through a personal experience and Jesus’ next words to him revealed the deeper reason for the question, “Do you want to get well?” He said, “See, you are well again.” Jesus called attention to the fact that the man had not only been healed, but he was still healed. This was a permanent healing. Jesus had told him to pick up his mat when he left the Pool of Bethesda. He didn’t need to leave his mat by the pool to save his spot in case the healing wasn’t long-term. He didn’t ever need to go back to that hopeless atmosphere.
Listen, I have met many people who get healed, who get delivered, who are helped out of a desperate place by Jesus, but they forget to pick up their mat, their resting place, and they wind up going right back to the place of desperation where Jesus found them. They don’t see the need of separating themselves from where they once were to where they have found themselves after an experience with Jesus. Jesus wanted it to be clear to the man that he wouldn’t ever need to go back there, that he was done lying by the Pool of Bethesda.
He also wanted the man to understand that in addition to that location, he needed to be done with the preoccupation with sin. I don’t know if his sin played into his physical condition. I would say that most sickness is due to the fact that we live in earthly bodies that are subject in this life to decay. Some sickness, however, the Bible teaches, is a result of sin in our lives. We reap what we sow, and sometimes what we reap in our physical bodies. I don’t need to go on about the dangerous effects of drugs and alcohol, about how sexual promiscuity can lead to STD’s, about how pornography rewires our brains, making us into people we never once were, about how unforgiveness and bitterness can consume us from the inside out causing all kinds of physical issues. Suffice it to say, sin has consequences, and sometimes they are physical.
I don’t know to what degree this man’s sin played into his sickness, but the fact that he was steeped in sin is confronted by Jesus. He said, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” What is worse than being an invalid for 38 years? Going to Hell for eternity. Jesus not only wanted to heal the man, but he wanted him to be whole. He wanted the man to turn away from a life of sin and to receive wholeness, peace with God, from the inside out. The man had an opportunity to go from hopeless to healed to holy.
And we don’t know what he chose. Jesus had much more than physical healing for the man. There is nothing like healing in your soul. There is nothing like peace with God. There is nothing like knowing eternity is settled for you and that Heaven is your final destination. There is nothing like an invasion from the Holy Spirit on the inside of your being. And it is ours when we turn from sin and turn fully to a holy life through and with Jesus.
You see, the invitation for the man was more than healing, but it was an invitation to leave a way of life behind for a better life. In this story, Jesus asked one question but gave two commands. Pick up your mat and walk. Stop sinning.
Do you want to get well? It’s Jesus’ way of asking, “Do you want the life that I can give you?” If you do, “Pick up your mat and walk. Stop sinning.”