The man was lying on a cheap straw mat, propped up on his arms. He felt lucky to get a spot at the pool, where the ill gathered, but not lucky enough to make it into the water as soon as it began to stir. Like many, he was sure the pool’s curative powers were activated by a visiting angel who would stir up the water from time to time.
“Would you like to get well?” the rabbi asked, balancing on his heels to look the man in the face.
The question startled him. Didn’t this teacher realize he had been an invalid for thirty-eight years, almost as long as most healthy men live? Something in the rabbi’s tone, however, kept him from giving an angry retort.
Instead, he replied, “I can’t, sir . . . for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me” (John 5:7).
There! That should put a stop to the conversation.
Instead came the quick command: “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” (verse 8). The man felt something lift him to his feet. Hardly knowing what he was doing, he bent down to snatch up his mat. To the amazement of all, he simply gave a quizzical look and then began walking.
The odd question—“Would you like to get well?”—may cause us to wonder whether the invalid had wanted to be healed. Commenting on this passage, Mark Buchanan says,
“Sickness can actually steal the place of God. It can become the sick person’s center, the touchstone by which he defines himself. Illness is a tyrant with huge territorial ambitions. It is a seductress with large designs. It wants not only the sick person’s body. It wants his heart and mind also.”1
Pain, especially when prolonged, can be a vortex that is hard to escape. If you are praying for healing for yourself or others, ask God to restore both body and soul as a sign of his powerful presence and his promised peace.
- Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 150–51.