Questions God Asks

Do You Wish To Get Well?

John 5:1-9

Teaching t12649


In this series, we will examine some of the many questions God asks biblical characters (EXAMPLES?). We will look both at the Old Testament and the New Testament gospels (where Jesus as God asks the questions). Why does God ask people questions? Not because He seeks information or advice, for He knows all things. Rather, He asks questions as a wise counselor. His questions help us see what we really believe (vs. what we think we believe), what our real needs are (vs. what we think they are), the inadequacy of our attempts to meet those needs, etc. Thus, God’s questions help us to receive His help. (They also teach us to help others in this way.)

This week we will examine a question Jesus asks a paralyzed man. It is found in John’s gospel – Jn.5 – and Jesus asks it just before He performs one of seven miracles that John recorded. In 20:31, John tells us that these miracles not only met specific people’s physical needs; they were also “signs” – symbolic acts that reveal Jesus’ unique identity and ability to meet humanity’s deepest spiritual needs (CHART).

So we will read this account on two levels. First we will read it as observers of how Jesus miraculously met this man’s physical need. Then we will read it as participants, seeing how this man’s condition is a picture of our spiritual needs, and how Jesus uniquely meets these needs.

The miracle

Read 5:1-4. 5:3b,4 was not written by John and therefore does not belong in the biblical text. It should be bracketed (as in NASB) or deleted (as in NIV) because it is not in any of the earliest manuscripts, and where it appears in later manuscripts it is often marked to signal probable spuriousness. It is probably a copyist’s marginal explanatory note of 5:7 that later got incorporated into the text – namely, it explains a local superstition about the pool, but the biblical text does not affirm this belief.

Read 5:5. This man is probably the worst case around the pool – he has been paralyzed longer than the life-span of most chronically sick people of that day.

Read 5:6. Jesus seeks this man out and asks what seems like a ridiculous question: “Do you wish to get well?” Imagine asking someone who has been waiting in the ER for three days: “Do you want medical attention?”

Yet the man’s answer reveals the wisdom of Jesus’ question (read 5:7). He doesn’t answer Jesus’ question; rather, he answers a different question: “Why are you here?” His prolonged suffering and neglect by others has so constricted his thinking that he can no longer envision anything other than the misery of his situation. He exemplifies our street-level definition of insanity – doing the same thing that doesn’t work over and over again, expecting different results. He is hopeless and fatalistic. You get the impression that, had Jesus not interrupted him, he would have continued his pitiful complaint about the injustice of the system that had kept him all these years from entering the pool.

But Jesus interrupts him with a command designed to shock him out of his fatalism into hope (read 5:8). His command has two important theological implications:

First, it is a claim of Jesus’ unique identity. He is saying: “You are in a new situation now because I am not like everyone else. Many others may not care about your condition, but I do care. Others may care but are unable to help you, but I can totally restore you.” Jesus is claiming to be the promised Messiah (Isa.35:4-6a) – God-incarnate who comes to restore a broken humanity!

Second, it is a summons for the man to personally trust Jesus’ claim. To even try to get up by his own power is totally impossible for him. I envision Jesus holding out His hand, calling the man to grasp His hand and let Jesus raise Him up. By His question and command, Jesus has precipitated a crisis to make faith possible: Will he cling to his fatalism and protect himself from another disappointment by refusing Jesus’ command – or will he take the risk of trusting Him by obeying it?

Read 5:9. The text implies (as other texts state explicitly) that as the man chooses by faith to get up, Jesus heals him. His faith does not heal him. Faith has no inherent power; it is the power of faith’s object that matters. His faith permits Jesus to heal him. Imagine his astonishment as he discovers that his paralysis is gone, his atrophied muscles are restored, and even his long-forgotten motor skills are regained! He picks up his beggar’s mat and walks away without saying anything to Jesus (more on this later).

The “sign”

Jesus came into this multitude of broken people, He sought this man out in his hopeless physical condition, and He restored him to physical health when the man believed His word. This is a miraculous healing (CHART) – but it is not an end in itself. It is a “sign” of Jesus’ authority to provide a much more profound kind of healing to each of us (CHART).

Jesus explains what the man’s healing signified a few verses later. Just as Jesus healed the man the moment he responded in faith to Jesus’ word (5:8,9 – “immediately”), so He gives eternal life immediately to whoever responds in faith to Him as Messiah (5:24 – “has eternal life”). “Eternal life” does not refer only to heaven; it refers to permanent deliverance from God’s judgment (5:24) and immediate restoration to a personal relationship with God (Jn.17:3). Only Jesus makes eternal life possible because only Jesus paid the penalty of our sins. And Jesus makes eternal life available to all of us because He died for all of us (quote Jn.3:16).

Do you wish to get well from your alienation from God? Do you want to be permanently exempt from His judgment and begin a personal relationship with Him right now? This may sound like a stupid question – but many people (like this man) deflect this question rather than answer “Yes!”

Some deflect the question by insisting that they are good/religious/competent people. Others deflect the question by insisting that they are too bad, that they can’t forgive themselves. Others (like this man) deflect the question by complaining that other people have written them off. Still others answer deflect the question by raising smoke-screen objections (EXAMPLES). Maybe you are doing this right now!

Why not just answer Jesus’ question? Do you want Him to end your alienation from God and give you eternal life right now? I simply said “Yes” – and He gave me eternal life. Many others in this room simply said “Yes” – and He gave them eternal life. What do you have to lose by saying “Yes?” If He doesn’t come through, you’ve lost nothing; but if He does come through, you’ve gained everything!

I want to spend the remainder of our time exploring another application of this passage – an application for those of us who have already received eternal life from Jesus. The same Jesus who has healed us from our spiritual death is also able to provide substantial healing in our moral and psychological and relational lives. I say “substantial healing” because we will not receive full healing in these areas until Jesus returns. Only then will He make “all things new.” But He does offer real and substantial healing in this life for His children (read Heb.12:13).

Do you have deep brokenness in your moral or psychological or relational life? As lost people living in a fallen world, we get broken by people and circumstances beyond our control. This is especially true for people who were abused or neglected or rejected as children – but it is true for all of us more than you may think. We also devise strategies that enable us to survive in this world. Such strategies “work” in the sense that they provide some protection (e.g., isolation; controlling), numbing (e.g., drug or sexual misuse; entertainmentism), or validation (e.g., people pleasing; workaholism). But they don’t really heal us. Live this way long enough, and (even as a Christian) you can wind up like this man – fatalistic and cynical.

Is your thought-life dominated with lies like these: “I will never overcome my fear of commitment, intimacy, etc.” “I am doomed to failure in close relationships.” “I will never get freedom from this addiction (e.g., drugs, food, porn).” “I am doomed to be crippled by social anxiety.” “I will always be enslaved to my anger, impatience, laziness, etc.” “This is just the way I am. I’m going to be stuck here the rest of my life.”

Jesus comes to you and me in these areas and asks us: “Do you wish to get well?” Have you deflected Jesus’ question (as I often have) like this man did? “No one understands how painful this is. I tried what people recommended and it didn’t help. I asked You to take this away and You didn’t.” The longer we believe this, the more plausible it seems, and the more areas of our lives it spreads into.

What does it look like to let Jesus heals these areas of brokenness? There is no simple formula, but here are some biblical answers that have been helpful for me:

Remember that Jesus is compassionate and wise and faithful. He cares deeply about your brokenness and weakness – He knows our frame, that we are but dust (Ps.103:14). He understands it in ways you can’t yet fathom, and His plan for healing is perfect even though it may be inscrutable at this time (Isa.40:28). He will never let go of you or stop initiating healing in this life, and He will heal you completely when He returns (Phil.1:6).

Get involved and stay involved with other Christians. Jesus heals through His Body. I have never seen anyone get substantial healing in isolation from other Christians.

Take the “Get up” step that He asks you to take. He told this man to trust Him by doing something that seemed impossible – even cruel – yet this step of faith released Jesus’ power to heal him. Likewise, He will ask you to trust Him by taking a step that feels scary or impossible.

He may ask you to confide your brokenness to another Christian and ask him/her to pray with and for you. He may ask you to forgive those who wounded you and move toward them in some way (e.g., constructively confront; serve). He may ask you to apologize to certain people even though this feels unsafe. He may ask you to get counsel from a wise Christian over a period of time. He may ask you to serve others even though you feel inadequate – including those who are broken in the same way.

How is Jesus asking you to “get up?” How will you respond? If you say “No,” He won’t force you. But He will patiently and persistently come back to you with the same request. And when you respond, He will unleash His power that will begin a healing process that will bring hope back into your life!


NEXT WEEK: Genesis 3 (the first question God asks) – “Who told you that you are naked?”

QUESTIONS & COMMENTS: Many in this room have experienced this kind of healing...

Philip W. Comfort and Wendell C. Hawley, Opening the Gospel of John (Tyndale House, 1994), pp.90,91.

“The man does not hear Jesus’ question... Instead, he tells the lonely story of his disappointment... when the water was bubbling he never had the chance to get into the water; others were always in before him. Here is the portrait of a depressed and totally discouraged person. He is so completely captive to his negative feelings about his situation that he is unable even to hear a new question... The man answers as if Jesus had asked the question, ‘Why are you here?’... His answer is a complaint about the injustice of the system which has all these years kept him from entering the pool.” Earl F. Palmer, The Intimate Gospel (Word Books, 1978), pp.60,61.