Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be well. I kind of see this as the same kind of question He asked Adam when He said, ‚ÄúWhere are you?‚Äù He answers those that cry out to Him, and if people don‚Äôt know to cry out to Him, He gives them a chance to do so. He sets the stage for us to call on His name out of our needs, but then even when we don‚Äôt call on Him because we think we need something else, He still answers. The man gave a reason why he hadn‚Äôt been healed.
WAIT! I just looked up ‚Äúdo you want to get well?‚Äù and it is in the KJV as ‚ÄúWilt thou be made whole?‚Äù ‚Äì the word ‚Äòwilt‚Äô is not only ‚Äòdo you want‚Äô but also ‚Äòwill you‚Äô be made whole. I think we read a lot into Jesus asking this and the man‚Äôs excuse the way we read a lot of helpless people we encounter-people that have trouble or need help but really don‚Äôt want it. People that are either trapped spiritually or habitually in something that they really can‚Äôt get out of. I remember one time there was a lady whose house we went to clean. She was a single mom and the city took her children away b/c her house was such a mess. It was! But as we cleaned up, we realized that the whole time she just kind of stood in the middle of the kitchen talking and complaining. She didn‚Äôt lift a finger to pour out a week old half full bowl of cereal. It did not take long for us to realize that we would clean up her house only to have her almost instantly trash it again. I remember somebody confronting her about it and she gave the most defeated, silly excuses for her house being such a mess. I put that same scenario on this guy. Jesus asks him if he wants to be made whole and he just gives excuses. I have to deliberately try to read it a different way. What if the man actually IS asking Jesus for his help? I can see that if the people at this time believed such illness was caused by a person‚Äôs sin, that no upright person would want to touch the man for fear of becoming unclean like him. I remember people throwing money and food to beggars in Asia, not getting close enough to touch or be touched, and sometimes even hitting them with the handout they gave because the didn‚Äôt want to be within touching distance. (incidentally, it was a great day when I began breaking some serious cultural mores by holding the hand of the men or WOMEN I was giving money to and putting my gift right in their hand. I miss that.)
Ok, back to Jesus.
So the man is without hope. ‚ÄúWill you be made whole?‚Äù Jesus asks. ‚Äúsomeone always gets in before me!‚Äù the man says. Like so many people, this man lives a life of ‚Äòif only‚Äô and blames others (people with help or well enough to go faster than him) or himself (I just can‚Äôt get in fast enough) or the system (the random angel that stirs the water only heals one person at a time) and has been doing that for 38 years. I just wonder what would have happened if he would have been like Simeon or Anna that also stayed in the temple all the time. ‚ÄúI am here and when the Messiah comes we‚Äôll ALL be made whole!‚Äù or something like that. My favorite thing is that Jesus doesn‚Äôt address any of that. He doesn‚Äôt try to cheer the man up or correct his superstition about the pool. He has authority and He uses it. He is the Lord over our health and the Lord over the rules of men (carrying mats on the Sabbath). BUT, Jesus does not heal the man in order to bring him to faith. YES He wants the man to come to faith, but He doesn‚Äôt give the man a lesson first or lay any paths before him. He DOES kind of set the man on a course towards dependence on God though, by telling him to carry his mat. This guy would have stuck out on the Sabbath like a hairy man walking around with no shirt on at church. It was AGAINST THE LAW to carry that thing! Not only that but the guy is IN THE TEMPLE! Jesus really set him up.
God wants His acts to be noticed. There are numerous other people that Jesus healed but didn‚Äôt ask them to carry their mat. I‚Äôm thinking specifically of the paralyzed man lowered through the roof. Jesus told that man his sins were forgiven! That got the Pharisees attention! I think it‚Äôs interesting that once that guy got healed (the pool guy) that he didn‚Äôt go on after Jesus. Jesus got away from him, and then sought him out again. When Jesus says ‚Äústop sinning‚Äù I don‚Äôt think he‚Äôs saying the man did something 38 years ago and as punishment for that sin he was paralyzed. I think the sin is not following Jesus, and the ‚Äúsomething worse‚Äù is what will be the end for all that don‚Äôt follow after Him.
God seeks us when we don‚Äôt know how to seek Him. Jesus is the one that came back to that man. He didn‚Äôt have to. He could have continued to be hidden from the guy and the guy would probably leave the temple and continue on for the rest of his life without ever seeing Jesus again. But that‚Äôs not how the Father is. He wanted the man to know Him so he went after him. Whatever feast of the Jews was going on, the Temple would have been crowded. It would not be easy to track down somebody, but Jesus goes to the trouble, not only to tell the man the next step to life eternal, but I think also to show Himself to the Jewish leaders. I always thought it was so crazy how James Bond never used an alias, but would just walk right into the bad guys‚Äô evil lair and say he was James Bond (ok ok, Bond, James Bond). Jesus makes this guy whole and tells him to carry his mat to show HE is the LORD over the Sabbath. The Jews freak out as he planned, but the pool guy failed to testify as to who did the healing, so Jesus helps him out. We get the sense that this man‚Äôs testimony is different than the man born blind that said ‚ÄúHe is a prophet.‚Äù The pool guy‚Äôs testimony is more of a ‚Äòratting out‚Äô of who did this healing on the Sabbath. I can almost hear the guy, ‚ÄúI‚Äôm carrying this mat because that guy that healed me on the Sabbath told me to! It‚Äôs not my fault!‚Äù