This question from Jesus always catches me by surprise. What do you mean, 'Do I want to get well, of course I do, what a dumb question!' Jesus asks this question to a man who has been an invalid for more than 38 years, which makes this question seem even more foolish. Everybody wants to be healthy, we're all afraid of being sick, of catching something and becoming ill. Just look at the pharmaceutical business, it's a huge industry in North America because of our fear of illness. Consider the healing ministries in the Christian world, people who claim to have the power of healing and how many people hand over great sums of money to have someone lay their hands on them for healing, or how many people are convinced to send away for a bottle of water from the river Jordan or the Sea of Galilee that has been blessed by a ministry person and so now has healing power. All this feeds into our fear of being sick or ill.
Yet, as I've walked alongside many people over the years, I now understand a little bit what Jesus is getting at here. For the man in John's story, his illness might also the only source of his income. Because he is an invalid, he has the potential to earn a fairly good income through begging, using his condition to tug on the heart-strings of those people who were going by, or from the families of other sick people who had brought their sick relatives to the pool for a chance at healing. It's also interesting that the man does not ask for healing, Jesus notices his situation and approaches him with his question, "Do you want to get well?" If the man is healed, his source of income would be gone and he would now have to work for a living, so it might actually be in the man's favour to tell Jesus that he's fine just as he is.
But how about today, how does Jesus' question apply to us now? When I think of being sick or ill, I no longer think about simply being ill physically, I now often think about being sick through having addictions. Yes, many of them are physical, but many are about the heart; addictions such as pornography, sex, food, and pleasure seeking. We engage in these things because there is something missing inside us that these activities or things fill, making us feel more whole, more complete, more satisfied. We try to find wholeness in these activities because we hate the feelings of emptiness, so we turn to things or people to make us fill whole.
But how about unhealthy emotions such as anger, hatred, greed or lust, among others? These are forms of being ill in our hearts and spirit. Is there someone in your life that you hold deep anger against? There may even be good reasons for your anger, but does this make it healthy if you've been holding onto it for a long time with no effort or desire to forgive? Anger has this way of changing who you are, creating callouses of bitterness and hatred that, over time, and actually begins to affect other relationships in your life because of what you hold inside of you. Anger has this way of growing and spreading inside of us, driving wedges between us and others, even those who are important to us.
Greed and lust are two other emotions that have even been made sacred in our culture as they are about power and pleasure and control. In a culture that puts the individual first, these are important emotions that drive us to achieve the so-called American or Canadian dream, but they come at the price of placing everyone else as second in our lives, placing emotional barriers between us and everyone else.
These feelings all give us an inner sense of power and control over our lives and yet they also keep us from experiencing deep relationships and friendships. They also keep us from trusting in God. We trust only in ourselves and the control we create in our lives.
Now listen to Jesus' question, "Do you want to get well?" Do you really want to be healed from your addictions or those emotions that keep you from having deeper relationships with God and others or would you rather hang onto what you know and what gives you control over your life and others? All of a sudden Jesus' question isn't so simple to answer.
Healing doesn't come at the snap of our fingers, it often comes through much prayer, hard work and the help of others; trained healers and especially fellow followers of Jesus who are willing to hold us accountable while walking with us and picking us up when we stumble or fall. Jesus works his healing using the community of his body.This is normally how Jesus works healing in us today, and it involves making changes in our hearts and minds with the help of the Holy Spirit and the teaching of Scripture; it means becoming the person God has created us to be and trusting that God fill those empty places in us and heal those areas of brokenness that give us our identity right now.