Most of us get steamrolled at some point in life. Something comes along - some disease, some circumstance, some broken relationship, some loss - something comes along that knocks us off our feet and sends us staggering through life. Such a man Jesus meets in Beth-zither sitting next to the sheep gate pool known for its healing powers. We don't know exactly what was wrong with him, but we do know he had borne his infirmity for 38 years. And the first question Jesus asks him is an odd one to inquire of an invalid: "Do you want to be made well?" (John 5:6)
What did Jesus know about this man? Perhaps the reason this man had never been healed is that he really didn't want to be healed. The question suggests this. Did Jesus know that the man enjoyed and was comfortable being sick? Was self-pity a culprit? Was it easier to remain in a condition he knew, rather than be healed and have to enter an unknown future? The physical cure often is the easy part; the road to wholeness, restoration to community and to spiritual well-being - that is the hard part. It is the emotional, psychological and spiritual wounds that are the hardest to heal. There always are many reasons why one should not get healed. You can't complain about it. You don't have to move on with your life.
I knew an ordained minister in Colorado who had his life threatened by cancer and wasn't expected to live - and then he was healed. He spent the next 10 years traveling around the country, speaking at cancer support groups; in fact, speaking at these meetings was one of his few paying positions as he no longer was active in the ministry after his illness. But he barely was eking out a living. At one point, I said to him, "John, at what point do you put the cancer survivor label away and move ahead with your life? There is so much more that you can do." He had been thinking about the same thing, and soon after he took a college chaplaincy position.
For many of us, there are so many reasons why we don't want to be made well. It erases all of our excuses. We will have to start a new way of life. The past is comfortable, current routines give us security - a full healing is scary business. I think that is one of the reasons why the people go to Jesus for all types of healing. He does not seek them out. He figures if they are willing to make the journey to see Him, then they are serious about being healed.
Often times the toughest part of the healing is the spiritual part. We realize that we did nothing to earn this healing - it was free, unmerited, and afterwards all we can do is accept it, and praise God. Yet expressing gratitude to God sometimes is difficult to do because it means moving on to a new life - it means not only being healed but completing the process by being made well.
Remember that when Jesus healed 10 lepers, only one returned to thank him. Will you be that one? Do you really believe God desires your wholeness and want the Lord to make you well? If yes, then I pray our Lord may say to you, "Stand up, take your mat and walk."
Manzinger is the pastor at The First Baptist Church of Williamsport.