Who else but Jesus?
Would anyone else dare ask a man who had been unable to walk for 38 years if he wanted to get well? Insulting? It certainly could be taken that way, but that wasn’t Jesus’ intent
Neither was it something spoken in ignorance of the man’s situation. The text tells us that His question was prompted by the fact that He “saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time,” (John 5:6). So this was no flippant remark or off the cuff comment, Christ had taken the time to get some pertinent information about the man and his situation before posing His question. What was it then? Jesus knew that when someone has been in a situation for a long time, not only can change be difficult—it may not even be desired. This man has been trapped in his old world for so long that it wasn’t wise to automatically assume that he wanted a new one. I heard someone who was caught up in a destructive behavior apply this principle to themselves by confessing, “We’ve been doing it wrong for so long it seems right.” I think that’s exactly the kind of thing Jesus is addressing. “Do you want to get well?” In a journey of a thousand miles it is the first step.
This says something to the sensitive who have the tendency to magnify everything—obstacles, potential obstacles, things that have the potential of becoming potential obstacles, etc. When Jesus is present, none of these are important. With His words, Christ wanted the lame man to see that it didn’t matter that there were so many other people like him who had gathered at the pool waiting to be the first in the water. What mattered was whether or not he wanted to allow God to change his situation.
This also says something to the struggler who has known defeat far too often and the discouragement that comes with each failure. For the lame man it was being within reach of the healing waters, but never having the help he needed to enter them. How many times had he heard the joyful sounds of someone who had been healed and realized that once again, it was not meant to be for him at that time? Jesus is not saying that the past is unimportant because that wouldn’t be true. What He is saying is the past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future return. His presence means the past is history.
I’m not by any means suggesting that answering this question positively is all that’s involved in God leading us toward wholeness, but I am saying that this is where it must begin. We can dream about change, talk about change, and make plans to change, but if we haven’t decided in our heart of hearts that we truly desire it, we’re kidding ourselves.
I believe the Christ is still asking individuals and communities of faith today, “Do you want to get well?”