Summary: In this message we look at a question that on the surface is quite odd. I mean if you had been lame for 38 years and someone asked you if you wanted to be well, would that be a difficult question? Perhaps it is harder than we first realize.
“Do you want to be well?
In our recent study in Nehemiah I showed you this picture of what the wall looked like that Nehemiah and the builders constructed around Jerusalem. This picture shows 10 gates that were used to gain entrance to the city. Each gate had a specific purpose.
• Horse gate - area horses could enter
• Fish gate-a fish market was located there
Another of those Gates was referred to as the sheep gate. This was the entrance through which the sheep that were being used for sacrifices would enter. We are told that Jesus was near that gate when he encountered this man who was sick. The Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. Jesus had come to the pool of Bethesda. And there lying all around the pool were sick and paralyzed people. They had come to this spot because there was a legend that an angel would on occasion stir the waters of the pool-legend says the first one to get into the water would be healed. Now remember this was only a superstition.
Jesus moves into the midst of this group but we notice that he does not heal everyone at the pool that day but as he moved among them, he is drawn to one particular man who had been ill for 38 years. To me it is puzzling why out of all of these very needy people that Jesus would only choose to heal one. Could have been Jesus knew the man had been lying there for 38 years – could have been another reason. But one thing we do know is that it was not because the man was asking for Jesus’ help. He didn’t even know who Jesus was. Jesus encounters this man and then Jesus asks him a very strange question. Here it is … do you want to get well? I mean if a man was starving would you ask, do you want some food? This man, paralyzed for 38 years and Jesus says do you want to walk? Do you want to get well?
3 things/truths I want you to see in this passage today.
1. Before you can change you must decide if you want to be changed. Notice v. 6. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had already been in that condition a long time he said to him, do you want to be made well? Clearly Jesus wanted this man to think about this question-there’s more here than we see on the surface.
I believe this is a lot like a question parents sometimes ask their children-you want a good spanking? First of all I never had a good one and 2nd I think we already know the answer to that question -- it’s no.
In the past 38 years this man had been a beggar so he lived his life off the donations of others. If he was healed he would lose those donations. He would lose the pity of others. Today as horrible as this sounds, in some Third World countries, parents are guilty of hurting their children, crippling them, perhaps so they can earn a living begging on the streets. If this man was healed, he would then have to be responsible for himself. It would be the equivalent today of offering this to a person on welfare and saying are you willing to give up your income in order to get well? Now he would be responsible for himself.
I see people like this in our world today. Their lives are sick. Hurting. But they have never considered the fact that God might have something new for them. They’re satisfied with just getting by. I see it all the time. People hear the gospel. Maybe even excited when they first hear it-but then they realize they really don’t want to be changed-who likes change? So they leave. Before you can ever change you have to decide, do I want to be changed?
2. Once we decide we do in fact want change, then we must make a second decision. We must decide to stop making excuses. Verse seven. Notice the man avoids the question Jesus has asked him. He doesn’t say whether or not he wants to get well. Instead he just complains. Gives us a long list of his troubles. Let me ask you, has it ever occurred to you there are some people who just really enjoy complaining? They see themselves as a victim. A victim of society. A victim of their upbringing/bad parenting. They have convinced themselves that everything that happens to them is somebody else’s fault. It has to be …… I can’t be the one to blame. We can’t help but feel sorry for this man: all alone, no family we know of, lame, lonely and then he says, I have no one to help me. I can’t do anything, nobody will help me and God’s not doing anything for me either. Listen, if you decide you want to change you have to stop making excuses.