Summary: Jesus expects us to exercize our faith.
Do You Wish to be Well?
After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes.  In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters;  for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]  And a certain man was there, who had been thirty-eight years in his sickness.  When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, "Do you wish to get well?"  The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me."  Jesus said to him, "Arise, take up your pallet, and walk."  And immediately the man became well, and took up his pallet and began to walk.
Now it was the Sabbath on that day.  Therefore the Jews were saying to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet."
For thirty-eight long years this man laid on his pallet beside the pool of Bethesda and waited. Thirty-eight years. That's a long time. Most of our congregation isn't even thirty-eight long years old.
How long is thirty-eight years? Well, Cy Young award winner and MVP Roger Clemens was born thirty-eight years ago this month. That's the same month that Jamaica gained independence from Britain and the Beach Boys released "Surfin' Safari." Ringo Starr got a job thirty-eight years ago on August 17, with the Beatles and the next day Peter, Paul & Mary released their 1st hit "If I Had a Hammer." It was on August 5, 1962, thirty-eight years ago that Marilyn Monroe was found dead of apparent self-inflicted drug overdose.
Thirty-eight years ago, yesterday, Minnesota Twins Jack Kralick threw a no-hitter against the A's, but then they were the Kansas City A's, not the Oakland A's. And thirty-eight years ago today, I turned 3 years old. Thirty-eight years is a long time. (http://www.scopesys.com/cgi/anyyear.cgi)
How long is thirty-eight years? Another way to answer the question is, "I guess it matters what you are doing." We know that every day has twenty-four hours in it and that every hour has sixty minutes and every minute has sixty seconds, but I'm also convinced that time doesn't always pass at the same rate.
Why is Christmas Eve 2 weeks long to most kids? December 25th only takes a second, but December 24th takes forever. Why does fifteen minutes fly when you hit the snooze button but drag on and on when you're waiting in line at the cash register? Why is that? Is it the same reason 9 to 5 takes all day long during the week, but disappears in an instant over the weekend?
Do you get my point?
Thirty-eight years is a long time to wait for anything, but it must have seemed like an eternity to this man. How long is thirty-eight years? Long enough that most people would stop believing.
In our text, Jesus comes to Jerusalem to celebrate a Jewish feast when he spotted this man laying by the pool of Bethesda. The later part of verse 3 and all of verse 4 explain why he was laying there. These verses are not in the oldest manuscripts which leads most scholars to conclude that a scribe added them as an explanation as to why he was there. He laid there because people believed the water had healing power when it stirred. When Jesus saw him, he asked him a question, "Do you wish to get well?"
Is that a question that Jesus even needed to ask? Certainly the man wanted to be well, didn't he? He'd waited in the same place for thirty-eight years, why else would he be there?
Let me ask the question another way, and if you don't mind, I'll get a little personal. Do you wish to stop repeating the same mistakes and going through the same cycles in your relationships, or does it feel safer to blame others instead of dealing with your issues? Do you wish to get rid of your anger, or would you just as soon keep it?
I don't know where you come down on the "Did O. J. do it" question, but I have no doubt what Fred Goldman, Ron Goldman's father thinks. In his book "His Name is Ron: Our Search for Justice," Goldman writes that he has fantasies about killing O. J. (Fresh Illustrations, http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)