1 After this there was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 In Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate in the north city wall is a pool with the Aramaic name Bethsaida. It had five covered porches, 3 and a crowd of people who were sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed sat there. 5 A certain man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, knowing that he had already been there a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I don’t have anyone who can put me in the water when it is stirred up. When I’m trying to get to it, someone else has gotten in ahead of me.”
8 Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 Immediately the man was well, and he picked up his mat and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.
Sometimes, it’s the questions of Jesus that sometimes hit us hardest.
“Do you want to get well?”
This is the question that I try to remember to ask myself when I find myself stuck or fixated on my own complaints about my life, work, or situation. What is it that I’m really asking God to do here?
It is possible for us to so thoroughly identify with our own hurt, fear, or anxiety that we can’t see beyond it. When that happens, it’s as though we become our problems. We don’t know who we are apart from them. We can’t see our way clear to anything else.
But it’s just not true. Every one of us is more than our trauma. We’re more than our heartache. We’re more than our pain and more than our past.
One of the things about Jesus is that he never assumes he knows someone else’s need. He notices a man lying by the pool, but he does not immediately jump to the conclusion that what he needs most is healing. This isn’t ignorance on his part. Instead, it’s about trying to see the person behind the presenting “problem.” It’s a remarkable thing, actually. We typically see someone in need and assume we know what they require to “get well.” Often that means we engineer “solutions” without any regard for whether the things we’re offering are actually going to be useful.
Jesus takes a different approach. He just asks matter of factly: “Do you want to get well?” Jesus won’t decide for him; it’s up to the man to decide for himself. He’s more than his pain and he’s more than his past.
This is a model for how we as Christians help others – even how we go about seeking God’s help for ourselves. When the world around us wants to define us by our circumstances, Jesus steps back to ask the question: “What is it you that you really need?”
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Is there a challenge that feels like it’s looming large in your life right now? What does “getting well” look like for you in this moment? Is it just being free of the burden of this “problem”? Or is it actually something else?
Prayer: God, when others look at us and see only our problems, you see the possibilities for our lives. Amen.
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