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I know that Jesus is brilliant and kind and gracious. Clearly he knows what he is doing and does what he does in love and wisdom. But at first read, sometimes the questions he asks strike me as, well, pretty crazy!

One of those seemingly crazy questions comes in John 5, when Jesus travels to the pool of Bethesda in the city of Jerusalem (John 5:1-9; you might want to read the account before continuing).

This particular pool was considered to have healing properties–at least when the waters were “stirred.” It was thought that an angel agitated the waters from time to time and the first to enter those moving waters would be healed. So, as you can imagine, the area around the pool was littered with the sick, the diseased, the deformed, the needy. All were waiting for the stirring of the water. Those who were blind would have had to have someone watching with them. The lame or the bed-ridden would have to have others ready to push them in when the water was stirred. A chaotic, crazy, desperate picture.

Jesus walks into that scene and approaches one lame man who had been crippled for thirty-eight years and had been lying there, in that condition, for a long time (John 5:5-6). And Jesus asks him a question:

“Do you wish to get well?” (John 5:6)

I can almost hear the man’s eyes roll around in his head as he stares incredulously at Jesus. “No, I’m just really happy to be lying here crippled among all these diseased and deformed people! I’ve grown so accustomed to the stench that I can’t imagine waking without the aroma of decaying flesh filling the air!” Now, the man doesn’t respond quite that way (although I might have).

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.” (John 5:7)

Why would Jesus ask this man that particular question? Does it not, on the surface, appear to be a foolish, silly question? Why would the lame man be there unless he really wanted to be made whole?

And I begin to think. Sometimes we can get so accustomed to our particular “affliction” that we find ourselves defined by that. We see ourselves in a particular light based on what we have struggled with or are struggling through. And to be healed or delivered or set free would really radically change our lives.

The lame man would no longer be able to think of himself the same way if he got up and walked. No freedom to beg from others. No longer on the receiving end of almsgiving. His days would change. Those who cared for him might turn to others. He would have to find work. So it is a legitimate question: Do you really want to get well?

I think that is the kind of question Jesus asks all of us at various times in our journey with him. We find ourselves angry or frustrated with a particular situation. We are unhappy with how things are playing out. We want someone to help us but there doesn’t seem to be anyone there to “put us into the pool.” We can grow content with the discontentment, subtly enjoying the pity and the comfort others extend to us when they see our distress. And Jesus comes and asks, “Do you want to get well? Would you like to be healed? Can I change your life?”

That is a scary, challenging, eye-opening, life-shaping question. Am I really interested in having Jesus step into my brokenness and lameness and bring health and healing and wholeness? If does that, I won’t be able to just lie around, spiritually speaking, any longer. I would have to get up and get on with this journey with him.

Can you hear him asking?

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