John 5:1-18

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”

So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Why does the man in our gospel not say yes when Jesus asks him if he wants to be healed? Maybe he doesn’t know who Jesus is? Perhaps he can’t imagine an existence different from the one he has been in for so long – showing up every day to this pool hoping to be the first one in when the waters are disturbed so that he can be healed? Perhaps being made whole meant having to show up for his life in a whole different way which he is not quite ready for – at least not this second? Perhaps he needed a moment? Jesus doesn’t wait for a yes. He tells the man to take up and walk and he is healed.

How do we respond when asked if we want to be made well? I’d like to think we would all give a resounding yes, but I know it can be more complicated. Sometimes the way towards healing is scary – an operation or a treatment plan that will be hard. We are afraid of change that takes us out of misery because at least the misery is known. Sometimes being whole means we no longer have an excuse not to fully show up to our lives and live as God asks us to.

I was heartened by the words of Debie Thomas about this passage in Journey with Jesus. She writes, “Jesus’s desires for me aren’t murky and two-sided like mine are. He wants me to be made well. Period. He wants me to walk again. To thrive again. To live again. He wants to deliver me from the paralysis of my past, my baggage, my fear, my laziness.”

Whatever our response is to the question of wanting to be made well, know that Jesus wants us to be well even if we are hesitant, scared, unsure or not ready at this particular moment. Know that Jesus will keep showing up and inviting us into wholeness. Imagine Jesus holding out his arms to you longing to heal you. And now imagine walking forward into Jesus’ arms saying, Yes, Lord. Heal me.


Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.


The Rev. Canon Anne-Marie Jeffery

Canon for Congregational Vitality