“Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6b)
Jesus asks a man who sat paralyzed for 38 years, “Do you want to be healed?” The answer to the healer’s question ought to be obvious to anyone, especially a person who has been afflicted and confined by paralysis. Don’t we all want to be healed? As in the case in other healing stories, Jesus’ approach is neither demanding nor coercive, but open-ended in nature. He invites the paralyzed man to reflect on his own life situation and deepest desires. Jesus respects the man’s freedom to choose his future even as he presents him with a vision of personal transformation.
With no one there to prompt the man to take advantage of this window of opportunity, he tells the healer the reason why he hasn’t been healed. This prompts the question as to whether he wants an explanation into his condition or to be healed immediately. There are times when analysis is a way of avoiding action or taking a stand to change our lives. We can live with illness of mind, body, spirit, or relationships so long as we cannot imagine an alternative. We are paralyzed by habitual behaviors. Our identity is so connected to a particular behavior or illness that we wonder who we would be if we allowed ourselves to be healed. This story should serve as a reminder that when the possibility of healing comes our way, we must say, “yes.”
Another aspect of today’s gospel is that for 38 years, this man lived at the pool called Bethesda. He assumed that this was the only place where healing could be found. He believed that being dipped in the pool was the only avenue to receive the benefit of healing. In focusing his attention on only one form of healing, the paralytic may have missed countless healing opportunities over the years.
This healing narrative affirms a divine-human partnership in the healing process. When Jesus tells the man to stand up, he courageously comes to his feet. He could have stumbled and fallen on his face, but he stands up — first on the inside, by trusting God; then by taking action, regardless of the risk of failure and embarrassment.
While Psalm 67 may be classified among the doxological psalms of orientation, its invocation is consistent with the recognition of sickness and suffering in the world. Our quest for healing and justice would be folly unless the same force that brings healing to bruises and limbs of the body is equally at work in search of emotional, relational, economic, and political healing.
Look It Up
The Book of Common Prayer contains a liturgy for healing beginning on page 453.
Think About It
Is God calling creation “to take up its mat and walk” — to experience the healing promise of God’s new age?