1 John 1
“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?’” —John 5:6
During one of the Jewish festivals where multitudes of people are worshipping at the Temple, prostrating themselves before God
and observing all the Old Testament commands about animal sacrifice, Jesus—who is co-equal with God and arguably the One who this festival was all for—was not found at the Temple. He was actually off in a part of Jerusalem where very few worshippers would go, in a place where all the disabled, the discarded and the dejected were.
John records, “Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralysed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years” (John 5:3, 5). While everybody else is worshipping and prostrating themselves, Jesus was locked in on one individual out of a crowd of thousands. What was Jesus trying to call our attention to here?
Jesus asked the invalid man a very curious question: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). To someone who had been afflicted for 38 years, it seemed like a jarring question because the natural response would be “Yes! Of course, I do!” But the words that John used to describe this man were carefully chosen because he was trying to call our attention to something else happening under the surface of the story. Instead of lame or paralyzed, John described the man using “invalid.” To call someone “invalid” is to say that they are unimportant or do not matter to anybody. The Greek term is astheneia, which can mean physical weakness, want of strength, feebleness, a bodily illness or a state of ill health as well as metaphorically speaking to a moral and spiritual condition of suffering, affliction, distress, calamity.
Jesus approached a man who did not have physical paralysis but was paralyzed by something under the surface of his life. Maybe this man had become comfortable with his condition and his place in life. Maybe he had suffered so long that the pain, the suffering and the trauma had actually become his identity. Maybe he had lost all hope, thinking he was beyond God’s grace. In any event, Jesus asked him a very pointed question: “Do you want to get well?” It is a good question to ask because some people do not actually want to get well. Some people want to hold on to their trauma, their anger and their unforgiveness that has come to characterize their life.
If we are like the invalid man—exhausted, hopeless and struggling to believe that things can be different—know that just as Jesus saw this man in the multitude of people, He sees us.
Dear Jesus, it gives me comfort to know that You see and know the troubles that I am going through. I am not alone. Thank You, Lord.