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Do You Want to Get Well?

The Gospel of John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  33:52
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I hate being sick. Don’t you?
I don’t handle it well, usually. You might be like me where you have this pattern—when you first start to feel bad, you try to ignore it. I just didn’t sleep well, or it’s the weather or allergies or something, but I’m fine.
Once I finally acknowledge it, though, there is a dramatic switch. I will take whatever you can give me to get over it quicker. I will keep checking the clock to see if it has been four hours since I took my last Dayquil and I am ready to pop another one. I want this over and done with, and I want to get on with my life now.
I imagine most of us are this way. We don’t like being sick, and we want to get better as quick as possible.
That’s what makes the encounter we are going to look at so unique this morning.
In John 5, Jesus encounters a man who has been paralyzed for 38 years, and he asks him something that seems like a ridiculous question: “Do you want to get well?”
He’s been paralyzed for 38 years! That’s as long as I have been alive. Of course he wants to get well, right?
As we look at this question more deeply this morning, I hope you will see that it is not ridiculous at all.
In fact, it is a question that you and I need to answer as well—do we really want to get well?
As we wrestle with that question, we are going to be confronted with another question: do I want others to get well?
We are also going to see the Jewish leaders react to this man’s healing in a way that seems cold and calloused, but if we are not careful, may be the same kind of reaction we have.
Before we answer those questions, though, let’s pull back a second and talk about the main point of what Jesus is doing and what John is accomplishing in recording these events.
Jesus is about to heal this man, and he is going to do it on the Sabbath day.
For the Jews, healing the man on the Sabbath was considered work, so they think Jesus is violating the command to not work on the Sabbath. They also get mad at the man who was healed, because he was carrying the mat he had been lying on for all those years—in their minds, that was work as well.
When you read all of chapter 5, you see that Jesus is creating a moment to teach the Jewish leaders that he has authority, not only over disease and disability, but also over the Sabbath. In fact, in verses 17-18, we see that he is establishing that he is equal with God the Father, which then makes him God as well.
We are only going to cover the first 16 verses, but we will read the rest of chapter 5 in November as we go through our reading plan together.
We are also going to pick up other passages along the way where John talks about Jesus’ relationship to the Father.
So, now that we understand the context, let’s dive into the story itself and see where these two questions come from. Along the way, I want you to keep coming back to them: “Do I want to get well,” and “Do I want others to get well?”
Let’s read the passage, and I will make a few observations along the way. Start with me in verse 1-9; 14-16
Jesus is in Jerusalem again for a festival. Those celebrations would take place at the Temple, but Jesus is instead in a place filled with people who are blind, lame, and paralyzed.
If you notice, the CSB does not include verse 4 in the text. If you look at the footnotes, you will see it there with a note that says “Some mss include vv.3b-4...
What does that mean? Without getting into too deep of a discussion, the earliest manuscripts don’t have those verses in them. They don’t show up until after 400AD. That means they may not have been in the original text. They may have been where a scribe wrote a note to explain what the man was referring to in verse 7, and then someone copying it thought it was part of the text and put it in there.
The Bible doesn’t ever describe anything like what verse 4 contained, so it may have just been a superstitious belief that people there held.
Pick back up in verse 5-9
Jump down to verses 14-16...
With all of this in mind, let’s look closer at this man and the question Jesus asked:

1) Do you want to get well?

Go back to verses 5-6
At first glance, this question sounds absurd, doesn’t it?
The man has been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. Like I said, that’s how old I am—thirty eight years ago was 1983. How many of you were alive in 1983? You might remember:
That was the year Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.
That was the year the US invaded Grenada
Fraggle Rock debuted on TV and the final episode of MASH aired
The first Mario Bros. game was released in Japan.
Ronald Reagan was president, and the average income per year was $21,070 [1]
That’s how long this man had been sick.
So why does Jesus ask if he wants to get well?
Maybe he knows more about this man’s heart than we do—in fact, maybe he knows all of our hearts better than we do.
Have you ever heard of something called “illness identity?” I bet you will at least recognize it, even if you haven’t heard the term.
Researchers have coined the term “illness identity” to describe how much a person’s illness has impacted their identity. In its least healthy stage, the illness engulfs a person so that they define their entire existence in terms of their illness. [2]
Have you ever known someone like this? Their struggle with a disability or disease becomes a consuming part of their life. When you face a serious condition, it makes sense—suddenly, everything is brought into question, and depending on the severity, the disease or disorder can impact every area of a person’s life.
Unfortunately, we sometimes have a hard time getting past this. It begins to define who I am as a person.
When that happens, you have to answer the question: do I really want to get well?
Sometimes, we don’t know who we would be without the disease or disability anymore.
This doesn’t just happen with physical illness, by the way. The same can happen with mental health issues, especially when they stem from trauma.
For years, you have been defined by the thing that happened to you. You have built barriers around your heart to make sure it never happens again.
You wake up angry or afraid or numb, and you can’t imagine what it would be like not to have that any more.
You have always been an anxious person, or always been depressed—it’s just who you are.
Do you want to get well?
Maybe for you, though, it isn’t something mental or physical; it’s spiritual.
You have a sin issue that you have fallen into time and time again, and you know it is wrong. How serious are you about becoming well?
Are you serious about breaking your habit of lying or pride or pornography or laziness or critical speaking?
What is the thing about which you say, “Well, I know I should do better, but...”?
Remember what the Bible says about our hearts—we are all sick!
Jeremiah 17:9–10 CSB
The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it? I, the Lord, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.
You and I lie to ourselves and don’t realize that just how sick we are.
However, God knows, and he is looking at you asking this question: do you want to get well?
"Sean, I can’t. I am too far gone; God can’t still care.”
Listen, that’s why Jesus came!
Luke 5:30–32 CSB
But the Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus replied to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a doctor, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
He came to save people from their ultimate sickness—the sickness in our hearts that leads them away from God and toward trying to fix things on our own.
This man’s paralysis led him to utter and understandable despair. Did you see how he responded to Jesus? Look back at verse 7...
He doesn’t answer the question, because in his mind, it is impossible. He is a paralytic, and he is alone, and he will always be that.
Do you want to get well? I don’t even think I can get well. It’s impossible; there is no hope.
Are you willing to trust that Jesus can work to help you become well?
Don’t get me wrong—I cannot and will not promise that Jesus will instantly heal every trauma or disease.
I wish that he always heals our hurts like he did with this man that day, but he doesn’t. In fact, nothing in the text tells us he did anything for the other people who were blind, lame, and paralyzed that day.
However, I can tell you this: you will never find true, lasting healing apart from him.
Just like you can’t find satisfaction, you won’t find true health apart from him.
Turning to Christ is the first step in moving toward wholeness, however you define you identity.
This account of Jesus’ healing is a little different than others.
Unlike some other healings we read about in the gospels, the man didn’t put saving faith in Jesus at the moment of salvation. In fact, he didn’t even know who Jesus was. Pick up with me in verses 9b-13.
In the midst of the chaos, Jesus had slipped away into the crowd.
He catches back up with him in verse 14, though. His words are challenging.
What does it mean when he says, “so that something worse doesn’t happen to you?” Is this some kind of veiled threat? Does this mean that the man was paralyzed because of his sin, and so if he keeps sinning, he is going to become paralyzed and maybe blind or deaf this next time?
No; the “something worse” that Jesus references is something much, much worse than anything physical.
It is an eternity separated from the comforting presence of God—away from all his blessings and all his mercy.
In light of that, 38 years as a paralyzed beggar can’t compare.
Jesus had healed him physically, but he hadn’t healed the man’s spirit.
Which healing would you rather have? Apart from Christ, your soul is sick, and only Jesus can make that well.
Do you want to get well? To become truly whole?
Then get up, pick up your mat, and walk.
Let me ask you: was the man able to do that on his own? Not at all.
However, as he obeyed what Jesus told him to do, he found that God strengthened his legs and made it possible.
In a similar way, you and I cannot make ourselves well. We can’t just walk away from an addiction; we’ll just trade it for something else. We can’t just switch our identity away from being defined by our illness or our trauma, but the incredible thing is that, through the strength God supplies, we can do exactly that.
The Bible says we are slaves to sin apart from Jesus, but he died in our place and rose from the dead so we could have new life. He broke the power of sin, and he can free us from it.
You and I may battle temptation toward any number of areas, and that may never go away, and we may need additional help and even medication to help with physical and mental illness.
However, as we do, we can find a wholeness in Christ that goes deeper than our struggle with sin and illness.
We don’t have to let it define us anymore, because we can root and ground ourselves in who Jesus is and what he has accomplished and who he says we are.
For some, healing may come instantly. For others, this morning could be the first step in putting these things right. It may involve counseling or a support group or a conversation with a doctor.
If you aren’t sure where to start, I want you to talk with Bret Nicholson. Bret is studying to become a licensed Christian counselor, and he has also been through a course that equips him to help you get started on the path to health.
Are you willing, this morning, right here, to say to Jesus, “I don’t want to be sick anymore. I want you to heal me, and I want to pick up my mat and walk?”
What does that look like?
For you, picking up your mat may be installing accountability software on your phone and getting a close friend to ask you difficult questions. It may be you need to sit down and study God’s Word to see how he defines you, not how you have been defining you.
It may take work on your part! In writing to the believers at Colossae, Paul said:
Colossians 3:5 CSB
Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.
If it is sin, you need to put it to death, which you can only do through a relationship with Christ!
Today, take the first step: trust Christ, and pick up your mat.
There is one more question I want to ask us out of this passage, just briefly this morning:

2) Do you want others to get well?

Let’s assume for a minute that there isn’t anything you can think of that you need Jesus to heal you from. You are saved, you are walking with Christ, you aren’t aware of any sinful habits that need addressing.
Could it be, then, that in this passage, you are like the Jewish leaders?
Read verses 9-13 again...
Here was a man whose life had been miraculously transformed by God in the flesh, and what were they worried about?
He was breaking the rules they had put in place.
Don’t get me wrong—the Bible commanded the Jews not to do work on the Sabbath day. However, they were the ones who had defined what “work” was, and they had defined it so narrowly that this man was working and violating the Sabbath.
In fact, Jesus violated it too by healing on the Sabbath, which is what this account is showing—Jesus had authority over the Sabbath, not the religious leaders.
They were so caught up in what they thought was supposed to happen that they missed a chance to rejoice in a miracle God did.
In fact, Jesus later calls these leaders out for their hypocrisy:
Matthew 23:13 CSB
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.
They aren’t really right with God, and the rules they have put in place are doing their best to keep people out of the Kingdom of God!
That is a harsh condemnation, isn’t it?
So, let me ask you: What do you care about so much that you miss what Jesus is doing?
We had already seen that the lame man almost missed what God could do because he was so defined by his situation—he was alone and helpless in his mind, so he almost missed the healing Jesus offered.
However, the Jews missed it because of a judgmental attitude towards others.
They cared more about their ideas and systems than they cared about people getting healed and right with God.
We can do the exact same thing:
How do you respond when you hear that people are getting saved through the ministry of another church in town? Does it sting to hear that, especially if that other church doesn’t act like we do on everything?
How would you react if all of a sudden the church was filled with a different kind of people—people older than you, or people younger than you, or richer, or poorer, or a different color than you?
What if it was the type of person you usually avoid?
What if God saved someone who was actually one of the people who has hurt you in the past?
What about someone you envy because they have sinned openly for years and now they claim to be following Christ?
How would you react to those situations? Would you rejoice that God is healing people’s souls through whatever means necessary, or would you be upset because they don’t look like you or talk like you or sing the same songs you do or participate in this ministry or that ministry?
What do you care so much about that you would miss the miracle of someone getting saved because you are too worried about it?
If you can identify something, that is a great place to start with Jesus this morning. Ask him to heal you of your prejudice, your pride, your preferences that you hold to tightly.
That needs to be prayer for all of us to pray: God, root out anything in me that would stand in the way of rejoicing when people come to you.
Do you want to be get well yourself? If you have been made well, do you really want people to get well who might mess things up in your mind?
How do you need to respond?
Endnotes:
[1] https://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1983.html. Accessed 21 October 2021.
[2] Illness Identity: A Novel Predictor for Healthcare Use in Adults With Congenital Heart Disease | Journal of the American Heart Association. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.118.008723. Accessed 21 October 2021.
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