In this story, we are introduced to a man who has been sick for thirty-eight years. For some of us, that is an unfathomable amount of time. For others of us, that is the reality we currently live in. Many of us live in chronic pain or have dealt with long-term illness. So for those who know this man’s reality, it is easy to place yourself within the story. On the other hand, for those of us who don’t have this lived experience, I would encourage you to (in an admittedly imperfect way) place yourself in this man’s situation.
Jesus walks up to you and asks, “Do you want to be healed?” The answer is obviously yes, but it is understandable why we would respond, like this man, in a way that suggests what Jesus offers is impossible. The man interprets Jesus’ question through the lens of what he sees as possible and therefore can only respond with pessimism. Jesus responds to this man’s pessimism with three imperatives: get up, take up your bed, and walk. The man is immediately made well.
After this story, John tells us that the people reject Jesus on account of this miracle. Their complaint is that Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath. But in reality, what is off-putting to the Jews is that this healing miracle challenges conventional ways of thinking about how the world is ordered and gives concrete embodiment to new possibilities. To put it plainly, this sort of healing is an affront to our logical, realistic brains. It just doesn’t make sense. But what we need to realize is that what Jesus offers is not what is always the most logical or realistic to us but something more. So I ask again, do you want to be healed?