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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 19: John 5:6
A curious question


Jesus asked the invalid man lying by the well “Do you want to get well?” which seems a very odd question. Wouldn’t anyone want to get well? One possible explanation is that this man is a sort of professional beggar; similar to those you can see in some cities to this day. They rely on the charity of passers-by to put enough money in their begging bowl each day to keep them going.

This man must have had somebody to put him there each morning and take him home at night, feed him and keep him reasonably tidy and respectable. He might even have belonged to a family of beggars; some of who even go to the lengths of deliberately crippling their young children to give them the necessary problems to justify their begging in later life. If Jesus heals him he will lose the source of his livelihood and need to do something to earn his living, upsetting the whole pattern of his life that has gone on for 38 years. Would he even be able to walk any distance? His muscles will be almost non-existent after all those years with minimal use. It is a serious step he is contemplating taking. If this is indeed the case it would also explain why Jesus, meeting him later, says, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The word for ‘sinning’ here is not the word for serious moral failure but one that can mean no more than miss the mark or be mistaken, which would fit in with the idea that Jesus thinks he is simply living a poor life which could be much better.

What about us? Does Jesus ever have to ask us if we want to get well? Or are we quite happy living a life at a much lower level that we are capable of? We are ‘born again’, OK, but perhaps talk of commitment makes us cringe away. Jesus said to a man, “Follow me.” But he got some poor answers; the last of which was “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

If we have set out to follow Jesus we must be prepared to follow him wherever he may lead us. There will be no question of ‘do you want to get well.’ We are committed – so we follow him. We are not told about how difficult this man found walking was; did he have a problem with his balance; did his legs feel like jelly under him; did he fall over after a very few steps; what did he say to the people, probably his family, who had supported him and expected a financial return from their work, when he got home that night and had to explain that they would not get any more money from his begging?

Following Jesus is not simply a way of getting an easy ride through life; it may well mean tough things to do, apparently insurmountable obstacles in front of us, a need to keep going, to persevere come what may; to follow his call wherever it may take us.

Keep at it. In the long term it is worth it; and even if it wasn’t he is the Lord of all and it is worth doing for his sake alone. These days we are often encouraged too much to ‘follow Jesus’ purely for the sake of the benefits it will bring us. Yes, it does bring us benefits but if he is, and was, the Creator of the world ought we not to be prepared to follow him for his sake – because of who he is – not because of anything for ourselves. Think about it!

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