About the time I came across the question, “Do you want to get well?” in James 5, and discovered my unexpected answer, the following article on the topic came to my attention.
Do You Wish to Get Well? By Kay Arthur
“Do you wish to get well?” It seems like a rather foolish question on the surface! At first you think, “Who wouldn’t wish to get well?”
I ask these questions, and my mind races to a man sitting at one of the gates surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem. As I recently came out of the Old City into the noise of the lumbering buses jammed to the doors wit Arabs and to the honking of irate, impassioned cab drivers, as I felt the bright sunshine which had been shielded by the walled, crowded, narrow streets of the Old City, a man sitting on the ground caught my attention. He was happily conversing with the other beggars until a foreign tourist came by. At that point, all conversation ceased, and a hand was lifted as dark eyes silently pled for alms. The other hand pulled up a pant leg to make sure the already exposed ulcer – bright pink, glazed over the purulent patches glistening in the sun – was not missed.
My nurse’s heart brought my feet to a halt. I wanted to bend down and shield the open wound from the dust sent flying by the traffic scurrying through the gate. His leg needed tending. It should be washed, medicated, and dressed by someone who cared. Why, unattended, it would only eat away until it reached his bone, and then he could lose his leg!
Arrested by his plight, I stopped to gaze at his leg and look into the darkness of his eyes, until my friend gently took my by my elbow and propelled me toward our destination. I was a tourist and did not know about these things, She then proceeded to tell me hat this man did not wish to be made well. He made his living from his wound. No need to confront the complexities of responsibility as a citizen of Israel when one could merely sit down in the dust and dirt of Jerusalem and receive pity along with a few shekels.
My wounded beggar could have been healed. The hospital doors were open to him and medicine was available, but he did now wish to get well. As I looked back in curious fascination, I caught one last glimpse of someone less than what he could have been.
The man in John 5 had been sick for 38 years. We do not know how long he had been lying beside the pool of Bethesda. All we know is that when Jesus passed by and asked him if he wished to be make well, he had to make a choice. Either he could continue in his normal habit of life, or he could relinquish it for healing. Suppose, Beloved, Jesus asked you if you wanted to be make well – emotionally, physical, spiritually? What would you answer?
I was thirty-eight years old and had to come to grips that I was the beggar with the festering ulcers; although my wounds were not visible, they were real. And Jesus wanted to heal them. There was a choice to make – an opportunity for me to change my answer.
Yet, I was still hesitant.
The man in the story did not want to get well. He made that choice daily. As appalling as I found this, it was impossible for me not to make the correlation between the man in the story and my own circumstances.
God clearly had my attention. The next question was, “What now?” That question made me feel even more uncomfortable. God was clearly challenging me.