Last week we saw that a man with leprosy approached Jesus and begged for help (Mark 1:40-45). Basically the leper was asking Jesus, "Are you willing to help me?" And our take away was, "Yes!" Jesus is willing, more than willing to bring help and healing. In fact, that is why Jesus was sent. This week in John 5:1-15, Jesus is the one asking, "Are you willing to be helped?"
John 5 tells us the story of an invalid lying by a pool that is known for its healing powers. When Jesus comes across the man, He learns that the man has been there for 38 years. Then Jesus asks him an interesting, question (John 5:6), "Do you want to get well?"
In some senses, this could be a cruel statement or a cynical judgmental remark. And maybe the invalid takes it this way. Because instead of saying "Yes! Please help me!" he gives an excuse. "I have no one to help me..."
But in Jesus there is power and hope and help. He is the One who has come to help him. "Then Jesus said to him, 'Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.' At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked."
Before we get too hasty and think that the application is that we need to be willing to stop lying around and "get up!" we need to look at the rest of the story. "The day on which this took place was a Sabbath...So because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him." (John 5:9,16)
The religious leaders had taken the good law of Sabbath and turned it into a bunch of rules and regulations. They made a list of 39 tasks that were prohibited on the Sabbath and carrying an object from one place to another was a violation. Instead of rejoicing in the miracle of healing, they condemned the invalid for violating a man-made rule.
If you think about it, Jesus could have come on any day to heal this man. But He chose the Sabbath and Jesus told the man to pick up his mat and walk, knowing that it would get the attention of the religious leaders. In John 5:18 we see why the religious leaders had such a problem with Jesus: "For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God."
That is also why the application of this passage is not "Get up and walk!" as if the effort is on you to try harder, do better or be more motivated. We must remember that it is the power of the Word of Christ that enables the man to walk, not Jesus' encouragement for the man to get up on his own power.
We are all like the invalid - helpless to overcome our sin, with no one who can truly help us. In His grace and mercy Christ comes to us and says, "Do you want to get well?" Are you willing to receive the help and hope that only belief in Christ can offer?
This is the first and most important invitation of Christ. But then Christ calls us to continue standing in Him and walking with Him. Our human nature compels us to lie down by the pool again. But this is where we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit to continue growing in Christ and being proactive about our faith.
However, if this becomes a matter of willpower or discipline, we will either fail or become proud. Just as Christ's command enables the invalid to stand up, it will be the Holy Spirit of God that enables us to keep walking with Christ.
Are you willing?