We’ve all heard it said, "There’s no such thing as a dumb question."
I’m not so sure that’s really the case. I have heard some dumb questions in my 28 years so far. (For example, "Do you know you’re short?" I can’t begin to tell you how many times I heard that one growing up.)
And then I grab my Bible and read through the stories of Jesus’ life. To be honest, there are times I read the accounts of His curious interactions with people and wonder what was going through His mind when He posed questions to people.
One such story is found in the fifth chapter of John. You may have heard sermons preached on this passage. You may have even read this story yourself. Often this story is referred to as "The Healing at the Pool" or "Jesus Heals a Lame Man."
To begin with, this man was lame. And lame, in biblical times, wasn’t a way of saying he wasn’t cool. It means, in the most literal sense, this man could not walk. We discover he had been this way for 38 years. I don’t believe wheelchairs had been invented yet. That means this man was dependent on the mercy of others.
We also find out he spent most of his time lying by the pool; however, he wasn’t looking for a tan. He was hoping to be healed. And according to legend, this pool—the Pool of Bethesda—was known for its healing powers. The Bible tells us an angel would stir the waters of the pool at any random time and heal the first to enter. Every time the water was stirred, though, this lame man was pushed aside by those less lame (literally and figuratively).
But today will be different.
Jesus opened His mouth and uttered what can only seem like one of those dumb questions I referred to earlier.
"Do you want to get well?"
Talk about a dumb question—every time I read this, I wonder what in the world Jesus was thinking. Then my mind wanders to the lame man, and I put myself in his shoes—er, I mean sandals. And I can’t help but think that after laying there day in and day out, this man would have made some smart remark.
"No, Jesus, I can actually walk. My friends and family just carry me here so I can pick up the ladies. The sympathy card works wonders! … Of course I want to be healed. I can’t walk! I’ve been this way for 38 years!"
I tend to think there was more going on here than meets the eye. Given the fact that Jesus is God in the flesh and that circumstances made the answer to His question quite obvious, I can only conclude Jesus was talking about something not-so-obvious. You see, God doesn’t ask us questions because He lacks information. He’s omniscient.
Let’s try to unpack this question by looking at it in a different light. Perhaps Jesus was digging deeper and asking things like: Do you really want things to change? Are you ready to leave behind all of the excuses? Can you handle the responsibilities that will become a regular part of your life now?
Being healed changes everything. Sometimes our healing comes with a price tag. The question then becomes, Are we willing to pay the cost? Are we willing to do what it takes? Often, I wonder if we want to be healed but aren’t ready for the change that it brings.
Believe it or not, there are many people who do not want to be healed. Their ailments (physical, mental and emotional) have come to define them. They do not want divine help with their problems. They do not want to be helped out of their weakness. They are used to thriving on the sympathy and pity of others. They sometimes flee from assuming responsibility for their own lives. People will openly turn their backs on the deliverance offered them, all because of the responsibility that will come with it.
Maybe putting this into everyday scenarios makes this easier to grasp:
"Do you really want the responsibility of a promotion, or is it more comfortable to complain about your current workload and money?"
"Are you ready for the sacrifice of being in community or starting a relationship, or are you used to the self-pity of being alone?"
"Do you really want to forgive that person and move on, or is it easier to distance yourself from the pain they once caused you?"
"Are you willing to change your lifestyle habits, or will it take too much energy to quit your unhealthy routines?"
As Jesus points out in a roundabout way, you cannot help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. So, the question remains: "Do you want to be healed?"
Jordan Davis is an aspiring writer, aspiring preacher and aspiring pastor. Every day, he is trying to figure out what it means to follow in the footsteps of an itinerant Rabbi.