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Do You Wish to be Well?
After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up
to Jerusalem.  Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which
is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes.  In these lay a
multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for
the moving of the waters;  for an angel of the Lord went down at certain
seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after
the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease
with which he was afflicted.]  And a certain man was there, who had
been thirty-eight years in his sickness.  When Jesus saw him lying there,
and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said
to him, "Do you wish to get well?"  The sick man answered Him, "Sir,
I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but
while I am coming, another steps down before me."  Jesus said to him,
"Arise, take up your pallet, and walk."  And immediately the man became
well, and took up his pallet and began to walk.
Now it was the Sabbath on that day.  Therefore the Jews were saying
to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for
you to carry your pallet."
For thirty-eight long years this man laid on his pallet beside the pool
of Bethesda and waited. Thirty-eight years. That's a long time. Most of
our congregation isn't even thirty-eight long years old.
How long is thirty-eight years? Well, Cy Young award winner and MVP
Roger Clemens was born thirty-eight years ago this month. That's the same
month that Jamaica gained independence from Britain and the Beach Boys
released "Surfin' Safari." Ringo Starr got a job thirty-eight years ago
on August 17, with the Beatles and the next day Peter, Paul & Mary
released their 1st hit "If I Had a Hammer." It was on August 5, 1962, thirty-eight
years ago that Marilyn Monroe was found dead of apparent self-inflicted
Thirty-eight years ago, yesterday, Minnesota Twins Jack Kralick threw
a no-hitter against the A's, but then they were the Kansas City A's, not
the Oakland A's. And thirty-eight years ago today, I turned 3 years old.
Thirty-eight years is a long time. (http://www.scopesys.com/cgi/anyyear.cgi)
How long is thirty-eight years? Another way to answer the question is,
"I guess it matters what you are doing." We know that every day has twenty-four
hours in it and that every hour has sixty minutes and every minute has
sixty seconds, but I'm also convinced that time doesn't always pass at
the same rate.
Why is Christmas Eve 2 weeks long to most kids? December 25th only takes
a second, but December 24th takes forever. Why does fifteen minutes fly
when you hit the snooze button but drag on and on when you're waiting in
line at the cash register? Why is that? Is it the same reason 9 to 5 takes
all day long during the week, but disappears in an instant over the weekend?
Do you get my point?
Thirty-eight years is a long time to wait for anything, but it must
have seemed like an eternity to this man. How long is thirty-eight years?
Long enough that most people would stop believing.
In our text, Jesus comes to Jerusalem to celebrate a Jewish feast when
he spotted this man laying by the pool of Bethesda. The later part of verse
3 and all of verse 4 explain why he was laying there. These verses are
not in the oldest manuscripts which leads most scholars to conclude that
a scribe added them as an explanation as to why he was there. He laid there
because people believed the water had healing power when it stirred. When
Jesus saw him, he asked him a question, "Do you wish to get well?"
Is that a question that Jesus even needed to ask? Certainly the man
wanted to be well, didn't he? He'd waited in the same place for thirty-eight
years, why else would he be there?
Let me ask the question another way, and if you don't mind, I'll get
a little personal. Do you wish to stop repeating the same mistakes and
going through the same cycles in your relationships, or does it feel safer
to blame others instead of dealing with your issues? Do you wish to get
rid of your anger, or would you just as soon keep it?
I don't know where you come down on the "Did O. J. do it" question,
but I have no doubt what Fred Goldman, Ron Goldman's father thinks. In
his book "His Name is Ron: Our
Search for Justice," Goldman writes that he has fantasies about
killing O. J. (Fresh Illustrations, http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
I feel terrible for him that he lost his son, and even worse for him
knowing the anger he carries toward O. J. If something that bad happened
to you, would you want to be well? Or would you savor the thought of vengeance.
The truth is, I'd probably be the same way. It would take a miracle for
me not to.
Do you believe in the miraculous? Do you believe Jesus can bring about
the change you so desperately need? In his book How
People Change Allen Wheelis states that true conversions are rare.
The Apostle Paul, according to Wheelis was an exception. Basically, his
book said, the way to master one's own destiny is to understand the past
so that one can understand the present, and thus mold one's own future.
Insight, according to Whellis is the key to positive change.
How sad. This man knew his past. He had been sick for thirty-eight years.
He knew his present he was still sick improved insight wasn't going to
help. He needed a miracle.
Jesus asked him, "Do you wish to get well?" What did the man say? "Sir,
I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but
while I am coming, another steps down before me."
Look at verse seven closely. Did he answer Jesus' question? I don't
think so. Instead of saying yes or no, he said no one will help me. Maybe
he was right. Maybe those around him didn't care if he got well or not.
Look at verse 10 for the response of the Jews when he was healed. 
Therefore the Jews were saying to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath,
and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet." Maybe the man
was right. Maybe no one cared if he was healed or not.
That leads me to ask a variation on Jesus' question. Do you want your
loved one to be well?
We all became familiar with the term "co-dependance" in the 1980's.
There are instances of the wife of a sober alcoholic buying liquor for
her husband so he will start drinking again. She becomes uncomfortable
with the change, even when it is a positive one.
Is it possible for a care giver to stand in the way of a miracle? You
know, a spiritual version of Munchausen by Proxy disease. You may have
heard of it. It is defined as: "a dangerous form of maltreatment in which
caretakers exaggerate, fabricate, and/or induce physical and/or psychological-behavioral
symptoms and/or illness in others. The primary purpose of this behavior
is to gain attention, including some form of internal gratification, for
Whether anyone was co-dependant with this man or suffering from spiritual
Munchausen by Proxy, we don't know, but the fact remains that for thirty-eight
years he laid beside the pool and no one helped him.
Then Jesus said, "Arise, take up your pallet, and walk." He didn't say,
come to grips with your past and make a new future for yourself. He said,
"Arise, take up your pallet, and walk." There comes a point where you've
got to forget about the past. Stop suffering from the paralysis of analysis,
forget about blaming others for not helping you and accept the miracle
This man did. "And immediately," the scripture says, "the man became
well, and took up his pallet and began to walk." (John 5:9) So I ask you
again, "Do you wish to be well?"