In the past when I have read John 5 I have puzzled over Jesus’ question to the man by the pool. At different times it has seemed insensitive, harsh, weird, strange – of course the guy wanted to get well. However…
Based on the foundation of the observations yesterday, I took another look at Jesus’ response. I am going to go through this phrase by phrase. There is a lot more going on here than I have previously seen. Here is the passage the way I have approached it:
5:6a When Jesus saw him lying there, and
5:6b knew that he had already been a long time in that condition,
5:6c He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?”
When is a temporal connector. Structurally, John is telling us of a specific event in time. We have no data as to why Jesus was at the pool, there is some indication later in the chapter that His Father had directed Him to go there. What we do know is that Jesus sees the man lying there. Seeing can have more than one meaning. It can be visual or it can refer to someone’s understanding. Which is in play here? The next phrase seems to answer that question.
How did Christ know? We are not told. There are at least two possibilities. First, someone told Him. Or, like with Nathaniel, John 1:48, and with those who challenged Him nonverbally, or those who were responding to His signs, John 2:23 – 25, He knew what was in them. It seems that for Jesus, seeing and knowing were joined here. He immediately knew the man’s condition and how long he had been afflicted. What we do know from verse 7, is that the man is immobile. We do not know how he got to the pool each day.
Now, the question. Because of the sparse detail in the passage, excluding the scribal annotation, this question is the focus of these first verses. The Greek is literally, “Do you wish well to become?” The word order places emphasis on well. I stated earlier that I have always found this question odd, especially since Jesus knew the man’s condition as well as it is indicated in the text. As I thought through this light slowly began to dawn. There are those whose identity is defined by their ailment. I have __________. Fill in the blank with whatever disease or physical limitation. Christ is essentially asking the man, “Do you want to give up what has been your defining characteristic?” For us, our defining characteristic is sin and rebellion. So that question is not as strange either for the man or us. Will we give up what is the driving passion of our lives? Will we accept what Jesus offers? Encased in this question we find the essence of the gospel.
This is validated by the man’s answer. I will unwrap that tomorrow.
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