Do you want to be healed or do you want to be whole?
Jesus asked the crippled man as he was lying there,
“Would you like to get well?” John 5:6 NLT
After 38 years of being lame, of course the man wanted to get well. Who wouldn’t?
A bigger question
After I read the story, I wondered if Jesus was asking the man a bigger question—more than being well. The lame man was only thinking about physical healing.
This man had been lame for 38 years. Were his words biting with 38-years of bitterness? He didn’t know who Jesus was and, therefore, had no idea he was talking with the one person who could make him well. Instead, he complained to Jesus about not being able to get to the water. (The man believed the pool at Bethesda had powers of healing.) Who needs magic water in the presence of the Great Physician?
The man’s perspective on his life was locked: Healing comes from this water. If I cannot get into the water, I cannot be healed. (Our perspective can get just as easily locked in.)
The man wanted his body to be healed, but Jesus wanted the lame man to be more than healed. Jesus wanted the man to be whole.
What does it mean to be whole?
Whole means having all the parts needed, lacking in nothing. Another word for whole is complete. Ephesians 3:19 NLT uses this word complete:
“Fullness of life and power that comes from God.” The root of completeness or wholeness comes from understanding and accepting the Gospel. The Gospel not only saves a person, but transforms and makes a person whole.
A woman who chose to be whole and a man who didn’t
The story of the lame man reminds me of the woman at the well. In contrast to his man, she never had the miracle of physical healing. Despite this, she believed in Jesus. She took her first step toward wholeness because Jesus told her the truth about her and about himself. She left her own purposes (her jar) and ran with joy to tell everyone about Jesus. (See John 4.) Her life was infinitely better not because she was given an advantage in life. Her life was better because she got a taste of the wholeness found in Jesus.
Jesus healed this man, yet he didn’t want the wholeness found in a relationship with Jesus. Jesus found him and warned him. (Just like Jesus told the woman at the well a truth about her, Jesus was revealing a truth about him. In this story, the details were hidden to us, but the man knew.) Rather than heeding Jesus, this newly healed man ran to the religious elite. The man got what he wanted for the moment and walked away from wholeness. (John never reveals if that man changed his mind later. It’s sad to think he never got to experience healing and wholeness.)
What do you want in your life: Healing or wholeness?
Do you want the here-and-now better life? Or do you want the life-to-the-full life Jesus offers?
In my life, Jesus has not given me continuous here-and-now happiness. When life is hard, and I want the shortcut road to happiness now, I must remember that I want wholeness more. When I cling to my relationship with Jesus during dark and difficult times, I find my faith deepen. I gain strength to press through the storm. I am made more whole.