“And seeing that he had been lying there a long time, Jesus asked him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’” (John 5: 6) Note that Jesus is not asking “Do you want to be cured?” Although of course we do! We all want to be cured of all ailments, all problems, and all negative circumstances in our lives. And at the end of this story, the man is given the ability to walk.
But taking this healing in context of the rest of the healings in the gospels shows us that the salvation Jesus offers is not limited to the instantaneous removal of physical symptoms. It has to do with wholeness. Rescue from spiritual death. Healing of the total person. He is talking about a salvation that ultimately involves body, mind, soul, emotions, relationships to self, God and community.
The gospels use several words for healing, being made well, or saved. The noun soteria means salvation or rescue from danger (deliverance). This could be spiritual or physical or both. The verb sozo refers to healing or cure (restore, keep alive, preserve). In John 5:6 Jesus uses the verb hugiazo which means to make sound or healthy. The noun hugias refers to the state of soundness or health.
Some preachers preach the gospel miracle stories to their people in such a way that they feel guilty if they are not cured. “If you had more faith, you could be cured of all your physical ills and financial and relationship ills.” Some preachers are uncomfortable with the idea of healing and so they don’t preach these miracle stories at all.
Both approaches are a loss. In my own thinking, I realize I can’t explain why healing sometimes expresses itself in physical ways and sometimes in ways that, while less obvious, are no less real: spiritual, relational, and emotional ways. But I can affirm that God still heals. We can affirm it because Scripture affirms it, because our experience of God affirms it, and because our faith tradition affirms it. We can affirm that, even though we may suffer from ongoing physical ills that may never be cured, God still heals. Not always or even most often physically. Not usually instantaneously. And it often involves changes in attitude and approach that can be uncomfortable, and even painful. But God still heals.
A woman who has been blind from birth was once asked, how can you sing Amazing Grace? “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” She replied, “When I get to the last phrase, I stand and sing with gusto, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind, and I still can’t see!” But praise God from whom all blessings flow!
In our scene from John 5, Jesus cuts through the man’s monologue about why he hasn’t been able to get into the healing waters, with an efficient and physical healing.
“Rise, take up your mat and walk.” (John 5:8).
That command doesn’t mean the same thing for everybody today.
- Maybe your healing is to be to find a way to live with dignity and even joy when a chronic illness is part of your life, either in your own body or that of a loved one.
- Maybe your healing is to be at peace and live more positively with some circumstance in your life that is not going to change.
- Maybe your healing is to acknowledge that your dignity and humanity are being eroded by someone else in a given situation and that it is time for change.
- Maybe you are in none of those places, but are living in a vague state of unease and anxiety, in need of someone who can offer you clarity, calm, and direction.
That Someone stands next to each of our pools. That is indeed good news!