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What Do You Want 5.1 & 5.2: Part or Whole?


Issue 398

This WORKTALKweekly is a two-part piece. They are being broadcast together, so you can read them all the way through. The same WORKTALKweekly will be broadcast next week so that you can dwell on the content.


Why would you not want to get well? Why would you not want to work well? Why would you not want your life to be well?

To ask someone if they want to get well could be a strange question. Imagine going to a doctor who asked you that. Imagine going to a therapist of mind, body or spirit and being asked such a question. Imagine a work consultant issuing such a challenge.

This is our fifth look at John’s gospel (remember we are arguing that Mary, the mother of Jesus, would have had a large influence over the writing, as Jesus had given John and Mary to each other at the cross). We are letting Jesus’ first words in the gospel ‘what do you want?’ guide us through the whole book.

Our cameo this week contains a conflicted character. A disabled man who spent his time, with other disabled men, lying near to a pool, presumably begging for large parts of the day. Jesus came to realise that this man had been there for 38 years. Maybe he had been there longer than anyone else. It seems to be the only fact that distinguished him from the others.

He has no name in the story, so for brevity and, possibly unfairly, I will label him 38. Now before you criticise me, 38 does not define him. There is evidence in the story that he was once well and something happened to him to deprive him of his well being.

Try to connect with him if you can. He is personally paralysed. Unable to move. Perhaps you know something of that feeling. You don’t seem to be able to move your life, your job, your personal circumstances, anywhere.

He is suffering from a chronic condition. 38 years definitely qualifies for such a label. What is the chronic disability condition in your life and work? 38 is labelled an invalid – as though he has become invalidated – he no longer counts nor matters.

He has seen others get cured and move on. His frustration and resentment has built up inside for a while, as he watched success in contrast to his failure. How are you doing watching the progress of others when you seem stuck?

We have a picture of a disappointed, resentful, frustrated and jealous man. Yet a man who has survived 38 years. He has got enough food, drink, sleep and clothing. He has managed his life to a point. But that is not getting well. It is getting by. So ‘what do you want?’ comes as a challenge question here.

Jesus poses a specific version of our theme question, namely, ‘do you want to get well?’ it has a certain nuance to it, which is deliberate. Jesus wants 38 to consider his condition.

Now when Jesus asks a question, very few people give a direct answer. 38 is no exception. His answer reveals his conflict and ambivalence. He points to the system and his circumstances. Apparently every so often there is a disturbance in the pool waters and first one into the pool gets a cure. 38 explains that every time he tries, he fails, because no one helps him. So to add to his condition, he is friendless and abandoned.

Somehow he has got used to his invalidity, he’s found his spot, his mat to lie on, and, even in the face of Jesus’ question, he is not clear. He could have said ‘I want to be well’. It is worth noting that Jesus’ question included the idea of deep desire. ‘Deep down, do you want to get well?’ 38 was ambivalent.

Eight words ring out across the colonnades by the pool. GET UP! PICK UP YOUR MAT! (AND) WALK! They contain three commands.

Those watching saw a bronzed, sun-scorched, unkempt , awkward, twisted body move. They saw supine legs reconfigure and the body redefined. He probably had untrimmed hair and beard, and did not smell great. 38’s first act after standing was to bend over and carry that which had been carrying him for so long. Then he walked. No walking and leaping and praising God. No ‘Thank you, Jesus’. In fact he walked one way and Jesus walked another.

What just happened? If you read around John 5, you will find many analyses of what happened to 38 – some complex ideas, some not so. Forgive me if you think I am being simplistic, but what happened to this man is contained in one word. Jesus.

Jesus happened to him. In these eight words, 38 years were changed. They were words of life, words from the mouth of God, words of recreation. Words of cure. Amazing!

Almost as amazing was what followed. Immediately, walking man fell foul of the law. He was not supposed to carry his mat on the sabbath. So the hearts of the legalistic spectators are revealed. Do you want to be cured through Jesus or by attempting to obey a system of pathetic, religious regulations? The spectators were choosing regulations as their cure – good luck with that. Jesus demolishes that approach in the rest of the chapter.

Walking man had been challenged to look beyond his system, his pool, and his circumstances -now the spectators were challenged to look beyond their sabbath system. For there stands Jesus. What do you want? Do you want to get well that way?


38 – now walking man, thought he was well. That, of course, was only partially true. He was cured, he was healed and physically, he was well. But there were real gaps in his experience. First, he did not know who had cured him.

Wellness – Jesus’ style – involves cure and knowing the curative agent.

Second, he did not know about his other invalidities of spirit and soul. He had been invalidated for so long, he had missed his life’s goals for so long, he had missed the point for so long, he could not see clearly. So Jesus finds him again. This is a further finding.

So, thirdly, wellness – Jesus style, involves continually being found by Jesus. Now listen to Jesus’ words .’See you are well again’. Five more words.

Wellness- fourthly, involves seeing you are well. Recognizing it and celebrating a reconstitution of God’s original design.

Then nine more words. ‘Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you’. Jesus’ word for ‘sinning’ here involves missing the mark, missing the target, missing the point. So Jesus tells him to stop missing the point of this Jesus style of healing.

Have you ever tried to stop sinning? Good luck with that. Try to obey the ten commandments for five minutes. Good luck with that. Now here is the strange part. Why do we think that there is any difference between this command to stop sinning and the other three of ‘get up, pick up your mat, and walk’?

Walking man could no more stop sinning than he could get up. To stop sinning, you need Jesus to happen to your sins. You need the words from his lips to drip into your soul.

Now you are beginning to understand the ‘do you want to get well?’ question. It is asking you ‘do you want to get well the Jesus way? For it’s only through Jesus you can get up, pick up and walk. It is only through Jesus you can stop (sinning).

On top of this, you are being asked to see the radical, ongoing nature of wellness, as well as the initial moment of transformation.

Wellness – Jesus style – starts with a cure – a healing, a critical event of change (called ‘a new birth’ in study 3). But it also means getting up, carrying that which used to carry you. And it means walking, it means stopping.

Don’t be fooled here. It is ALL done through the power of Jesus. We cannot get up, pick up, walk or stop. That is not wellness Jesus style, that is self-help. John and Mary did not waste their time writing a self-help book – they wrote a Jesus-help book. Jesus’ help is holistic, not partial. Jesus’ wellness is cure and healing, followed by walking, carrying and stopping – for life. It involves seeing your wellness and knowing your physician. That’s the real deal, the whole deal, the life-time deal, and the Jesus deal.

Walking man had a long way to go. The first thing he did was to tell the Jews that it was Jesus who made him well. He was right – probably still a bit conflicted and confused, but he was right.

Go back. Something happened to 38 to make him an invalid. Something happened to him to cure him. Something worse would happen to him if he didn’t stop sinning. Wellness involves wanting Jesus to happen to you – not just in part, but in whole. It’s a big question. It’s a big deal.

So do you want to get well? What do you want – part or whole?


John 5

1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” 8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” 11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” 12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” 13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true. 33 “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35 John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.

36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study[c] the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

41 “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

45 “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

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Geoff Shattock

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