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Jesus asked good questions.
On the Sundays in June we will consider some Questions Jesus Asked.

Do You Want to Get Well?

Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda. . .Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 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?” “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.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. John 5:1-9 [John 5:1-15]

The unnamed man has been at the Bethesda pool for almost 40 years – most of a lifetime. Waiting. Hoping he might be able to drag himself into the water before anyone else when the water is stirred. When Jesus meets this man, he has compassion on him. Jesus loves him enough to heal him. So he asks the man a question.

“Do you want to get well?” Isn’t it obvious? He’s a paraplegic trying to get into the pool to be healed.

But the man doesn’t answer the question. The problem he names is with those other people. Nobody helps me. People take advantage of me because of my disability. The blind and the deaf – they can jump in the pool right away and I get left behind. I’m last and lonely. No one will put up with the daily challenges I face. No one cares about me.

The man doesn’t answer Jesus’ question. He won’t look at himself. He points fingers instead.

Perhaps he’s unnamed because he’s like us. We can see ourselves in him. Unwilling to look at ourselves and our needs. Our need for healing, outside and inside.

I’ve invited people to share prayer requests many times – at worship services, at committee meetings, at small group Bible studies. I think I could probably count on my fingers the number of times someone said, “Pray for me” and then shared a personal struggle. We share prayer requests for an aunt, a brother, a co-worker. Not for ourselves.

I have the same struggle. How often do I acknowledge my own needs? My need to be made well in body, soul, mind, spirit? I keep that quiet, if I even acknowledge it to myself.

Last September I celebrated the 30th anniversary of my ordination. For more than 30 years I’ve believed the message I’ve internalized since youth: Don’t fail. Don’t show weakness. Be tough. Succeed. Do it yourself. Thirty years of ordained ministry and I’m still learning to accept my own failures, my weaknesses, my need for others. Struggling to accept my failures and weaknesses, let alone admit them to others.

The man in the story was a paraplegic for thirty-eight years. I’ve been struggling to face my failures and weaknesses in ministry for thirty. Who is more in need of healing?

I’m learning. I’m being healed. I’m becoming more honest with God, with myself, with others. But it’s not easy.

Jesus invites us to be honest with our weakness, our failures, our struggles. His question invites honest confession. “Do you want to get well?”

Jesus healed the man’s legs. But what was the state of his soul? Jesus doesn’t just heal this man physically and let him go. He heals his body and then continues to seek him because he needs to heal the man’s soul. A few verses later he finds the man and tells him, “See, you are well again.” I’ve made your legs whole. You can walk. But there’s still more that needs healing. “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” That’s not equating sin with disability. Rather Jesus is inviting the man to see that what needed healing was more than just his legs. He needed to heal his soul.

Some of us are ministry professionals. We’re supposed to have everything together. But can we be honest when Jesus asks these obvious questions? “Do you want to get well?” Can we acknowledge that we are broken, we are weak, we struggle, we sin? Can we move beyond blaming others? Can we get beyond the religious answers, and be honest before Jesus? When his eyes meet yours and he asks you, “Do you want to get well?” what will you tell him?

Know that he is the one who heals us, body, mind, and soul. He is the God who seeks us and finds us. He’s found us and he asks, “Do you want to get well?” What will you tell him?

Image: ceramic tile by Lynn Eastin

Jeff Sajdak

Jeff Sajdak has pastored congregations in Iowa and Michigan, and currently serves as Dean of Students at Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He delights in his wife and family, including three grandkids, as well as the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team and the Arsenal and Minnesota United football clubs.


  • James C Dekker says:

    Thank you, Jeff. When I started reading, I thought this could be politically very incorrect! Thank you for compellingly and evocatively taking this report in a challenging and very fitting direction. Blessings and peace, jcd

  • Keith Mannes says:

    I appreciate your humility and honesty. Thank you for sharing these thoughts.

  • RZ says:

    “Do you want to get well”?
    “No, not really. I want to tell others how to get well.”
    Very profound, very courageous. So much so that we know not how and if to respond. It would require self- reflection, aka weakness. But those who risk it seem to bring out the best in those around them. You have identified the essence of effective leadership. Thank you.

  • Joel Slenk says:

    Learning to be appropriately vulnerable as a leader or a lay person within a church congregation requires nuance and wisdom. This is a skill that goes undeveloped in almost everyone over our entire lifetime. However, if a church leader can learn this skill and apply it deftly to her craft, it can transform and ripen one’s ministry.
    When my wise Episcopalian rector summarized his 40 year career in a short memoir he merely stated “What I did was no act – I wore no mask – there was no charade in my joy or insincerity in my grief.”

  • Mark Stephenson says:

    Jeff, I deeply appreciate the point of this blog, the need for vulnerability and authenticity in Christian community. However, this is not the passage to use to make that point. Jesus’s question to the man may have an obvious answer in some of our minds, but it demonstrates a genuine desire to fully engage with the man, rather than make assumptions about what he needs. Talk to many, maybe most, people with disabilities, and you’ll hear that other people are indeed a huge part of the difficulties they face in life. “The problem he names is with those other people.” Yes, it’s called ableism. People from any marginalized group have to engage in self advocacy, and this man is one example of that. A great book to read about this challenge is by Amy Kenny, My Body Is Not Your Prayer Request. Her point: instead deciding for people with disabilities, ask questions and listen and learn. That is just what Jesus did. Hmm, what a vulnerable position to be in!

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