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Change: Do You Want to Get Well?

By Dennis R. Atwood

John 5:1-9

I suppose we all have our challenges to face. As children we were either too short, too tall, too fat, or too skinny. Someone else was always smarter, or faster, or more popular. As adults we are either too young or too old, too inexperienced or too overqualified, too busy or too alone.

Sometimes it's more serious. We carry the baggage of being abused in some unfair way, we worry about how to pay the bills, we grieve over a loss of someone close, we agonize over a rebellious child, or we face an uncertain future of chronic physical problems.

We all experience disappointments and failures which are often beyond our own control. We get frustrated, impatient, and angry at the way life has treated us. We may then become resentful and bitter.

There are some of us who appear to have it all together while on the inside we wonder why life seems so empty and meaningless. Maybe we can't exactly put our finger on it, we just know that something is missing. But this is usually a temporary state, what with so many distractions around. As Neil Postman says, thanks to our culture, "We can easily amuse ourselves to death."

Then for many of us, I suspect, we're so accustomed to our predictable, safe pattern of living that we become unaware there's more to which God is calling us. We get so accustomed to the familiar -- day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year -- that we fail to realize the difference between living and simply existing. Our status is quo, and thus we fail to recognize the abiding sickness which resides within our own souls.

38 Years and Counting

Whatever pain we carry, it seems rather insignificant compared to the man in this morning's story. He had been an invalid for 38 years. We don't know the cause of his suffering. We just know that for a very long time he had been unable to do the things most of us take for granted. But, apparently he still had a sliver of hope.

This man took his place with many others who shared a similar plight. After all, misery does love company. They gathered at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem where some said that every now and again an angel would disturb the waters, and the first one in would be healed. But that's a mighty tall order if you can't get up. It was the kind of atmosphere that TV preachers dream about.

Then, one day, someone better than an angel, or a televangelist, comes along -- though no one really knows this at the time. His name is Jesus -- the friend of sinners, the compassionate man, the divine healer. Surely Jesus will tell them to forget about their superstitions and throw a healing party for them all.

But something strange happens next. The compassionate Jesus takes a look at the man lying on the ground and asks a very insensitive question: 'Do you want to be made well?" Talk about "politically incorrect" speech! What was he thinking? This poor sick man could have rightfully come back with some sarcastic response like, "Sir, I really enjoy being here completely unable to move!"

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