"I can't believe he said that!"

John 5:6 - "When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

I remember it like it was yesterday. We were having lunch at a family’s home after Sunday morning worship. We were considering moving to work with a certain congregation and the different families were trying to get to know us. The husband asked what I thought about Star Trek. I chuckled as I proceeded to share how some of my family and friends were about Star Trek and Star Wars. I’m sure I dropped the “Trekkie” slur more than once. When I finally stopped to take a drink I turned the question around and asked my host what he thought about Star Trek, and promptly choked on my icy beverage when he graciously responded that most people probably considered him a “Trekkie.” Ever had one of those moments?

When you put John 5:6 in its context, it seems shocking that Jesus would ask such a question of a man who he knew had been lame for 38 years and had faithfully gone to a certain pool in the very hopes of being healed! I can imagine some people covering their gaping mouths with their hands, maybe Peter and John looked down and to the side trying to pretend that they hadn’t just heard Jesus' question. Why would he ask something like that?

In our culture it is becoming less and less popular to be direct. Many don’t think it can be done without being demeaning or overly aggressive. But I think the lesson we should take from Jesus’ question is that it is not only appropriate but right to be forthright and direct. Jesus asked this man a question that to our ears appears superficially cruel, however it was sincerely asked in order to reveal the heart of a hurting man to see if he was ready to accept a gracious healing that he didn’t deserve and couldn’t achieve in his own strength. Christ’s question was gracious, not cruel.

I think we could learn a lesson from Jesus’ question and the lame man’s answer. First, we need to stop being overly concerned about how others might perceive us, and sincerely and lovingly be direct. For instance, we are often afraid someone would reject hearing the gospel outright, so we spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to win their favor and drop subtle Biblical truths thinking we are teaching the gospel. It is right to be kind and serve others, and we need to use God’s word wisely! However, more often than not, I think our fear hinders and slows the spread of God’s word. 

Second, the lame man’s response revealed his desire for healing, and inability to accomplish the task without assistance. There was no one to help him. We are all like that lame man unable to save ourselves in our own strength! None of us can earn a right standing with God. We need to be forgiven through Christ and his sacrifice. We need him to make us whole. As citizens of his kingdom who have experienced the healing grace of Christ, why would we delay directly and simply sharing the gospel out of fear of someone’s possible displeasure? True, some may look at us like we have two heads, and at times you may feel as awkward as I did after realizing I had unintentionally mocked the hobby of my host. But for those who recognize their need, the risk will have been worth it! Take courage from Jesus’ question, and find hope in the lame man’s response. The same process repeats itself today. Lord willing, you are evidence of that yourself.

Jeremy Dehut

(Originally posted 4/30/13)