When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, “Wilt thou be made whole?” (KJV John 5:6)
Once again, Jesus puzzles us with a question: Do you want to be whole? Of course the man lying by the pool wanted to be freed of his disability. Hadn’t he been waiting 38 years for someone to help him in his race to be first at the stirred water? But a more thoughtful look adds new meaning to what Jesus was asking. It leads us into all of the issues surrounding “wholeness.”
Anthony Bloom wrote some interesting things about what it means to be whole. A former physician who became an archbishop in the Greek Orthodox Church, he concluded that being “made whole” includes more than just being physically healed. Leading “a life of wholeness” requires us to let go, to allow regeneration.(Essential Writings 81).
So, when Jesus asked “Wilt thou be made whole?” I see him as asking, “Are you willing to be changed in the process?” It seems to me that Jesus purpose was the healing of souls more than the healing of bodies. And it is in the soul, or human consciousness, where the transforming process of true “wholeness” must establish itself.
However you decide to view Jesus’ words, his question necessarily challenges us. It directly addresses how we choose to live our lives. We all, believers and nonbelievers, want to be released from physical pain and discomfort and the fear surrounding them. But life-altering transformation, actual change in the motives of our heart—that kind of wholeness is another matter. Our tendency is to resist such regeneration. Some people aren’t even willing to abandon the very physical habits that are clearly precipitating their illness! Which gets us back to our Lord’s question (NCV 6): “Do you want to be well?” It’s time for us, as it was for the man by the pool of Bethesda, to actually answer that deeper question.
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