But It’s Impossible

When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

And that day was the Sabbath. The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”

He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ”

Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:6-14)

Jesus asked a disabled man a simple yes or no question. But instead of answering Jesus’ question, he told Jesus why he couldn’t get healed.

Too often we respond to God exactly the same way: rather than saying yes to him, we explain to God why what we most need is impossible to get.

Remarkably, Jesus did not wait for the poor man to say the right thing in the right way before he would help him—any more than he expected anything from the man at all. Jesus knew what the man really needed. Even if the man didn’t understand it himself.

Only after healing the man did Jesus warn him to stop sinning. Jesus’ intervention was not dependent upon the man’s repentance, but rather upon his need. And Jesus criticized the Pharisees for imagining that doing the right thing should be allowed to stand in the way of doing another right thing. Keeping the Sabbath was good; but using it as an excuse to let suffering continue was inexcusable. The religious establishment had allowed concern with legalities to obscure the reason the legalities existed: love. They had missed the whole point to the commandments and saw them as an end in themselves, rather than what they were: a means to an end. The means to doing the loving thing.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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