His work: Since the man by the pool was an invalid, he may have made his living by begging. His character: His role in the story seems almost entirely passive, perhaps in keeping with his character. He showed evidence neither of faith nor gratitude after the miracle of his healing and even went so far as to give evidence against Jesus to men who were hostile toward Jesus. Sin appears to have played a role in his condition. His sorrow: To have been paralyzed for nearly forty years. His triumph: To have been instantly healed. Key Scriptures: John 5
A Look at the Man
“Do you want to be healed?”
It was an outrageous question to ask a man who had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years, a man forced to beg for a living.
But there was a reason for the question. Perhaps, in fact, the paralyzed man wasn’t happy about the prospect of being healed. Maybe his disability offered a certain kind of security, enabling him at least to make a living as a beggar. His sudden cure would have undermined his many dependencies, his familiar routine, his ingrained view of himself. He would have had to start life all over again.
Or maybe he was offended by Jesus’ warning against sin. Perhaps he thought it would do Jesus good to receive his comeuppance at the hands of the religious leaders.
The story of the man by the pool reminds us that displays of God’s power are not enough to create faith in a person’s heart. Though the man had suffered for many years, he showed no evidence of gratitude and no evidence of belief. We expect him to fall on his knees when he is miraculously healed. But he doesn’t. We expect him to show some kind of curiosity about the person who healed him. But he doesn’t even ask Jesus his name until their second encounter. We expect him to protect Jesus against his detractors, to be scandalized by their blindness and self-righteousness. Instead, he reports Jesus to men he knew to be hostile toward Jesus.
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus denounces the cities that had witnessed most of his miracles, because the vast majority of people there had failed to repent (Matthew 11:20). His words remind us that, even though miracles are evidence of God’s power and compassion, without faith we are still free to reject them, still free to conclude that his offer of mercy is irrelevant or unnecessary.
Though none of us know what went on in the heart of the man who was healed, we are troubled by the way he responded and the way he failed to respond to the miracle he experienced. We may even wonder if by his own choice he finally succeeded in placing himself beyond the reach of God’s mercy. Only God knows.
Reflect On: Psalm 86:1–8 Praise God: For his grace, mercy, and the faith to believe. Offer Thanks: For the blessings of healing and wholeness. Confess: Any tendency you may have to blame others rather than to admit your own sinfulness and receive Christ’s pardon. Ask God: To give you courage to stand, face those crippling hurts, and live with freedom and hope.
Today’s reading is a brief excerpt from Men of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Men in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Robert Wolgemuth (Zondervan). © 2010 by Ann Spangler. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Enjoy the complete book by purchasing your own copy at the Bible Gateway Store. The book’s title must be included when sharing the above content on social media.