Most of the time when Jesus healed somebody, he just did it. Different ways, of course. One time he spit on the ground, made mud and slathered a blind man’s eyes with it. Not exactly polite. Another time he just told a crippled man to do something he couldn’t do, like get up off your mat, pick it up and go home… on another occasion he wasn’t even in the same town with the sick person he healed, he just said a few words and it was done.
One thing he usually didn’t do was ask – what do you want? Only on two occasions did he ask such a strange question.
What an odd thing to ask. The crowd around the pool was there for one thing only, to get healed. Occasionally an angel would come and “trouble” the water, whatever that means, and whoever got into the pool first would get well. (Seems cruel to me. Only occasionally? And only one?)
The crippled man explained his situation to Jesus, as though this was an obscure, out of the way location and only a few lucky people knew about it.
But this was just outside the Sheep Gate of the Temple in Jerusalem, a prominent building surrounding an upper and lower pool with five colonnaded porches, quite well known to the city. (See http://www.generationword.com/jerusalem101/51-bethesda-pool.html)
The man had been crippled for 38 years, a long, long time. And for a long, long time he had been brought to the pool, hoping today would be his day. But for whatever reason, no-one there would help him get to the pool in time, so day after day he just watched as somebody else got healed.
How discouraging. How depressing. Why bother coming to the pool?
Then Jesus paid a visit to the pool, and asked one particular man a peculiar question. Do you want to get well? From his response, the answer was obviously YES.
So Jesus told the poor man to do something he couldn’t do. Get up, pick up your bed and walk. And he did. He didn’t lay there and wonder — Who is this crazy fellow, doesn’t he know I can’t walk? He just did it. Jesus really didn’t need to ask, he knew the man’s heart. He healed him even before he attempted to rise to his feet.
Jesus didn’t stick around and so the man couldn’t follow him, but his miraculous recovery caused quite a commotion around the Temple. It was the sabbath, after all!
It’s a wonderful story, but I’m curious. Why did Jesus ask him that question?
Here’s the only other person Jesus asked such a strange question… blind Bartimaeus, the beggar. All four gospels recount this event; Mark 10 gives us his name.
Jesus, the disciples and a large number of other people were coming through Jericho. Now, obviously with this crowd there was a lot of commotion. What’s going on? Who is it? Bartimaeus no doubt asked somebody. When he heard it was Jesus, he knew who that was. He knew what that meant. Here’s my chance!
He yelled, Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me! He soon got the attention of the crowd, who tried to shut him up. He kept right on yelling until he got the attention of Jesus, who called for him to come. And he did.
I wonder how long it took him to get through that mass of people… When he finally got there, Jesus asked him that peculiar question:
What do you want me to do for you?
Now, I can think of many things Bartimaeus might have said. A big house, a lot of money, a beautiful wife, nice clothes, lots of things. What he did request was simple — to see again.
Jesus didn’t speak a command, didn’t touch him, didn’t make mud, didn’t tell him to do something impossible. He just said, Go your way, your faith has made you whole. Suddenly Bartimaeus could see again, and he did indeed go his way – Jesus’ way! Joining the noisy crowd, he became a follower of Jesus.
Think what having his vision restored meant to this man. Now he could work for a living. Now he could go to the Temple in Jerusalem and worship. He could do all the usual things men did, meet with friends, help out a neighbor, perhaps have a family. But first he followed Jesus. He could see in more ways than one, now.
I’m still curious. Why did Jesus ask him that question?
What do you think?