When we read the Bible stories of people getting healed, it seems a lot like happily ever after stories found in Hollywood movies and Romance novels. Someone was healed and we are left without the rest of the story. We don’t know if the healed people adjusted to their new lives in good ways or not. However, we do know that most people wanted to be healed. Nevertheless, there is one case where it appears that one man was not all that excited about receiving healing.
To understand how this is possible, let’s compare John 5 (the man at the pool) with John 9 (the man born blind) and look at the similarities and differences between the two stories. After all, this is probably what John wanted us to do.
First of all, let’s look at the similarities:
- Both men were healed by Jesus.
- The healing of both were performed on the Sabbath which was one day out of the week when all but necessary work was forbidden. Jesus defended the healing of both men by stating that it was God who was working with and in him. He only worked on the Sabbath because God did. “My father is working until now, and I am working (John 5:17).” “We must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day… (John 9:4).”
- A pool is at the center of both stories. In chapter 5, the lame man sat at a pool where healing took place from time to time. In 9:7, the blind man was sent to the pool of Siloam and told to wash out his eyes to be healed.
- Both men’s problems were somehow related to sin. After the man was healed in John 5, Jesus told him to stop sinning or else something worse would happen to him (5:14). However, in John 9, before the man was healed the disciples asked Jesus if the blind man sinned or if his parents sinned causing the man to be born blind (9:2).
- In both stories, Jesus left the men before they had time to get to know who Jesus was. The blind man only knew that a man called Jesus told him to wash. He didn’t even see Jesus when he was being healed. The lame man who was healed didn’t even know Jesus’ name.
- In both stories, religious rulers met with the healed men after they were healed and drilled them about being healed on the Sabbath. In those meetings, the rulers wanted to know who healed them and why a healing was done on the Sabbath. Neither of the men could adequately answer those questions.
- Finally, in both stories, Jesus came back to the healed men after they had talked to the religious rulers.
Here are some of the important differences:
- When Jesus came to the lame man in John 5, Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed. In John 9, there is no mention of any introduction between Jesus and the blind man. Jesus simply made mud, put it on the blind man’s eyes and told him to go to a pool and wash.
- While the lame man in John 5 sat and watched others go into the pool, the blind man in John 9 partook of his pool, washing his eyes. This could very well be an allusion to baptism and the different responses people had in the early church era. Some people partook of baptism and got well, while others just sat around and watched.
- When the rulers asked each man who and how, there were completely different responses.
When Jesus came to the lame man in John 5, he asked him if he wanted to be healed. This was a question that Jesus never asked anyone else. Why would he even need to ask a person that? Perhaps the scene said it all. The man lived watching others being healed; but had no chance of finding healing for himself. Others had friends and relatives who helped them race to the pool when it was time to get healed (when the pool’s water vibrated, the first person to enter was healed). So when the waters vibrated, it became a mad house of people racing their sick and disabled people to the pool. The lame man only watched.
The connections to real people are plenty. A lot of people sit around and watch others get well while they get worse and worse. In this case, when asked if he wanted to be healed; rather than saying, “Yes!” the man made excuses for why he mad no effort to help himself.
Jesus healed him anyway and he went his way with his bed, walking. The rulers saw him working on the Sabbath and questioned him about what he was doing and he told them that the one who healed him told him to carry his bed. So the rulers asked him who dared tell him to do such a thing. He admitted that he had no clue.
In John 9, the people were concerned about the blind man who received his sight. This healing was unusual for Jerusalem, so they, no doubt, thought the religious rulers should know. And the people were right; the rulers were concerned. In fact, they were concerned enough to come and see the healed man to find out why someone worked on the Sabbath and who that someone was; but the healed man didn’t know.
John painted a picture of some of the rulers being more concerned about the rules God gave than they were about the health of their flock. They were like pastors who had the the job of police men. Before I became a Christian, when I was 14 years old my friends and I were caught breaking into a house and “doing drugs.” Although my friends and I could have been charged with a felony, the charges were dropped, and the police were more concerned about the person who sold us the drugs that they were about us. They tried to use us to tell them who sold the drugs, even though telling them who sold us the drugs would have brought terrible consequences to us and would have turned us against each other. In the end the police had to let go of their quest, because none of us were helping them.
The rulers of Jesus’ day were like the police in my story. They wanted to get Jesus, and to get to him they questioned those healed. They didn’t care that the two men were healed nor did they care about their health; they only cared about getting the one who broke the law.
Note here that John clearly stated that only some of the rulers were offended and that others sided with Jesus (John 9:15). The early church likewise had its share of Christ followers who were religious rulers and at the same time had it’s share of religious leaders who were against all things Christian. In all likelihood, those who were against Christ were far more vocal about their opinions than the others.
In John 5 the lame man didn’t know who healed him and told the rulers that he had no clue, so that ended the communication between them; however, in John 9, the healed man turned out to be somewhat of a rascal who turned the tables on his inquisitors. He provoked the rulers when he realized that they were trying to turn him away from the one who healed him. He sensed the animosity some of them felt toward Jesus and rather than resigning himself to a submissive position and acknowledging their obvious authority in all things scriptural, he provoked them with great provocations, challenging their statements with questions that revealed his disdain for them and their obvious animosity toward Jesus.
The blind man (believed by all to be utterly born in sin) trumped the wise and righteous men, and they in turn got nasty. Unable to give him an intelligent response, they turned to name calling in order to defend their honor, saying, “You were altogether born in sin, and are you going to teach us?” They sounded a lot like modern day political pundits who resort to name calling in order to establish their superiority. In the end, the blind man was cast out of the synagogue, meaning that he could no longer visit a place of worship and no longer be able to hear the word of God spoken.
Jesus returned to both men. He told the lame man not to sin any more, or else something worse would happen. After this warning from Jesus, he went straightway to the rulers to tell them it was Jesus who told him to take up his bed and whenever anyone reported to the rulers in the Book of John, they were on the rulers’ side and not supporters of Jesus. This is the case with this man.
The man who was lame did not have a good experience with Jesus. Jesus questioned his desire to be healed. Jesus told him to carry his bed, thus breaking the Sabbath which caused him to get in trouble with the authorities. So even though the authorities were focused on Jesus and not on “a sinner,” he wanted to please them and give them what information he had. He was like the person who turns against his friends and tells the police what they want to hear.
When Jesus revisited the man in John 9, he asked him if he believed in the Son of God. When Jesus told the healed man that he (Jesus) was the Son of God, the man believed and Jesus told him metaphorically that he came so the blind could see and those who saw would be blinded.
I believe the man in John 5 was not all that happy with his healing. Before he was healed, his inability to walk gave him his identity and let him live on what others gave to him. With new legs, he would have to forge out a new identity and learn to walk on his own – to support himself rather than live off the generosity of others. We cannot be sure this was the precise reason he seemed so hesitant about his own healing, or why he had to be asked if he wanted to be healed, or why he was so eager to please the authority; but for whatever reasons, he was not an ideal recipient of Jesus’ power.
Healing is not always welcomed. The blind man in John 9 welcomed sight and was instantly a follower of Jesus; but the lame man in John 5 was not too happy with a new life that Jesus gave him.