(Reflections on the sign of Jesus healing the official’s son found in John 5:1-17. This is part of the Seven Signs series, click here to catch up on other parts in the series.)
The condition and the culture.
This sign highlights how Jesus changes both the condition and the culture for Kingdom purposes.
When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”John 5:6 (ESV)
This particular sign has huge significance in my life because it was in studying this with my wife a few years ago that I began to appreciate how Jesus is working on people who have lived with a condition for a long time. How He’s here to challenge those conditions, not by looking for reasons why we maintain them, but if we really want the condition to change.
Jesus’ question is straightforward, yet what the man hears is an opportunity to justify his condition and blame it on the way things have always been for him. After all, it’s not his fault that he can’t get into the pool. It’s not his fault that someone gets in the pool first. It’s just the way things have been for him. Such is his pity party that he doesn’t even pay attention to the person who is speaking to.
There is, clearly, authority in the instruction to move on, but even then, when he’s questioned, he’s nervous about being at the behest of those that maintain the status quo, so he’s quick to blame the man who healed him. That’s what makes Jesus’ instruction to him afterwards all the more apt. You’re healed, stop sinning. You’re out of the condition – not just physically but as a result socially and if you’ll receive it mentally as well as spiritually. You’re no longer bound, you’re no longer dependent, you’re well. Don’t entertain and employ the same crippling condition anymore.
It says much that rather than celebrating his new freedom from Christ, this man’s first inkling is to get himself in the clear by telling the religious authorities who to blame for the Sabbath infraction. This is such an incredible sign for the reaction of the one who was healed. He is not leaping, singing and rejoicing. He’s not turning to Jesus in faith. He’s not putting out a dinner party for Jesus. He’s not keen to testify to others of the remarkable healing he’s experienced. No. This guy just wants to avoid being in trouble with the Jewish leaders.
Jesus can do great things for people, but people can literally still be blind to what’s really going on. It’s something we need to be aware of, both in the conditions that Jesus delivers us from as well as those with whom we look to see Jesus do similar works of deliverance.
The sign, however, also highlights something about the culture of the day. Jesus was primarily concerned about making the Father known to people – truly make Him known and not what people picked up in studies about words. Such studies on words had established a culture where people would put strict observance about what should happen on a holy day, rather than a heart to really desire what the one who gave the holy day had in mind.
Here are these religious experts more upset about the Sabbath being broken and then further feeling antagonised that the one who broke the Sabbath also claimed God as His Father. They are upset more about this than taking a moment to celebrate the fact that a man who had a crippling condition for so long was set free and healed. Jesus would use this later to expose further what these actions said about these experts in the law.
Believing in Jesus necessarily challenges us to trust His view on things, rather than what is considered the norm whether in the society as a whole or even religious cultures that are set up to perpetuate controlling structures, rather than the liberating elements in God’s Kingdom.
This sign is especially challenging in giving new insight into what it is to really live. No longer be bound to a condition that makes excuses. No longer be obliged to a culture that limits the way in which the Father looks to impact the world with what He is all about.
This sign does a tremendous job of exposing people to what really is going on with them. It also highlights who we really should keep on believing in. Keep believing in Jesus who displays the mercies of God for us to learn what it is to live right and find the source of real-life and real healing in Him.
Keep on believing in the one who looks to make people well regardless of their condition and the culture.
Questions based on Jesus healing the official’s son
- What does this episode tell you about Jesus?
- What do you learn from the man who had suffered the condition for 38 years?
- What do you learn about the religious conditions in which this man lived?
- What long-lasting conditions do you see in yourself or others that needs a word of healing from Jesus?
- What ingrained cultural issues do you notice have a crippling effect on people that requires the deliverance of Jesus?
- How does it make a difference to your faith to see how Jesus operates in this episode?
- How is Jesus revealed as the Son of God worth believing in?
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden