How would you answer if Jesus asked, “Do you want to become well?”
For most, if not all, of us, I think our first instinctive response would be something like, “Yes! Of course I want to be well.” But let’s ponder this a little more. The man Jesus addressed this question to in John 5 “had been disabled for 38 years” (5:5, NET). We don’t know how old he was, but I’m guessing that was at least half his life. Healing would have been a major change to his status-quo. I don’t have experience being physically disabled, but the idea that healing involves a huge change is something I talked about years ago with my first counselor. I was there to overcome and manage anxiety and depression, but the idea of living without those things made me anxious. They’d been such a big part of me for so long that I didn’t know who I’d be without them. My answer to, “Do you want to be made well?” was “I think so?”
What if the question was specifically about spiritual healing? As Chris Tiegreen says in 365 Pocket Devotions, “Jesus knows that sometimes, as much as we think we want to change, we’re comfortable with the status quo. We say we want to be delivered of our sins, but we still look for ways to be tempted by them. … we must be prepared for radical change if we want a real encounter with him” (p. 160). Being healed by Jesus involves a significant change in our lives. The analogy C.S. Lewis uses is that we’re not a field that Jesus needs to mow to get the overgrown grass under control; we’re one that needs to be plowed up and re-sown to produce wheat. Truly becoming well involves a radical, whole-life alteration of our status quo.
We need to be healed
Jesus preached repentance and forgiveness of sins to the world. This message wasn’t received well by those who thought they didn’t need to repent. In fact, those people judged Jesus for spending time “with tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 9:11, WEB). That attitude didn’t impress Jesus, though. He wasn’t there just to focus on people who thought they didn’t need Him. He came to heal people.
Behold, they brought to him a man who was paralyzed, lying on a bed. Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, “Son, cheer up! Your sins are forgiven you.”
Behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man blasphemes.”
Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven;’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins—” (then he said to the paralytic), “Get up, and take up your mat, and go to your house.”
He arose and departed to his house.Matthew 9:2-7, WEB
With this miracle, Jesus dramatically changed a man’s life. He proved He could heal both physically and spiritually, and He taught that His power to heal physically pointed to His power to heal spiritually. Right after this healing, Jesus called Matthew (a tax collector) to follow Him, then overheard the Pharisees asking His disciples why their rabbi would associate with tax collectors and sinners.
When Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick do. But you go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”Matthew 9:12-13, WEB
When Jesus looks at sinners (a group we’re all part of), He sees people who need healing. When we resist repentance or don’t recognize our need for His forgiveness, it’s as crazy as running away from someone who could stop you from having a heart attack or falling prey to a nasty virus.
Jesus’s healing is able to save us
Jesus is willing to heal and cleanse us. He invites all of us to come to Him, repent, ask for His help, and receive forgiveness and renewed spiritual health. Sometimes (and for a whole host of reasons) we may not receive the physical healings we ask for, but He always grants forgiveness to repentant sinners. Some sins may still have consequences (e.g. when God forgives someone for breaking “thou shalt not steal” it may not stop them from facing fines or prison time) but when Jesus heals us spiritually, He ensures that those consequences will not include us dying for our own sins.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness. By his wounds you were healed. For you were going astray like sheep but now you have turned back to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.1 Peter 2:24-25, NET
Even when God disciplines us, it’s for the purpose of healing (Heb. 12:11-13). We should also work alongside God to “be healthy in the faith” (Tit. 1:13, NET). In that verse from Titus, the word for “healthy” is the same word used in Luke’s version of “Those who are well don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do” (Luke 5:31, NET). In Greek, it’s hugiainō, which means “to be sound, to be well, to be in good health” (Thayer’s dictionary entry G5198). Interestingly, this word is also used of “sound doctrine/words” (1 Tim. 1:10; 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13; 4:3; Tit. 1:9; 2:1). In order to stay sound and healthy after we’re initially healed, we need to keep doing things related to good spiritual health. That includes taking in the “sound words” of God and asking Jesus for continued healing/forgiveness as we make mistakes.
Accepting Jesus’s offer of healing means a radical change in our lives. It means admitting we need healing and wanting it enough to ask for forgiveness and let Him heal us. It means putting off the “old man” (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9) and following Jesus, being remade in His image. It means learning from God’s correction and discipline as we hold on to sound, healthy doctrine and do our best to follow Him. And it means joy, peace, and spiritual health like we can’t find anywhere else. There’s so much to look forward to about the changes that happen as Jesus continues to work with, heal, and befriend us.
So, do you want to become well?