“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for thirty-eight years, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?'” (John 5:6).
Reynolds Price writes, in his essay on John in Incarnation: Contemporary Writers on the New Testament, that “many readers see the sign chiefly as a demonstration that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. They are partly right, but surely at the expense of sufficient notice that, in this his first face-to-face cure, Jesus heals instantly and without request …. This man can and does, when and where he wills, for his own inscrutable reasons. His power exists for himself, as evidence” (47).
There is an element of sheer fact about Jesus and his power in the Gospel of John. The spiritual challenge comes after the healing, in this episode and in the healing of the blind man in chapter 9.
“Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you'” (John 5:14).
You can now stand on your own two feet. What are you going to do about it?
“Consider well the mercies of the Lord.” We are delivered from the conditions that we use as excuses — “there’s no one to help me into the pool, and besides, everyone cuts in line” — and set free to stand before God. We are the evidence of God’s power working in the world when we live into that freedom.
Price goes on to say that the story John tells can be “pressed further down, to a sentence — the force that conceived and bore all things, came here among us, proved his identity in visible acts, was killed by men no worse than we, rose from death and walked again with his early believers, vowing eternal life beside him to those who also come to believe that he is God and loves us as much as his story shows” (64).
Consider well the mercies of the Lord, indeed. What will you do with this freedom? How will your life become evidence that God “loves us as much as his story shows”?