When we last left the book of John, a multitude of Samaritans had believed in Jesus. They were believing in His word (John 4:42). After staying with the Samaritans for a couple of days, Jesus returns to Galilee. John’s comment that a prophet is without honor in his own place lets us know that trouble is ahead, but the Galilean crowd is eager to see their hometown hero back from His trip to Jerusalem.
The Lord returns to Cana, the town where He had performed His first sign. An official (perhaps from Herod Antipas’s court) hears that Jesus has come to Galilee. He travels from Capernaum to Cana to beg Jesus to heal his dying son. The trip would have been a mostly uphill journey of about 20 miles. From the fact that he takes two days to return, we can assume the journey was on foot. He was desperate.
Surprisingly, Jesus gives him a stern rebuke: “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will never believe” (4:48). The word “you” is plural, which means He’s speaking both to the man and the crowd. As desperate as the father is, he, along with the crowd, still sees Jesus as a wonder-worker or magician. For him, Jesus was simply a means for his son to become healthy. He continues to beg, and Jesus lets him know his son is well. The father has a choice: Will he trust in what Jesus said without being able to see the results? No ancient sorcerer could heal from a distance. The man, John says, “believes in the word Jesus spoke to him” (4:50). He returns to find that his son recovered at the same time Jesus promised, and the whole household believes.
After a while, Jesus goes to Jerusalem again. He passes through a section of the city that nice people don’t visit. The disabled and handicapped surround the superstitious pool of Bethesda. Jesus singles out a man who has been handicapped for 38 years and asks him a strange question: “Do you want to get well?” (5:6). Like Adam and Eve, the man blames his present circumstances on the decisions of others. He shows no faith, but Jesus heals him anyway.
The outcome of the story illuminates the man’s spiritual condition. Jesus tells him to take his pallet home, and the act gets the man in trouble with the authorities because of an unbiblical sabbath requirement. The man blames Jesus, but he doesn’t even know Jesus’ name. Jesus gives this man, like the father in chapter 4, a warning: “Stop sinning so that nothing worse happens to you” (5:14). The man doesn’t listen. He reports Jesus anyway. Unlike the blind man in John 9, this man isn’t willing to accept the consequences of following Jesus. “Do you want to get well?” No, he didn’t.
Jesus looks at us through the pages of Scripture and asks two questions: First, will we, like the desperate father, believe in the word that Jesus speaks to us without being able to see the results? Or perhaps Jesus is simply a means to a long, healthy, convenient life with a comfortable income and 2.5 kids? In other words, is Jesus merely a problem-fixer, or is He the Savior of the world? Second, being healed by Jesus will cause some problems. Do we really want to get well?