It seems incredible that Jesus would ask an invalid if he wanted to get well. This man was at the Sheep Gate pool along with a large number of disabled people who were all waiting for a miracle of healing. It is odd that he would ask the man if he wants to get well. I would take it for granted by his action of gathering with the others to wait for this phenomenon to happen that he does. He must want to get healed, isn’t it obvious?
When we pursue ministering healing to people, do we make a mistake by not asking them if they want to be well? I know that when the opportunity comes at meetings to receive prayer for healing not everyone who is infirm in my opinion comes forward. If I had their condition, I would go forward but they don’t.
But Jesus knew that not everyone wants to get healed. They may be in the right place for such an opportunity but they may have a lot more to give up than we realise. Firstly, it could be a total revamp of their life style. They may be on benefits of some type and are not really keen on giving them up. If you have never worked for 38 years, what will you do? Who will hire you? Receiving a healing could upset your entire sense of security.
Secondly, there’s their identity. He had been this way for 38 years and knew nothing else. Everyone knew him as an invalid and related to him that way. They probably helped him get to the pool, took him home, helped with his groceries, and slipped him a few pence here and there. Identity is powerful. We can be entrapped by it even though it isn’t that beneficial. Like the blind man that Jesus healed, people weren’t certain it was he or not after he could see. (John 9).
Thirdly, there is their sense of belonging. The group of disabled people that waited at the Sheep Gate pool were a small subculture within the community. They would know each other well, banter and laugh with each other, and develop ways of doing things for and with each other. If he could walk, he would no longer belong to this group. His difference would separate him from them even if he dedicated himself to helping people from that group. He’s no longer one of them.
This is a real issue within the deaf community over the cochlea implants that can restore their ability to hear. Check it out by doing an Internet search. In response to the question, why is the deaf community against cochlear implants, the deaf person wrote: “For one, you have to be deaf to understand "Deafness" is not a disease. We have been telling people that we are just fine, leave us alone! Cochlear implants being drilled in babies heads, they can't say "leave us alone."
Being moved by compassion for someone is good; it is love in action. But love honours people too. Jesus would not force healing on someone who didn’t want to be healed and neither should we. In ministry we need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings rather than following a format. When moved by compassion we should ask the Lord what do we do next?