In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
Our Lord asks some very important questions during the course of His earthly ministry, and this morning I believe we have one of the most important. His most important question is – “Who do you say that I am?” Accepting Him as Lord and God, the Second Person of the All Holy Trinity, the Son and Word of God, and God Himself – this is the most important question in a person’s life. There are so many things in this world that keep us distracted from that one most central question – and even if we accept it, that keep us distracted from living it.

The question that Jesus asks the paralytic man at the pool of Bethesda, which we heard in the Gospel reading this morning – this is another of the most important questions that we hear in all of Scripture. “Do you want to be made well? Do you want to be healed?” In the context of the reading, the question seems out of place. Many ill people were gathered around the pool, all of them waiting for the angel to come and stir the water, all of them wanting to be the first person in so that they might be healed. All of them were wanting and waiting for healing. Our Lord takes compassion on this particular man, knowing that he’d been at the pool for 38 years, waiting for his chance to be healed.

Waiting by the pool was the only life this man knew, it was all he had. So our Lord doesn’t just come and take away from him everything he knows. Instead, He comes and asks, “Do you want to be made well?” Our God is a humble God, as we see in the Scriptures; He doesn’t force us to accept Him; He doesn’t force us to be made well. He offers us the opportunity to be healed. Most of the people the Lord heals come to Him, but this man He approaches and offers His healing. Of course, as we know, the man assented, telling Jesus that he’d had no one to help him all these years – and he is told to “rise, take up your bed and walk.” He’s healed. And at the end of the reading the Lord tells him something that we actually hear quite frequently after one of His miracles – “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”

So now to us, to the impact of our Lord’s question on our lives. This is the question that Christ is putting forth for us all the time – do you want to be made well? Being made well we would understand in the Church and in the spiritual life as being healed of our sins and of our passions, being made into the likeness of Christ, following the commandments of Christ. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” – this is healing. It’s true that sometimes our Lord works a physical miracle to the healing of our bodies, but the aim (target) of the Holy Spirit is our heart, that we be transformed by the renewing of our minds, as St. Paul says. The vital healing is not of our bodies, which are fallen and corruptible and dying – the vital healing is so that we might inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

Clarification – we do not believe that the body is evil and the soul good, we preach a psychosomatic union within man – so as our sins and passions are purged, our bodies DO begin to function more as God created them to. If you’ve been in a place where holy people live, you can feel the holiness of the place – we venerate the relics of the Saints because God’s transforms not only their souls but also their bodies.

But for any healing to take place, we must first answer our Lord’s question – do we want to be healed? This is a pertinent question, because sometimes people don’t really want to be healed. Sometimes, perhaps, WE don’t want to be healed. This is an analysis we can make of ourselves, if we’re willing to truly be honest with ourselves.

Are there things in our lives that we don’t really want to get rid of?
Are there sins that we actually prefer to commit?
Are there passions that we enjoy, enjoy so much that we don’t really want to let them go?

We should continually be looking into our hearts and asking this question of our Lord’s – do we really want to be healed? Living according to the Gospel is difficult in this world – there are things we can’t do, places we can’t go, programs we can’t watch, music we can’t listen to, company we can’t keep, books we can’t read, jokes we can’t tell, thoughts we can’t have. This isn’t a list of rules – you can’t, you can’t, you can’t – but this is reality; to live Christ in our lives, the way we live must be radically transformed. “If the world hates you, know that it hated me first” – people won’t understand why we’re changing, it won’t make sense to them, because the transformation of the Gospel is not of this world.

But the question remains – do we want to be healed? We have found the Pearl of Great Price, we have found Christ – are we willing to sacrifice everything else to retain this precious gift? There truly is nothing else that matters. And for all the things we may “give up” what we get in return is incalculable – we give up sin and vice and evil and death, and in turn we receive life, the life of God. There’s nothing better, there’s nothing sweeter in this world that we could possibly possess – life with Christ is the best that life has to offer.
And we end by answering the question “Do you want to be healed?” with the greatest proclamation in human history –
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Matthew Jackson