Question: "Why did Jesus ask the man at the Pool of Bethesda, "Do you want to be made well?" (John 5:6)?"

Answer: The apostle John records a select number of signs or miracles that help demonstrate who Jesus is and the importance of believing in Him for eternal life (John 20:30–31). These miracles showed Jesus’ authority—an authority that only the Creator could have. In recounting one of these remarkable miracles, John records that Jesus asks an infirm man at the Pool of Bethesda, “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6, NKJV).

On a Sabbath during a feast of the Jews (John 5:1, 9, 16), Jesus sought out a man who had been sick and unable to walk for thirty-eight years (John 5:5). This man was part of a multitude of those with severe ailments who would wait by the Pool of Bethesda in hopes of being healed (John 5:3–4). Jesus knew that this man had been there a long time in that condition, and He asked the man at the Pool of Bethesda, “Do you want to be made well?” Obviously, the man wanted to be made well physically. The man’s being at that location was an indicator of that desire. So, when Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to be made well?” He wasn’t asking the man simply about his physical well-being. Jesus also cared for the man’s spiritual well-being. Before resolving the spiritual or the physical problems the man was dealing with, Jesus had this man think about his need.

The sick man responds that he had no one to put him in the pool—thought to have healing powers—at the right time. In his mind, he had no means to resolve his problem. The man acknowledged that he needed help (John 5:7). After the man admitted his own inability, Jesus gives him an incredible direction: “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk” (John 5:8, NASB). Immediately—even before the man could obey the command—the man was healed. Immediately after that, the man did what Jesus had directed him to do: “He picked up his mat and walked” (John 5:9).

Those who saw the man carrying his bedding on the Sabbath argued that it was not lawful for him to do that (John 5:10). The man responded that he was carrying his mat at the instruction of the man who had healed him (John 5:11). In this, the man most likely recognized that, because Jesus had demonstrated power over nature, Jesus must also have authority over the Sabbath.

Later, Jesus found the man again and told him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14). With these words, Jesus was continuing to teach this man that there is more to wellness than physical health. The man seemed to understand that Jesus’ question “Do you want to be made well?” was about more than physical wellness, because, when Jesus found the man again, the man was in the temple (John 5:14).

This miracle shows Jesus’ authority and identity. It illustrates that He is indeed the One in whom we believe for eternal life. It also can help remind us that true wellness is about much more than physical health. If Jesus were to ask us, “Do you want to be made well?” would we recognize, like the man at the Pool of Bethesda, that we can’t resolve our problems ourselves? Would we look to Him as this man did?