The Age of Anxiety and John 5.1-18

Anxiety disorders are the number one mental health problem in the world. “Disorder” means it has reached a point of negatively effecting your life. The universal consensus among mental health professionals is that stress and anxiety go hand in hand. The reason is because even though stress comes at us from the outside, it hits us on the inside. Stress makes strong claims on our inner self. In other words, pressure on the self makes us, well, anxious. We live in an age of anxiety. And so did Jesus. 

“Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades” (verse 2). The sheep gate is where the animals for sacrifice in the Temple entered to be washed in a huge pool over two football fields in length. “In these (the massive covered patio over the pool) lay a multitude of invalids – blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.” What a strange place! Sacrificial beasts and humans (all creation) all mixed up together. Then the camera zooms in on “one man” whose been shattered his whole life. John calls him “the sick man” (verse 7).

Jesus says to the sick man, “Do you want to be healed?” What a strange question. Of course he wants to be healed! Everyone wants to be healed of their immediate suffering. So, what is Jesus doing? The answer is Jesus is talking about a deeper sickness. In other words, the deeper sickness of the need for control and the anxiety it produces. “The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me” (verse 7). He hears Jesus question as an accusation, like Jesus is saying, “Have you really tried.” In other words, the sick man is anxious about himself. He is interpreting life and living life out of the need for control. Thomas Gardner says, “But Jesus is not making an accusation, and he is not interested in the man’s excuses. He is interested in making the man whole…” This is why Jesus simply heals him on-the-spot (verse 8). Jesus is not interested in his anxious control, rather, he is interested in healing him of it.

We need to be healed of our deeper sickness for control. This is why the story continues after the physical healing with, “Now that day was the Sabbath” (verse 9). THAT DAY was the day of not working. THAT DAY was the day of God working for you. It is on THAT DAY that Jesus heals the man.

We live in a world of control, a world of working for rest, a world of anxiety. But Jesus offers a world of God’s control, a world of resting in God’s work, a world of healing and wholeness. Jesus sees us lying there in all our anxious control and says, “Rise, take up your bed and walk!” (verse 8). He says, “I worked for your rest. I work for your rest. I will work for your rest. I am always working for you! Rise up in my work!”