Every miracle of Jesus had a spiritual, emotional, and physical effect. In some cases, people came to the Lord for healing from diseases, and He proclaimed salvation upon them. In other cases, people came with spiritual needs, and He restored them spiritually, emotionally, and physically. In all cases, Jesus restored the person completely after their encounter with Him. In Christ, all things are made new—always!
One such story is the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda, as narrated in the Gospel of John (5:1-15). This healing event helps us understand the process and depth of a theology of wholeness in the midst of brokenness.
Brokenness Interrupts Worship
In this story, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals (v. 1). As a good rabbi, the Lord was faithful to the religious rigors of the law. As He journeyed to the temple to worship on a Sabbath, He was interrupted by the reality of a place full of broken people. Brokenness is a fallen state that impedes our worship of God. Brokenness is the consequence of sin, whether personal or original, and needs the healing work of Christ.
I remember being in Haiti preaching a message on the power of worship. After nearly one hour of beautiful worship and praise, I was distracted by a mother with her dying child who was suffering from malnutrition and gastrointestinal disease. I had to stop preaching and attend to the woman just as the rest of the congregation was. It was there I learned a Haitian proverb: “Sak vide pa kanpe” (an empty sack cannot stand). My Haitian brethren told me that there would be times when the noise of famine and brokenness could be louder than the words of the preacher.
The massive prevalence of brokenness around us may be overwhelming. On Jesus’ way to the temple, He passed by the Bethesda pool, where a great number of disabled people used to lay helpless—the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed (v. 4). In this pool surrounding, brokenness was not only loud, it was overwhelming. The massive and pervasive nature of brokenness around us may at times force us to think that these situations are normal. We may get used to sin and brokenness because of their sheer numbers. This was not the case with Jesus. He saw beyond the surface and got to the root.
Brokenness traps the broken in a spiral of hopelessness.
In the midst of all the needs around him, the paralyzed man in John 5 had resigned himself to the idea that brokenness was his inescapable fate. Chronic brokenness is so disheartening an issue that it clouds people’s vision to the point of leading them to embrace their condition as part of their new reality.
The paralyzed man is a metaphor for those who have fallen prey to the downward and inward spiral of brokenness. Resignation to brokenness means deciding to live an empty and hopeless life. This condition stays until we choose Jesus.
Wholeness and Holiness
When Jesus saw the paralyzed man, He asked him, “Do you want to get well?” Other versions record the question as, “do you want to be made whole?” Jesus knew this man’s condition had affected all areas of his life and that physical healing was only part of the restoration process. He knew that this man needed to be restored completely, but his willingness to submit to the Lord and his desire to be made whole were necessary for healing to take place. When we accept Jesus’ intervention in the middle of our brokenness, He restores all things. He touches body, mind, and soul so that we can worship Him in wholeness.
While it would have been easier for Jesus to simply heal the man and keep on walking, He chose to ask the man for a response and require an action.
“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” were clear instructions that demanded a response. If he would have chosen not to follow the instructions, he would have remained in his crippled condition. But the man picked up his mat and experienced restoration (v.8).
In their efforts to help the broken and oppressed, many well-intended ministries shift the levels of dependence from one addiction to another, almost encouraging dependence on handouts, assistance, and institutional care. Christ-centered wholeness results in freedom from dependency and the ability to journey with our heads up looking to our Lord as the only source of joy and wholeness.
A biblical theology of wholeness must always be holistic and Christ-centered.
It has to begin with God’s intentions for full restoration of all things to His image, and it has to be centered in the transformational power of Jesus Christ, through whom all things are restored. Even well-intended ministries only scratch the surface if their efforts focus on the ministry itself and not on the person of Christ.
Many who come to Jesus for help do not realize the depth of their need. Jesus alone has the unique ability to restore all areas of our lives. The Lord’s question, “Do you want to be made whole?” is not rhetorical. He made us in His image, and brokenness does not reflect His image in us. When we set ourselves aside and surrender all to Jesus, He can make all things good, beautiful, and restored.
Gustavo Crocker is a general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.
Holiness Today, Nov/Dec 2019