rev-joaquin-willis_web.jpgFrom the time we’re born, we start dying. Some who are sick know they’re dying but others do not know it. All of us, in some way, are physically, spiritually, emotionally or mentally sick but may not know it. If you have ever been ill, and knew it, then you know what it means to answer the question: “Do you want to be well?”

Two biblical stories hold tremendous healing power. Naaman the Leper’s story (II Kings 5:1-16) and the Lame Man at the Pool (John 5:1-18). Both involve sick people with desire and determination to be well. Let’s do a brief comparative analysis.

The healing of the lame man takes place on one of five porches near the pool of Bethesda which means “House of Mercy.” Beneath the pool was a subterranean stream which bubbled up and disturbed the waters from time to time and people believed it had the power to heal because angels disturbed the waters.

Naaman the commander of the Syrian army is a leper who is told to bathe in the Jordan River for a cure.

Both scriptures raise an important question: “Under what conditions can we see the miraculous power of God operate?”

In both scriptures, we see five principles at work:
•One must desire to be cured.
• One must lean toward the cure.
• One must get up and attempt the impossible.
• One must combine desire with determination.
• One must stay sinless or else things get worst.

When hope dies, it leaves behind a passive, dull despair, making many content to remain sick forever. If cured, many fear shouldering the burden of self-care and accepting the responsibility of staying healthy, thus Jesus raises the question. “Do you want to be well?”

At the pool, people believed whoever stepped into the water first was made whole. Jesus makes it clear the healing power isn’t in being first, but in having faith. The pool exemplifies the age old maxim, “Everyone is out for himself.”

The pool-side was full of selfish people who thought of no one but themselves. There wasn’t anyone willing to say to the lame man, “Your condition is worse than mine, so you go first,” or, “You’ve been waiting 38 years, so you go first.”

When the lame man speaks of their unkindness, Jesus says to him, “Get up. Pick up your mat and walk.” Christ’s reaction shows He wasn’t going be the host of the man’s pity party.

In both stories we see the sick must desire to be cured. In our hearts, if we are content to stay as we are, there can be no healing for us.

Secondly the sick must lean toward the cure. Miracles happen when our will and God’s power in Christ cooperate to make them possible. Though it’s admittedly before the time of Jesus, Naaman gets angry (II Kings 5:13) about Elisha’s suggested healing process and he leans away from the cure. It’s not until a slave challenges his thinking about his need for drama from Elisha that he accepts the humble solution of bathing in the Jordan River. 

The third principle is we must get up. The lame man could have said, “For 38 years, this bed has been carrying me and there’s no sense now in you telling me to carry it.”  Naaman the commander could have said, “Bring Elisha to me.” The divine words, “Get up,” have divine power; they command diseases to leave; victims to be strong; and stir us from normal routines.

The fourth principle is we must combine desire with determination to be made well. The power of God is enhanced in opportunities when we conquer what, for so long, has conquered us. 

The fifth principle given by Jesus is “Go and sin no more, lest things get worst.”  The Old Testament helps us better understand this principle. After Elisha decides (II Kings 5:16) not to charge Naaman for his healing, Gehazi, his servant, runs after Naaman to get paid (II Kings 5:22), for Gehazi, as Jesus said, things did get worst (II Kings 5:27). His greed caused him, in the end, to take on Naaman’s leprosy. 

God’s healing power is free, a gift of grace, available to all, for there is no charge, except the avoidance of sin. Please be reminded that on the cross, Jesus paid that price in full.  Amen.

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Miami.  To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or e-mail