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John 5:6

ESV When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”
NIV When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, 'Do you want to get well?'
NASB Jesus, upon seeing this man lying there and knowing that he had already been in that condition for a long time, *said to him, 'Do you want to get well?'
CSB When Jesus saw him lying there and realized he had already been there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to get well? "
NLT When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, 'Would you like to get well?'
KJV When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?

What does John 5:6 mean?

There have been frequent debates over what the opening phrase of this verse means. Some claim that the fact that Jesus "learned" about the man's condition, as some versions translate it, means that He was not truly omniscient, and therefore not really God. Of course, just as Jesus limited His own power and presence, He could have also limited His own knowledge just as easily.

However, the Greek term here is gnous, which implies the idea of "knowing." This is why most translations indicate that Jesus "knew" the man's plight. Such a translation would speak more to His omniscience. But translating it as "learned" does not present a problem for Jesus' divinity. Since Jesus had to limit the use of His own divine attributes in order to live as a man, there is no reason He could not have done so with His knowledge, as well (Luke 2:40).

The question Jesus asks is interesting. Depending on how one interprets the crippled man, these words take on different tones. Is Jesus asking for confirmation: "Would you like me to make you well?" Or, is He challenging the man's apathy and indifference: "Do you even want to be healed?" The man's response in verse 7, interestingly, is not a "yes." Rather, it's a shift of blame onto others. The man will do the same when confronted about carrying his mat on a Sabbath day (John 5:11).

This raises the question of whether the man has simply given up hope, or if he's actually not particularly interested in getting well. Human beings have a habit, at times, of rejecting solutions to our problems, because we like using them for leverage. Having a "woe is me" story to trump other concerns is, unfortunately, a temptation we are all subject to. Sadly, we can act the same way towards our sins, preferring the pity of others over doing the right thing.

This is echoed in an old joke about three men who find a magic stone. The first picks it up, and his deafness is healed. The second takes it, and his bad back is restored. The third man runs away, shouting "keep away from me, I'm on disability!"

Whether or not the man at the pool was in such a mental state, we can't really say. We can be sure he was not looking for healing when Jesus found him. This tells us quite a bit about God's sovereign (absolute and independent) will.
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