Sermon: Long Overdue Healing
Main Scripture: John 5:1-15 ESV After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 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?” 7 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.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ ” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.
Main Idea: Strong faith or strong defenses?
In the gospels there are two sets of areas that Jesus is constantly going between. One division is “going to the other side of the lake” and the other is back and forth from the area of the Galilee, where He spent most of His ministry (especially in Capernaum), and Jerusalem where He spent time for the high Holy times of the year and His Holy week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. John’s gospel is intentionally vague on which of the Jewish feasts Jesus had traveled to Jerusalem for (It could have been Passover, Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) or Feast of Tabernacles). Chapter 5 begins a section of John’s gospel which shows Jesus working in the midst of all the high holy days (and especially on the Sabbath). We aren’t told which Festival He was there for, but we know that He went up to Jerusalem during one of them. We often speak of “going up” to refer to going North or going down” to refer to travelling south. Everyone who traveled to Jerusalem from any direction went up because it was on a high mountain, but also because it was the most holy place. Chapter 5 begins the tension that will build all the way up to the crucifixion between Jesus and the religious leaders.
John is vague on which festival, which sickness, and how Jesus knew the man was sick, but he was specific on…
The question of Jesus
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?”
Bethsaida is a beautiful area just outside temple mount on the eastern corner of the Northern wall. This beautiful area is where the historic Via Dolorosa begins in Jerusalem today.
(Bethsaida-Remember that Beth means house (as in Bethlehem-house of bread, Bethel-House of God, and Saida meant mercy. Therefore, Bethsaida meant house of mercy) There is irony in the reality that no one had shown mercy on this infirmed man for 38-years.
How would you answer this question if Jesus asked you? “Do you want to be healed?”
I changed how I pray with people years ago. I used to say “If Jesus was here, what would you ask Him for?” Now I say, “Since Jesus is here, what are you bold enough to ask Him for?” In other words, “Do you want to be made well and are you willing to seek Him for it?”
We aren’t told why Jesus choose this man. (Remember this was a place with “a multitude of invalids”)
We aren’t told how Jesus knew he had been sick for 38 years. (It could have been that Jesus heard it from others. It could have been that His disciples told Him. It could have been that He simply divinely knew.)
We aren’t told what kind of sickness the man had. (We could deduce that he had some physical impairment given that he said “no one helps me into the pool when it is stirred”. Yesterday we went to see and hear our son perform in the All-State choir at the BJCC. It was packed and so were all the other venues with cheerleading and volleyball tournaments. I was trying to get through a door with a crowd of 1000s. I waited a long time for someone to invite me through the door, but it just didn’t happen. This man had been waiting his turn for 38 years! House of Mercy-Not for him!
We are only told the key question that Jesus asked… “Do you want to be healed?”
At this point I am not sure the man had any expectation that it could actually happen for him.
No matter how wounded, broken, damaged, impaired, fallen, messed up, or let down you may feel and no matter how long you may have felt it; when Jesus shows up, your helplessness can be exchanged for His hopefulness.
Last week Mark preached about Jesus healing at a long distance. This week Jesus heals after a long time. I believe Jesus healed this man out of the crowd because everyone at the pool knew he was not only helpless, but had also appeared to be hopeless.
When we encounter Jesus, we can feel helpless but we are never hopeless. Because those who feel helpless and hopeless when they come to Jesus find that He is helpful and overflows with hope.
It is good to hear the question of Jesus “Do you want to be well?’, but we also have to hear…
The complaints we make
John 5:7 ESV 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.”
Once upon a time there was a woman married to an annoying man. He would complain about everything. One day he went to the creek with his mule. He complained so much that the mule got annoyed and kicked him to death. At the funeral, when all the men walked by the wife, she shook her head yes and every time the women walked by, she shook her head no.
The minister asked “Why are you shaking your head yes for men and no for women?” Her response was, “The men would say how sorry they felt for me and I was saying, “Yes, I’ll be alright.” When the women walked by, they were asking if the mule was for sale…”
For the careful reader you will notice that verse four is omitted from most versions of Scripture because it wasn’t found in the earliest manuscripts of the Bible. Some include it because it gives interesting context for why the infirmed gathered here. In verse four we read that “From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease they had.”
Let’s be clear. Sometimes we do not really want things to work out. We would rather complain about the reality that things never do.
Sometimes we would rather complain about our problems than attain our healing.
In life there are those who have answers to problems and those who have problems with the answers.
Jesus offered the sick man the answer, but the sick man was more interested in complaining about the problem.
It is good to hear the question of Jesus “Do you want to be healed?”
It is also good to hear the complaints we make. We have to be honest that sometimes we would rather complain about problems than attain our healing.
It is critical to see…
The opportunity we have
John 5:8 ESV Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
A young salesman was disappointed about losing a big sale, and as he talked with his sales manager he complained, “I guess it just proves you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” The manager replied, “Your job is not to make him drink. Your job is to make him thirsty.” So it is with evangelism. Our lives should be so filled with the passion of Christ that we create a thirst in others for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Are you more interested in the perks of an encounter with Jesus or the power of a personal relationship with Jesus?
Too many people want Christmas without a cross.
The formerly lame man got the perks of meeting Jesus, but missed knowing the person of Jesus (until later).
The man couldn’t have done any of the commands of Jesus on his own.
2-Take up your bed
What are things that Jesus is commanding you to do that you cannot do apart from Him?
If you aren’t risking to do things that you can’t do in your own strength then you probably aren’t risking enough.
The sick man was made well by Jesus, but He didn’t even know who Jesus was when he was asked. He simply said, the man who healed me told me to take up my bed and walk.
This miracle put Jesus at tension with the religious leaders from early in John’s gospel.
It is not until verse 15 that the man finally has learned who Jesus was.
On Jesus’s next visit to Jerusalem the religious leaders were still complaining about how Jesus healed the sick man on the Sabbath and told him to take up his bed and walk. John 7:21-23 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?
An American businessman traveled to Europe to see the famous Oberammergau Passion Play? Following the performance, the businessman had the opportunity to meet and talk with Anton Lang who portrayed Christ in the play. Seeing the cross that was used in the play, the businessman wanted his wife to take his picture holding it. He attempted to lift the cross to his shoulder. To his surprise he could hardly budge it from the floor.
He said to Mr. Lang, “I don’t understand. I figured the cross would be hollow. Why do you carry such a heavy cross?” Mr. Lang’s reply explains why this play draws people from all over the world to that little Bavarian village. He said, “If I did not feel the weight of His cross, I could not play the part.”
And neither can we.
Let us pray…
Jesus, attune our ears to hear You asking today, “Do you want to be made well?”
Inspire us to let go of our helplessness, so we can take hold of Your helpfulness.
Embolden us to let go of our hopelessness, so we can take hold of Your hopefulness.
Enliven us to let go of our brokenness, so we can take hold of Your healing.
Then activate us to share that help, hope, and healing with the world.
Forgive us for all our excuses and complaining and give us the courage to simply say “Yes, Lord! I want all the good gifts You desire to share through me.”
Help us not to settle for the perks of an encounter with You and instead intentionally invest ourselves in an ongoing personal relationship with You.
Help us not to miss the opportunity to stand up, take up our mat (and cross), and walk with You. In the name of Jesus, who walks with us, we pray. Amen!
How are you expecting Jesus to heal?
What do you need to let go of to take hold of Jesus?
How can your life reveal the glory of God?