February 25, 2018
At some point in our lives all of us experience deep need. Whether it is a serious illness, a tragic accident, an unexpected death, a family crisis, or sudden job loss, these situations quickly overwhelm us. We feel alone, anxious, and hopeless. And if we believe that God exists, we wonder if he cares about us.
But this morning I am also thinking of another need that we all experience. It is our need for life and relationship with God. By far, this is the deepest need of our lives, and yet most people do not really attend to it. This is the need that the late Billy Graham spoke about again and again.
As we look at the story of the man in Jn.5, I want us to know that God loves each one of us and cares about every need of our lives, especially our need for life and relationship with him. From this story we learn that Jesus, the Son of God, wants to meet you in your deepest need.
I. ALLOW JESUS TO TOUCH YOUR LIFE. Jn.5:1-9
The pool of Bethesda is just to the north of the temple complex. Bethesda means, “House of mercy.” In Jesus’ day many with disabilities would sit by that pool. Most of our Bibles have a footnote by v.3 informing us that there is an additional verse. This verse tells us that the people believed that from time to time an angel of the Lord would come and stir the water. Whoever was able to get into the water first would be cured. The reason this verse is not found with the others is because it is not found in the earliest manuscripts of John’s gospel. This verse was inserted at a later date. That said, there must have been some belief about the stirring of the water because in v.7, the man Jesus was speaking to explained that when the water was stirred he was not able to get in. Some speculate that perhaps the water was stirred by some event in the springs that fed the pool. We don’t know.
But that brings us to the man. Jesus was in Jerusalem for one of the feasts. We are told that there was a man lying at the pool who had been an invalid for 38 years. Many think he was probably paralyzed. Think about this. The average life span during the days of Jesus was only about 30-35 years. This man had suffered for a long time. In v.6 we read that Jesus was aware of this man’s situation. He knew that the man was a regular at the pool for many years. Day after day the man would lay by the pool waiting for the water to be stirred.
Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be healed?” Really? What kind of a question is that? “Do you want to be healed!” The man told Jesus that when the water is stirred he had no one to put him into the pool. I take that to be a, “Yes. I want to be healed but I can’t be healed because I have no one to help me.”
I have read a number of different perspectives on this man. Some scholars view him in a positive light while others view him in a negative light. It seems to me that in asking if the man wanted to be healed, that Jesus was offering a word of hope, but I don’t sense that the man discerned that. He was hopeless.
If the man had been Roman Catholic he could have prayed to the four patron saints of hopeless causes: St. Rita, St. Jude, St. Philomena, and St. Gregory of Thaumaturgus. Supposedly when you are facing an impossible situation you can pray to these saints and they will intercede for you. I find nothing in the Bible that lends support for this idea. But this man didn’t even have a saint he could pray to. In fact, you don’t get the idea that this man was doing much praying any more. After 38 years of being paralyzed, he was hopeless.
But Jesus knew about this man. Did Jesus inquire about him? Is that how he knew about the man? Or maybe Jesus knew about the man because he is God in the flesh. We are not told. It doesn’t make much difference. The important thing is that this forgotten man was not forgotten by Jesus.
A lot has changed since the days of Jesus. Today we have medical science. It is amazing what medical science can do. And yet as amazing as science is, many situations are beyond cure. Many people are living with all kinds of physical pain and emotional anxiety. Some of the pain is caused by illness or accident or violence. Emotional anxiety is often the result of emotional damage that has been done to us. Many live in a prison of pain, fear, and anxiety. Jesus knows about us. He knows us intimately. He understands all about our pain.
Jesus tells the man to get up, take up his bed, and walk. Verse 9 tells us that at once the man was healed. He got up and did exactly as Jesus told him to do. We don’t read anything about the man having faith. Jesus just healed him. As far as we know, Jesus did not heal the others at the pool. He healed this man who had suffered for so many years. Why didn’t Jesus heal all the others? I don’t know. I suppose he didn’t have to heal anyone. But he healed this man.
If you have been praying for healing for many years, a passage like this might be frustrating. It might cause you to wonder, “Is there something wrong with my faith or my prayer? Why doesn’t God heal me? Maybe God doesn’t care about me.”
Most of us are probably familiar with Joni Eareckson Tada. In 1967 a diving accident left Joni a quadriplegic. She was only 17 at the time. Now she is 68. She has been paralyzed for 51 years. For a long time Joni prayed for healing. She longs to be healed. God has not healed her yet. But God has touched Joni’s life in amazing ways. She is the founder and CEO of the Joni and Friends International Disability Center. Joni lives in pain on a daily basis. But God has met her in her deepest need. She continually learns to draw from God’s sustaining grace. She allows God to touch her life with his grace in Jesus Christ.
When Jesus healed this man he gave him a new life. That’s what Jesus does. He gives life. The most important life that Jesus gives is eternal life in the kingdom of God through the forgiveness of our sins. He made this life available by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. His resurrection life is available to all who will have Jesus as Savior, Lord and King. Jesus saves us from sin, death, and hell. He may heal your body and your emotions. Maybe not. But he will give you his eternal life if you will repent of your sin and give your life to him. Allow Jesus to touch your life by putting your faith and trust in him.
II. EMBRACE JESUS’ PURPOSE FOR YOUR LIFE. Jn.5:10-14
At the end of v.9 we learn that Jesus healed this man on the Sabbath. When the Jewish leaders saw the man carrying his mat they were upset because the man was breaking the Sabbath laws. He was doing work. Now, as far as I can tell from my study, the man was not breaking any Sabbath law found in the Old Testament. Rather he was breaking one of the many additions to the Sabbath law created by the Jewish religious leaders. The man was not breaking God’s law; He was breaking their laws.
When they questioned him, in v.11 he said, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, 'Take up your bed, and walk." It’s as if the man assumed that anyone who could heal him with a word, had the authority to tell him to take up his mat even on the Sabbath. The Jewish leaders didn’t comment on the healing. They replied, “Who is the man who said to you, 'Take up your bed and walk'?" From v.13 we learn that after healing the man, Jesus withdrew because of the crowd. So the man didn’t even know it was Jesus. In fact we don’t know if the man knew much of anything about Jesus.
Look at v.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." The verse could be translated, “Stop sinning.” There is a sense of urgency in Jesus’ words. And it seems that Jesus links the man’s paralysis to his sin.
This doesn’t mean that every problem and trial is the consequence of our sins. We live in a fallen world filled with sicknesses and problems of many kinds. And while I would be hesitant to tell someone that their problem is because of their sin, surely there are times when things happen as a result of sin. Alcoholics get cirrhosis of the liver because of their addiction to alcohol. Drug addicts overdose. Sexually immoral people often get diseases. According to 1Cor.11, a cavalier attitude towards the Lord’s Supper can lead to sickness and even death. Jesus seems to make a link between this man’s sin and his sickness. So Jesus says, “Stop sinning, that nothing worse may happen to you.”
In fact, Jesus words are for all of us. Anyone who is a follower of Jesus is called to stop sinning. It is because of our sins that Jesus died. Well, if we have received forgiveness of sin and life in Christ, does that mean we can continue to sin? Of course not. We must resist temptation and sin. This is all over the New Testament. In 1Jn.3:7-8 John writes, “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as He is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” The new life that Christ gives us is his life. Since this is the case it only follows that we who have Christ’s life will seek to live a righteous life like Jesus. None of us does this well. We all fall prey to sin. But we confess our sins and seek to turn away, no matter how often we fall.
In Rm.13:14 Paul writes, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” This is what believers do. We are to put on the Lord Jesus and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.
Notice that Jesus says, “Sin no more that nothing worse may happen to you.” That sounds ominous. And it is! Jesus could be speaking of some other kind of illness, but there is an implication here of future judgment. Now in our society there is very little awareness of any kind of future judgment. I would venture to say that most of us are not thinking about future judgment. Perhaps that is because we believe that when a person trusts in Jesus for salvation, all sins, past, present, and future are forgiven. And I believe that. However for anyone who professes to be a believer and then practices sin and seeks to justify it, there is no guarantee of eternal salvation because your life does not reflect a heart that seeks after God. So, yes. Jesus is encouraging this man to seek after righteousness and Jesus encourages all who follow him to seek after righteousness. Jesus’ purpose for us is to live a righteous life. That’s the kind of life he gives us. Have you embraced Jesus’ purpose for your life?
III. ACKNOWLEDGE JESUS AS LORD OF YOUR LIFE. Jn.5:15-18
Each of the four gospels describe the developing conflict that occurs between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders. In John’s gospel that conflict begins to show itself in this chapter concerning the Sabbath. Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath. Not only was that considered to be a breaking of the Sabbath, but in telling the man to carry his mat, Jesus was causing that man to break the Sabbath as well.
After Jesus told the man to sin no more, the man went to the Jewish leaders and told them that it was Jesus who healed him. In v.16 we learn that the Jewish leaders were persecuting Jesus because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. We are not told in what ways Jesus was being persecuted, but this should help us see that already Jesus was bearing the reproach of the world. Notice how Jesus answered the Jewish leaders, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This is interesting. Essentially Jesus is claiming that in healing on the Sabbath he is doing exactly what God does. He is doing God’s work. Jesus was claiming that his authority to heal on the Sabbath came from God, his Father. But this only made things worse. Now it’s not as if Jesus made this statement and then realized that he put his foot into his mouth. Jesus didn’t say, “Oops! I shouldn’t have said that!” No. Jesus knew exactly what he was saying. And the Jewish leaders quickly discerned the implication of Jesus’ words. In v.18 it says, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”
Clearly the Jewish leaders understood what Jesus was saying, and we see that they were actually seeking to kill him. Jesus was claiming to have a special relationship with the Father. In calling God his Father he is claiming to be the Son of God, fully equal with God. For the Jewish leaders that was blasphemy.
Now we don’t really know much about the man healed by Jesus. Did this man embrace Jesus? It’s hard to discern. It does not appear that he gave much thought to who Jesus is. But that does raise the question. Who is Jesus to you? I am not asking about your theological understanding of Jesus. I imagine most of us would answer by saying that Jesus is God’s Son. Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. Jesus is the Savior of the world. We can say all these things because we have heard them many times. But I want us to go deeper than the theological understanding.
Who is Jesus to you? What does it mean to you that Jesus is God in the flesh? What bearing does this truth have on your life? For many professing Christians it has little bearing on their life because they don’t think about it from one day to the next. The truth about who Jesus is has little impact on how they do their work, how they treat their spouse, how they raise their children, how they deal with worry, fear and temptation. In fact, for many professing Christians their relationship to Jesus has been confined to praying a prayer for salvation.
Jesus is God in the flesh. He is Lord of heaven and earth. To acknowledge who Jesus is implies that we live every day in light of his ongoing presence in our lives and in this world. Throughout the day we turn to the Lord Jesus, seeking his strength, his guidance, his forgiveness, his love. We want the beauty of Jesus to be seen in our lives because we acknowledge him as Lord of our life.
How do I know that Jesus wants to meet you in your deepest need? I know this because it is in our deepest need that God does his finest work. God did his finest work when Jesus died and rose again that we might have forgiveness and life in his kingdom, beginning now. Whatever need you have Jesus wants to meet you in that need. He wants to use that situation to draw you closer to him. He wants to meet your deepest need for life with God. Have you turned to Jesus for life? Amen