Summary: Before you can change you must decide that you want to be changed. There was a reason Jesus asked the question of the lame man, "Do you want to be well?" All of us must answer this crucial question.
`“A Lame Excuse”
Jesus has now come up from the city of Cana to the city of Jerusalem to celebrate one of the religious feasts. In Jerusalem there were different gates to enter and they were used for a variety of purposes. One of these gates was called the Sheep gate. This was the entrance through which the sheep they were using for sacrifices would enter. It’s interesting that as Jesus the lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world; Jesus entered through the same gate.
Now once He was inside the city, He comes to the pool of Bethesda. There lying all around the pool are sick and paralyzed people. They have come to this spot because there was a legend that an angel would on occasion come and stir up the waters of the pool and the first one to get into the water would be healed. This was of course just a superstition.
Now Jesus moves into the midst of this group but we notice that He does not heal everyone at the pool that day but as He moved among the blind and the lame, he is drawn to one particular man who had been ill for 38 years. It’s puzzling why out of all of these very needy people that Jesus would choose to heal only one man. It could have been that Jesus knew that the man had been lying there for 38 years.....could have been other reasons. One thing we do know is that it was not because the man was asking for Jesus’ help. He didn’t even know who Jesus was. Jesus encounters this man and then Jesus asks him a very strange question. Here it is: do you want to get well. I mean if a man was starving would you say would like some food? This man, paralyzed for 38 years and Jesus says do you want to get well?
There are 3 things I want us to see in this passage this morning. Here is the first one. (1) Before you can change you must decide if you want to be changed. Look at v. 6. “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’” Now again this is a strong question but Jesus would often ask questions for the simply purpose of making us think. It’s a lot like a question parents often ask their children: “Do you want a spanking?” Hmm...NO! In the past 38 years this man had been a beggar so he lived his life off of the donations of others. If he were healed he would lose these donations. He would lose the pity of others. Today in some 3rd world countries parents are guilty of injuring their children, crippling them perhaps, so that they can earn a living by begging. If this man were healed he would then have to be responsible for himself. He would have to find work. It would be a whole new world for him. It would be the equivalent today of offering this to a person who had lived on welfare if they were willing to give that up in order to get well. Now there would be risk. Now he would be responsible for himself.
I see in this man many people like this in our day. Their lives are sick. Their lives are dysfunctional, but they have never considered that God might have something new for them. They don’t know there is something more to life. They have become satisfied with just getting by. We see this in churches...we see it here. I see it in people all the time. They hear the gospel. They even seem excited about it But there comes a time when they realize they really do not want to be changed so they leave. You and I must decide if we want to be changed.
(2) If we do want to be changed we must decide to stop making excuses. V.7 “The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’” Notice the man avoids the question. He doesn’t answer it. He doesn’t say whether or not he wants to be well. He just complains. Tells us how unfortunate he is. Gives us a long list of his troubles. Has it ever occurred to you that there are some people who just really enjoy complaining? In today’s language we would say that he sees himself as a victim. When a person always sees themselves as a victim of society, as a victim of their upbringing, then they convince themselves that everything that happens to them is somebody else’s fault. It has to be their wife’s fault or their husband’s fault or their parent’s fault or society’s fault. Anybody but themselves! We can’t help but feel sorry for the man: all alone, his family is gone, he’s lame, he’s lonely and he says, “Sir, I have no one to help me.” In other words, I can’t do anything for myself and God’s not doing anything for me either. If we want to be changed we must decide that we will stop making excuses.