Summary: Change is difficult because we focus on the negative aspects of the change. We follow a wrong strategy. Yet Jesus offers each of us an invitation to change!
Sir Isaac Newton’s “First Law of Motion” states “Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it!” I think we all recognize within ourselves the need for change. Yet we also recognized that the change we need is often hard to achieve. Change is difficult because we focus on the negative aspects of the change. We follow a wrong strategy. We want to stop habits or patterns and focus on what we don't want. Effectively, we want to uncreate the very thing we have, but instead we usually add more features.
There is a very important story about change recorded in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John. Jesus has gone up from Cana of Galilee to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the great religious feasts. It is worthy of note that He, as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world, would enter the city through the Sheep Gate, the entrance to the city through which the sheep for temple sacrifices were brought. Once inside the city, he comes to the pool of Bethesda. Lying all around the pool are sick and paralyzed people. They are there because there is a legend that an angel would on occasion come and stir up the waters of the pool, and the first one to enter the pool after the angel stirred the water would be healed. It was of course a common belief, but it was the last hope for many of these people. It not unlike what is still found in many parts of the world today. Lourdes, in southern France, has a spa which many believe has healing capacities. The shrine of Guadalupe, in Mexico City, is another such place where thousands have gone hoping for a healing. Whether anyone is healed or not, the people come believing that this is hope of healing.
Jesus moves into the midst of the group, but Jesus does not indiscriminately heal everyone at that the pool that day. He moved among the blind and the lame; he is drawn to one particular man who had been ill for 38 years. The Bible does not say the nature of his disease other than it rendered him unable to walk. Why among so many, Jesus chose this man to heal? We are not told. But from a careful study of this man and his condition we learn much about ourselves! The story begins in verse one, “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, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. (3) In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. (4) For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.(5) Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.”
Into this sea of desperate people Jesus came. It is interesting to consider that out of all these people Jesus chose to heal one man. It could have been because Jesus knew that the man had been lying there for 38 years, but there may have been other reasons for Jesus having compassion on him. One thing we do know from this scripture is that it was not because the man sought Jesus’ help. In fact, he did not even know who Jesus was. Jesus encountered him and asked him a strange question. He said, “Do you want to get well?” It might seem kind of crazy to ask someone who has been paralyzed for 38 years if he wants to get well? Yet, Jesus never asks a question without good reason. Here, Jesus is extending an invitation.
According to John, Jesus has traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem to celebrate a feast or festival. We don’t know for sure which one, but it may have been the feast of Pentecost, a feast commemorating the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. When he was in Jerusalem, Jesus went to the Pool of Bethesda, also known as Bethsaida, where “a great multitude of sick people” gathered. Fittingly the name Bethesda means “house of mercy.” In several translations, the attraction of the pool given in verse four is omitted. It was thought by some to be a later addition. At any rate, it was said that an angel of the Lord in certain season would come down to the pool and disturb the surface of the water and the first person to enter the pool there-after was cured of any illness. In this multitude of people who had gathered was man to whom Jesus was drawn. I want you to note three things with me this morning. To accepting God’s invitation to change requires a decision.