Summary: This is an expository sermon based on John 5, utilizing a narrative style. Sometimes we seek out fake solutions to our problems because perhaps we don’t like the implications of what being healed might require of us.
Everybody likes to hear stories about people like Dustin Carter.
Dustin was born a normal, healthy baby, but when he was 5 years old, he suffered a bacterial blood infection. As a result of this blood infection, most of his limbs had to be amputated.
Like anyone else would feel, Dustin first felt very angry and depressed about his situation. He couldn’t run, jump, dress himself, or even use a fork.
But Dustin was determined that in spite of all the odds, he was once again going to do things for himself. He had to relearn how to do everything without hands or feet, but today, he can climb into his chair, climb onto the kitchen counter, get his own bowls, get in the refrigerator and retrieve whatever he wants.
But what’s most shocking about Dustin is that he wrestles. At 103 pounds, he wrestled for the Hillsboro High School in Ohio, and made it a long way into the Division II wrestling tournament in Columbus, compiling a 41-2 record going into the state meet. He won his first round match, though he lost his next two and didn’t finish in the top 8.
But despite his loss at the tournament, no one questions for a second that Dustin Carter is the very definition of what it means to be a winner.
We all love stories like that, don’t we? Someone who has the odds all stacked against them, but looks adversity square in the eye and refuses to give up.
Everyone loves an underdog with the heart of a champion.
In John 5, we encounter another man who knew what it was to be an underdog.
It says that Jesus went up to Jerusalem because of a Jewish Feast that was going on. Up in the Northeastern part of the city, there’s an entrance to the temple complex called the Sheep Gate. It’s probably no coincidence that here near the Sheep Gate, our Good Shepherd was going to call one of his lost sheep back into the fold.
Near this Sheep Gate, there was a pool called Bethesda. Bethesda means something to the effect of “House of Flowing.” It was a sort of trapezoid-shaped pool with 5 colonnades supporting the roof.
Were you to ever travel to this pool of Bethesda, you would be overwhelmed by the sight and the smell of the place. John says there was a multitude of people laying there.
Blind people; lame people; paralyzed people.
Your translation may or may not have included in it verse 4 of chapter 5. The earliest versions do not contain this brief comments, but it seems that someone along the line wanted the readers to understand why all of these downtrodden people of society would come to the same place.
As the story goes, from time to time, the water would stir around and gurgle. We have good reason to believe there were some underground streams that would move the water around, but the belief was that it was an angel of the Lord, stirring the waters.
Once the waters were stirring, the first one in would supposedly be healed of whatever was ailing them.
So there were untold numbers of these people who would remain there day and night, hoping for the waters to be stirred so that they could rush in and hopefully find healing.
But Jesus didn’t just see a multitude. He saw the individuals who made up that multitude. He saw one man in particular, and it was obvious that he had been there for a very long time.
Though we don’t know how long he had been at this pool specifically, he had been an invalid for 38 years. Think about that.
At this point in my life, I don’t even have a frame of reference for what 38 years is. I stand before you today 28 years old. Were this his 38th year, he would have been disabled a full decade before I even came into the picture.
He would have encountered this condition in 1971.
For those of you who can remember back that far, in 1971:
- This was when Cigarette Advertisements were first banned on Television.
- John Lennon released his “Imagine” album.
- Charles Manson was convicted of murder.
- In Superbowl V: The Baltimore Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 in Miami.
- Richard Nixon was still president
- The U.S.S.R. was performing controversial nuclear tests in numerous locations.
In all this amount of time since then, this man would have been an invalid.
I don’t like having a cold for a week. Can you imagine going for 38 years unable to get by, except for the generosity of strangers to sustain you?
There are some uncomfortable realities about dealing with beggars. Some of them have genuinely had bad luck. Some of them have made foolish decisions. Some of them have mental illnesses that are beyond their own control.