Summary: Does God still perform miracles? Of course He does. But what why does He? Is it to cause people to believe in Him? The sad fact is that most people who witness the miracles of God still refuse to believe—just like the people in today’s passage.
This morning, we come to a new section in the Gospel of John. We have noticed before that John didn’t set out to record every single miracle of Jesus. As a matter of fact, in the last verse of the book, he wrote, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” So, instead of recording lots of Jesus’ miracles, John only recorded a few. Although he indicates that Jesus did lots of miracles everywhere he went, John focused his Gospel only on seven signs. We’ve already looked at two of them—both of which happened at Cana of Galilee. First was when Jesus changed the water into wine. After that, He taught the disciple about Himself. And although many people saw the miracle, the disciples believed because they believed His Word. Then last week we looked at the second sign. Jesus had returned to Cana where a nobleman from Capernaum with a sick boy came to Him. Jesus healed the boy where the daddy couldn’t see that it happened. All the Galileans who were surrounding Jesus heard the same words as the nobleman. But the nobleman heard the Word and believed. He believed and took the Word of Christ to his whole household, and they believed. Two signs. Two groups of believers. But the ones who believed didn’t believe because of the signs. They believed because of the Word of Christ. Chapter 5 starts a new section of the book. Like the first section, it centers around two signs. A man was healed, and a multitude was fed. But the results of these signs was much different than the results of the two in the first section. These two didn’t result in explicit belief. As a matter of fact, they result in direct confrontation and opposition. As you study the book as a whole, you will notice a progression. Each of the signs that John records doesn’t bring more belief in Jesus. It’s really just the opposite. With each sign, fewer people believe. Fewer people believe, but opposition becomes more and more pronounced. To the point that later on, Jesus even asks if His disciples are going to leave Him too. If, after reading and studying the Gospel of John, you still think that God does miracles to make people believe in Him, you need to read it again. Because this book proves the opposite. This book proves that the more miracles lost people see, the more excuses they will come up with to reject the God of miracles. That’s why Paul said what he did in Romans 10:17. He didn’t say that faith comes by seeing. He didn’t say that faith comes by feeling. What did he say? He said, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” This whole book of John can be seen as an exposition of that one verse. Because John consistently proves that faith doesn’t come from seeing miracles. Faith comes only from hearing the Word of God. Scholars debate about the man in our passage today. Some say he was saved, some are adamant that he wasn’t. I’ve heard it preached and taught both ways. Most of the time, I’ve heard it preached that he was saved. The fact is, that we can only go with what the text says. And the text doesn’t ever indicate that he believed in who Jesus is. Because of that, and because of the pattern of the book as a whole, I don’t think we can say that he became a believer. And what a terrible tragedy that is. Imagine the audacity of taking in the wonderful blessings of Jesus and still not acknowledging Him as Lord. This man had been healed of a terrible affliction and still didn’t trust Jesus with his life. That’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? “Jesus, I’ll let you do all kinds of good things for me. In effect, I’ll steal all of your blessings. But you can’t have anything from me. I’ll trust you enough to let you heal me. But I won’t trust you enough to serve you. I won’t trust you enough to know you. I won’t trust you enough to bow my knees to you. I won’t trust you enough to tell others about you.” How tragic that is. Yet that’s not just the story of a man by a pool, 2000 years ago. It’s the story of most people in our world today. Odds are, it’s the story of many people in this room this morning. Is that your story? Sometime after the events happened in Cana with the nobleman, Jesus made His way back to Jerusalem. Verse 1 says that He made the journey because of a Jewish feast that was going on. It wasn’t the Passover, because John is very clear when it’s Passover time. So, we know it wasn’t Passover, but we don’t know exactly what feast it was. And it’s not really that important. The only reason it’s important, is so that we understand that there were a lot of people in Jerusalem at that time. During the feasts, faithful Jews came from all over the region to participate. The streets were crowded, the Temple was crowded. Every place was packed with people. One of the places that was packed was the place in our passage called the Pool of Bethesda. The name for the pool came from a Hebrew word that meant “House of Outpouring”. It was located in the northeast corner of Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate. The Sheep Gate got its name as the place where the sacrificial lambs were brought in on their way to the temple. But near to the sheep gate were two pools that were fed by an intermittent underground spring. On the periodic occasions when that spring would flow, it would cause the water to bubble and stir. It was sort of like the mineral springs in places like Yellowstone. An urban legend had formed around that bubbling. The superstition said that when the water stirred, it meant that an angel was stepping in the water. The legend said that whoever was the first one in the pool would be healed by that angel. That’s what verse 4 is talking about. As a matter of fact, the original manuscripts have verse 4 as a marginal note rather than as part of the main text. But even though this was a local superstition, thousands of people crowded around those two pools to be healed. It was like they had their own healing service right there in Jerusalem. There were so many people there that the Romans built five shelters that our text calls porticoes. The best way to describe them is to compare them to gazeboes or pavilions. They were basically columns with roofs to keep the weather off the sick people who were crowded around the pools. Verse 3 tells what kinds of people were there. This wasn’t a nice place. It was full of sick people. It was full of blind people. It was full of crippled people. It was full of people with paralyzed and withered up parts of their bodies. Just picture the scene for a moment. Thousands of pitiful people laying around in various states of physical and mental and emotional despair. Hour after hour. Day after day. And then, the water would ripple and bubble. Then out of their desperate hope, hundreds of sick and crippled and blind people would throw themselves in the water. All they could hope in was getting in there before their neighbor. Each one spend hours and days fuming about how they could beat out the rest of the people to the water. All focused on me and my needs. And the man in our passage was no different. Except he had been that way for 38 years. Imagine the bitterness that had built up in him over those years. Imagine the hatred as he heard the water bubble and hundreds pushed him out of the way and trampled him to get to the water. And then Jesus came up to him. Of all the hundreds or maybe thousands of people who were there, Jesus picked out one man. Jesus could have spoken the word and all of those people would have been healed. But He didn’t. I don’t know whether He walked around all five of those crowded porticoes or not. I don’t know how many people He passed by on His way to that man. But I do know that He purposely selected that man to walk up to. And notice what Jesus said in verse 6. Jesus asked him the strangest question. Here was this man who had been hopelessly crippled for 38 years. He was so desperate that he bought into a cruel local superstition. And what did Jesus ask him? He said, “Wilt thou be made whole?” “Do you want to get well?” One thing you should notice about Jesus. He’s always asking questions. But Jesus doesn’t ask questions because He doesn’t know the answer. Jesus asks questions to make people think. And by making them think, He reveals their true heart to them. Jesus asked the man, “Do YOU want to be healed?” The man’s heart is revealed in his answer. He said, “THOSE people won’t put me in the water.” “THOSE people keep pushing me out of the way.” “It’s THEIR fault that I’m not already healed.” So, what did Jesus say to him? Unfortunately it doesn’t come out in our English texts, but it does come out in the original. Jesus said, “YOU rise. YOU take up YOUR bed. YOU walk.” This isn’t about blaming things on other people. This is about YOU doing what Jesus commands YOU to do. And he did. Verse 9 says that he was immediately made whole. 38 years of debilitating sickness were gone. He was made physically new and whole. He rolled up the mat he’d been laying on. He tucked it under his arm and did something he hadn’t done for 38 years. He walked off. But then, the story gets really interesting. Here goes this newly healed man walking off down the road. No problem, right? Ah, but there was a problem. Because it was the Sabbath and he was carrying that little rolled up mat. We don’t have time to get into all the ins and outs of Jewish Sabbath law. But suffice it to say that the Jews had taken God’s law about not working on the Sabbath and built all kinds of their own laws around it. Carrying a bed mat wasn’t against God’s Sabbath law. If it had been, Jesus wouldn’t have commanded the man to do it. But it was against the laws that the Jews had built up around God’s law. And they hammered him on it. “Hey you! What do you think you’re doing! Put that thing down—it’s the Sabbath!” Well, that put the man in a bind. Who was he going to listen to—the ones who had done nothing to help carry him to the water for all those years? Or the One who healed him and told him to pick up his mat and carry it? He chose to do what Jesus told him to do. He said, “The man who healed me told me to do it.” Now, I want you to notice a subtle thing about what that man said. Because it is one evidence that even though his body was better, he hadn’t changed on the inside. When Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed, he told Jesus that the reason he wasn’t healed already was because OTHER people didn’t do the right thing. Now, when the Jews accused him of breaking the law, he pointed his finger of blame to ANOTHER person. “It’s not my fault, the man who healed me told me to.” There was no change of heart. When Jesus saves a person, his life will show it. He will show it in the way that he loves God and in the way that he loves other people. Loves other people—not blames other people. This man continued to pass the blame on to other people. But there was a problem. Because he didn’t even know who to pass the blame on to. He didn’t even really know who it was that had healed him. But Jesus sought him out and found him again. This time when Jesus found him, He gave him a warning. He said, “you know that horrible physical condition you were in?” “You are going to find yourself in a whole lot worse condition than that if you continue living your life of sin.” Notice the emphasis in verse 14: “YOU are made whole. YOU sin no more lest a worse thing come to YOU.” Not anybody else. No finger pointing. No blaming. You can’t blame your parents. You can’t blame your culture. You can’t blame your job. You can’t blame your school. You can’t blame anyone else. You are responsible. If you continue in your life of sin, you will be far worse off than a mere physical sickness. At that point, what should the man have done? He should have seen his inability to do anything about his sin. He should have pleaded the mercy and grace of God. He should have asked forgiveness for his selfishness and pride. And he should have called on Jesus to save him from his sin. But he didn’t. What did he do in verse 15? He left, found the Jews and told on Jesus. Some people have mistakenly taken this to be witnessing. It wasn’t—it was tattling. That day, by the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus performed a miracle. There were three ways of viewing that miracle. First was the way of the one who was healed. You would think that he would have fallen on his face before Jesus and trusted Him as his Lord and Savior. But he didn’t. Instead, he disregarded Jesus. He walked off without so much as an acknowledgement of what Jesus had done for him. The miracle didn’t affect his heart one bit. Inside, he was the exact same lost and selfish person he’d ever been. Is that you this morning? Just the fact that you are here, alive today testifies to the fact that Jesus has performed miracles in your life. Have you changed? Have you bowed your knee in service and obedience to Him? Or have you simply accepted His good grace and mercy and kept on walking. Have you allowed Him to fix your outside without allowing Him to have your inside as well? There was another way of viewing the miracle that day. That was the way the Jews viewed it. They completely discredited the miracle. They ignored it. They refused to see the absolute wonder of what had happened right in front of them. What did they do instead? They stayed all wrapped up in their system. They stayed focused on their day to day legal system. They refused to acknowledge the miraculous because it didn’t fit with their worldview. Maybe that’s you this morning. Maybe you refuse to believe that miracles happen. Maybe you refuse to believe that Jesus changes lives and changes hearts. Maybe you’re just too wrapped up in your day-to-day life to see the work of God around you. Can you see how petty that is? Can you see how petty your schedules and habits and routines are compared to the miraculous hand of God? How could those Jews be concerned about a man carrying a little mat around when he had just been healed of a terrible disease? The same way you can be so wrapped up in your little personal systems that you refuse to see the miracle of salvation that Jesus has provided for you. The healed man disregarded Jesus. The Jews discredited Jesus. But there is one more view of the miracle that happened that day. And that’s the view that’s presented in the text. That’s the view that deifies Jesus. The miracle that Jesus performed was an act that only God can perform. When you think about it, Jesus recreated that man’s body. After 38 years, there were no more muscles and tendons and ligaments. Everything had atrophied. Nothing was capable of working. His body was essentially dead. But Jesus completely recreated it. New muscles. New tendons. New ligaments. New joints. New bones. Nothing gradual or partial. Nothing took time. Jesus spoke and there was a new creation. The old had passed away. Behold all things became new. Not only did Jesus recreate that man’s body, He redirected his will. Jesus told that man to do something he was completely incapable of doing. Jesus said, “Get up, take up your bed and walk.” And when Jesus told him to do the impossible, he did! Jesus recreated the man’s body, He redirected his will and He reiterated his standard. When Jesus sought the man out the second time, Jesus told him what He required of him. Jesus said, “Don’t sin.” Basically, He told him the same thing that He tells us all in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect.” Did you know that Jesus is telling you the same thing here this morning? That is His standard, and His standard never changes. Jesus commands you to be perfect. But you and I both know that’s impossible. It’s every bit as impossible as it was for Jesus to command that man to rise and walk. We do not have the capability to live perfect lives. It is impossible. But Jesus specializes in the impossible. If you will submit your life to Him as your Lord and Savior, He will recreate you. He will cleanse your sin with His blood. He will cover you in His righteousness so that His perfection will be yours. All that you have to do is allow Him to redirect your will this morning. Jesus is telling you to do something that you are incapable of doing. He is telling you to rise, take up your cross and follow Him. If you do, He will immediately make you whole in Him. Will you allow Jesus to make you whole this morning?