Healer and Judge
Today I am going to continue the study on the seven signs found in the book of John prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection. We have already looked at, the turning of the Water into Wine, and the Healing of the Officials Son. I started both of these studies by saying, that in the Gospel of John, he makes no secret of why he write his account of Jesus’ life.
... that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Jesus met many people during His life and work on Earth. He met both the rich and the poor, the religious hierarchy and the greatest of sinners, the healthy and the sick or even dead. From looking at the four gospels and seeing how he dealt with and spoke to each of these people, we can gain an insight into who He is, into who God is and into our relationship with Him. John writes his gospel specifically so that people may know who Jesus is, that He is Christ, the Son of God, and so that people might have life by believing in Him.
John therefore picks out events in Jesus’ life, and teachings that He gave, that display Him for who He is. These seven signs are just a few of the many many miracles that Jesus would have performed. John includes them in order to give us this insight. This sign, like most of the other six, has certain properties. Firstly there is a test show the level of peoples faith before the miracle. Then Jesus performs the sign as a revelation of who He is. The finally John also records the teaching of Jesus in relation to this sign. He shows how the combination of these three things affects the people. I want to look at this story where Jesus enters Jerusalem and comes across a lame man with nobody to help him. This is in John chapter 5.
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews.
2:Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.
3:Here a great number of disabled people used to lie - the blind, the lame, the paralysed [ - and they waited for the moving of the waters.
4:From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease he had. ]
5:One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
6:When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"
7:"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no-one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."
8:Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."
9:At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath,
10:and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat."
11:But he replied, "The man who made me well said to me, `Pick up your mat and walk.’ "
12:So they asked him, "Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?"
13:The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
14:Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you."
15:The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Jesus enters Jerusalem for an unspecified feast. We don’t know what feast Jesus was attending for but I do know that all Jews living within a 20 mile radius of Jerusalem were required to present themselves before the Lord three times a year, the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Jesus entered the City by the sheep gate and encountered the pool. The pool was actually two large trapezoid-shaped pools with a 21 foot wide space between them. It was enclosed with a porch on each side and one in the middle in the area dividing the two pools. Lying around this pool were all the sick and diseased people hoping that they might find healing. Amongst them is a man who is about to have is life changed forever.
The first thing we learn about this man is that he is an invalid and that he has been in that condition for thirty eight years. We don’t know exactly what his disability is, the Greek term used, ’astheneia’ means weakness or disease, but we know that it is bad enough for him to not be able to move a few metres to the pool without assistance. He has come to a point where he is seeking healing. He recognises his illness and lies with the others simply hoping that he might find the help he needs. He is a man who is helpless. We don’t know how long he has been there but we know he has been there long enough to miss the stirring of the pool a number of times. He sees his last chance of healing as coming from the pool. He believes that if he can just get into it first when the waters are stirred, he can receive that healing.
The dependance on this man for his healing being from the pool is so great that he fails to recognise the healer. Jesus, the very source of healing, asks the man if he wants to get well, and the man takes that as an offer to help him into the pool. The man wants Jesus to help him get healed his way. We see that the mans state is one of hopelessness and despair.
Many of us will have found ourselves in the same state as the man before we were saved. We were desperate for our lives to be healed or touched in some way, but we looked to the wrong things. You see people filling there lives with different things in order to escape that emptiness, but they never succeed, they need to recognise the healer.
The same is true of many Christians, who like this man, have struggled for many years. They might be in need of a physical, emotional or spiritual healing but are looking to the pool instead of the healer. They are asking Jesus to help them get to the pool. They want Jesus to heal them from their sin, their way. God wants you to look to the healer.
We as a church want Jesus to heal this land. We want to see revival in the church and receive a healing touch from God. I want to give this warning from this chapter, lets ensure that we look to the healer and not the pool. Lets not ask God to do things our way. At the moment we are looking for a Pastor. If we are expecting that person to be the answer to our spiritual dryness, then we are looking to the pool and not the healer. God is ready and waiting to touch this church. Lets not miss it by focusing on the pool.
Just as it is Jesus who makes the first move in this mans life, He is ready to do the same in the Church. Jesus saw the man lying there, He had compassion on him, and He made the effort to find out what the problem was. In the same way, He wants to know every detail of our lives. We see that Jesus is a man of mercy who is willing to take time to discover exactly what the problem is. The man is completely ignorant to who Jesus is and yet Jesus still acts and heals in spite of this. There will be many times in your life when God has met your need and you weren’t even aware of it.
This is the point when Jesus puts the man to the test and asks him this question, ’Do you want to get well.’ This very question seems ridiculous. Of course he wants to get well, he has been lame for 38 years, desperately waiting by the waters. But perhaps he has grown accustomed to his disability and would prefer the pain of the known to the terror of the unknown. It would bring new responsibilities and demands that he hasn’t had to face before. He would have to leave the comfort of being with those in the same situation as him. One scholar once said ’an Eastern beggar often loses a good income by being healed.’ Here we see both, the Divine Sovereign of Jesus in being able to offer this healing, and the human responsibility that goes with it.
God wants to pour His Spirit upon us and bless this Church. Ask ourselves this question, ’Do we really want to get well?’ It seems a daft question, but it is as relevant to us as it was to this man. Do we want God to heal us from our sin, or do we actually quite like it? Do we want God to move, or are we afraid of leaving our comfort zones?
A great move of God brings many souls, but it also means Christians being moved into action. It often means persecution, as this man immediately faced. It means sacrifice and it will mean a lot of people with a lot of problems coming into the church. It might mean having to give up our comforts, and sometimes even our friends or family. If God were to move in His power throughout he church it would mean a radical change in our lives. Do we really want that? Do we really want to get well?
In this time of waiting, God is testing our hearts to find out what we really want? Are we really at the point that we are so sick of our spiritual lameness, that we are willing to have a lives radically transformed. It is a sad truth that many Christians can be in a church waiting for that stirring of the waters, without really wanting that change.
Jesus discovers that this man does want to get well and so then tests his faith. ’Get up, pick up you mat, and walk.’ Jesus is asking the man, not just to believe for the impossible, but to actually do it. Putting your faith in God, doesn’t mean believing for the impossible, it means doing it. There may be things in your life that you feel God is telling you to do, but seem impossible. If God is speaking into your life, he doesn’t want you to believe for it, He wants you to do it.
In obeying Jesus’ command, the man demonstrated that he had the faith to be healed. Jesus not only heals him but restores him to full health. After so many years of not being able to walk the mans muscles would have been in a severe state of atrophy. Yet after 38 years of waiting, the man finally finds his healing. He is able to pick up that that once supported him, and walk. God is able, not just to heal the problem, but to restore all the damage that the affliction has caused.
Like in the other signs Jesus reveals something of who He is through the miracle. In this miracle, the man has been healed. He has accepted Jesus’ invitation for help and has believed and been restored, and yet we find that when questioned he doesn’t still know who Jesus is. The reason for this is not the mans ingratitude, but the fact that Jesus immediately slipped away into the crowd. Jesus however does not leave him in this state but looks for him again and finds him in the temple. It is here that we, and the man, find insight into what this miracle has revealed about Jesus.
It is during the conversation between Jesus and this man that we discover the cause for this man illness, sin. After showing His mercy and love, Jesus now warns him abruptly. "See you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." He makes it very clear that this mans illness has been due to sin. While suffering only came into the world after the fall, the bible tells us that an individuals suffering has many sources and reasons. It can be suffering to prove or test our faith, as in the case of Job; suffering that is sent to bring improvement, as Paul describes in Hebrews; suffering that shows Gods glory, as in the healing of the blind man; or suffering as a punishment for sin, as is this case here.
Jesus warns the man to stop sinning or something worse will happen. Something worse than being an invalid for 38 years of his life, and having to be a beggar. Unfortunately, unlike the blind man who we will study in a later sign, this man does choose to betray Jesus to the Pharisees.
Jesus demonstrates through this miracle that he has come into the world to save sinners.
46I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
47"As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.
Jesus through this miracle demonstrates that he has the power to save people from their sin. In healing this man He has removed the ravages of sin upon his life. This is the very purpose of his coming, not to judge but to heal. Jesus does warn however, that those who reject his words, will find much worse punishment. We can not blame a police officer for giving us a speeding ticket, we give it us ourselves by speeding in the first place. In a similar way we give the punishment to ourselves if we reject Jesus’ warning.
A lot of people want God to heal them from the consequences of their sin, but are not willing to give up the sin that has caused them the problem in the first place. God has come to heal us rather than judge us, but unless we are willing to give up the sin in our lives, the suffering will only come back worse. We may want God to heal broken relationships, but unless we are willing to give up bitterness and gossiping, the problems will only come back worse.
In chapter 12 of John, as we have just read, it is the rejection of Jesus words that will be the ultimate judgement upon each who do not accept him. As we studied in the previous sign, Jesus has already shown himself to be the Word of God, and so to reject His words, you are actually rejecting Him. Directly following this miracle, the Jews persecuted Jesus, accusing Him of disobeying the law. Jesus reply to these accusations display the most controversial of his teachings yet. It is contained in John chapter 5 and verses 16-30.
John 5: 16-30
16So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. 17Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." 18For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
19Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son, 23that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him.
24"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
28"Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and come out--those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. 30By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgement is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
In this teaching Jesus explains why he has come as healer. He also explains why the rejection of His words brings condemnation. It is because he is doing everything in complete obedience to His Father. In saying this He is putting himself as equal to God. He only does what he sees His Father doing. If this is this case then, and if He is the Word of God, why do his actions appear to contradict Gods Word? The Jews are accusing Him of breaking the laws of Moses regarding the Sabbath, that were given by God.
If Jesus is breaking this command or changing it, why does he say in Matthew 5v17, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them." The fact is that Jesus doesn’t break any of Gods commands.
Between the last book of the Old Testament and the first book of the new, the Jewish leaders had developed a set of guides that were there to assist people in following Gods law. The problem was that these guides had become thousands and thousands of man made rules. The two concerning the Sabbath that have relevance to this story are: Firstly, you could save somebody from death on the Sabbath, but healing or helping would have to wait until the following day. Secondly, under no circumstance was anybody supposed to walk any sort of distance while carrying a mat, like Jesus had told this man to do.
Jesus wasn’t breaking old testament law, but man made law. It is the Word of God, and that alone by which we shall be judged. The Pharisees obedience to their man made laws had caused them to be disobedient to Gods. Jesus however was showing that he was obedient to His Father in doing only that which His Father did. By trusting in Jesus, they were actually trusting in the Father, and vice versa.
Jesus lives his life in complete obedience, not seeking to please himself but his Father. This is the same quality that God expects from us, a life spent seeking to please Him, not ourselves. We shall be judged on our obedience to the Word of God, on our desire to be obedient to the will of God in our lives. It is time to seriously consider what we are doing with our time, our energy, our talents and our finances. Are we seeking to serve God or ourselves?
This is a question that doesn’t require a one off quick answer, but a constant prayerful re-evaluation. We will be judged on the obedience to His words, to accept them brings life, to reject them brings judgement. Jesus, like His Father simply desire to save and to heal, but by disobedience we bring our own condemnation.
What are we looking to in order that God might bring his healing. Are we focused on the pool or are we seeking a touch from the healer. Don’t look forward to one minister solving the problems of this church and this town. Look up to the healer. Take the words that God has given you and act upon them. We often sing a chorus in which we declare to God that we are desperate for Him. The question is, are we really? Do we want to get well? Are we prepared for God to come and move in this church and in our lives the way He knows best, rather than from the way we are expecting.
If we want God to move in our lives, in this church and in this town, then we have to be prepared to leave behind those sins that would cause us to be in a worse state in ten or fifteen years time. God is calling His people back to Holiness. Lets forget our own mad made ideas of what serving God is and lets get back to what God demands from us. Two of the most important commands that we are often all to eager to break, are loving God above all things and loving our neighbours as ourselves.
Are we really living lives that are dedicated to pleasing God, or do we spend more time planning and taking care of our own comforts. When our primary motive is to please God, then God will reveal Himself to people through us.
Just as the invalid was not only healed, but had his full strength restored to him, so it will be for those who recognise and receive the touch of the healer. I believe that the words in Joel, chapter 2 are for this church right now.
12 "Even now," declares the LORD ,
"return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning."...
...25 "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten
God is calling His people to seek Him with all our hearts and with repentance and He will restore those years that the locusts have eaten.