Do You Want to Be Healed?
CCCAG April 22nd, 2018
Scripture- Video showed us John 5:1-14
One of the experiences I have had as a paramedic is seeing people where they live. In other words, I frequently enter their homes and see who they really are by what they surround themselves with in their place of residence.
For years I worked in Walworth County with a predominantly Caucasian population. Walworth County has multimillion dollar mansions around Lake Geneva. Huge estates that are hundreds of acres. All of the richest people in Chicago have a house there so I got to see how the rich and famous lived.
I also saw the exact opposite. I saw the poor living in old cottages in Pell Lake, which was the poor area. This was an old summer cottage community and many of these summer cottages had been added onto with pallets, plywood, and anything else they could salvage together to try and make their homes a little bigger. Often you would walk in past weeks of rotting garbage and then put your foot through the floor or a step into their homes that were very unkempt and reeking of marijuana. Drug paraphernalia was everywhere and often you would be trying not to step on the chickens or other typically barnyard animals they had as pets.
Then I switched jobs to an ambulance service that was based in Milwaukee on the north side. The north side is predominantly African American and is filled with gangs, violence and poverty. Many of the homes we went in were similar to those in the poor white area of Pell Lake- garbage every were, drugs in evidence, multiple children with different last names.
Looking back on my experience I have learned one undeniable truth-
Having no real hope destroys the human spirit no matter what ethnicity you come from. This lack of hope created the same problems with drugs and alcohol in the Mansions of Lake Geneva as I did in the ghettos of Milwaukee.
No hope always brings misery, regardless of your race, economic condition, or culture.
In the scriptural scene from the Gospel of John chapter 5 we watched prior to the beginning of this message illustrates this for us. Jesus is walking into the same kind of scene.
The pools of Bethesda were originally created as a source of water for the washing of sacrifices coming into the temple area from the sheep gate.
These pools were connected to a deep underground spring, and whenever the water level would drop enough the spring would build up enough pressure to refill the pool and the water would suddenly bubble and stir. An example that might be familiar to us would be the geysers at Yellowstone Park like Old Faithful- it has a fairly regular eruption of water when the pressure from underneath gets high enough. The same principle here.
In the first century, they didn’t understand a lot about geology or fluid dynamics so a legend had formed saying that God sent an angel down periodically to stir the water, and the first person to reach the pool would be healed of whatever disease they had.
Because of this, these pools had become an area where the sick would sit and ask for money as people passed through the area on the way to the temple. Normally, there were a few dozen people in this area, but during times of religious festivals, up to 300 sick people would be carried here and dropped off by friends and relatives to try and beg for money.
Obviously, anyone who was lame like the man we saw in the film adaptation of the scripture to this morning could never beat the kid who was there because of his acne so the truly sick were perpetually disappointed that they would never receive their miracle and had fallen into a mindset of hopelessness.
But then the answer comes. In the King James version of the bible verse 3 says of the pool of Bethesda that
In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk
In 1611, impotent doesn’t mean what it does today. It meant a person unable to change or improve their lot in life, or a person without hope.
This person without hope, without the ability to change anything was about to meet the one who is the embodiment of hope and can change even the most hopeless situation into a miraculous victory that brings great praise to God our Father.
This impotent man was about to meet the omnipotent man Jesus.
Now to the central point of this message- Jesus’ question to this man.
Do you want to be made well? Think about that as we pray
I. Hopelessness of dependency
I grew up in a welfare home. My mother and my father had split up when I was 5 years old, and my mother immediately had to go on welfare to take care of my brother and myself. I learned early on what it was like to live in that culture of dependency we are talking about this morning.
In Kenosha public schools, they had a school lunch program where parents could buy a card every month and the lunch ladies would take a hole puncher and punch out the date when you were standing in the lunch line.
However, if you were poor, you got your lunch card for free through a Federal Government program. It was different color than the other kids, and you stood in a separate line. The kids whose parents bought their card would always make fun of the poor kids.
To make it worse, whenever we went shopping my mom had food stamps she would use to buy food for us, and it always seemed like the worst bully in the school would be right behind you in line to see it and use it as ammunition against you the next day at school.
Another way our poverty was on display- Anyone remember book covers? Anyone remember when you had school books?
For those born before the digital age, on the first day of school we received our school books for the year. That entire day was spent putting book covers on the books to protect them from getting messed up in our lockers or in our backpacks. You could buy book covers in the store, or if you were poor, the school would provide you old brown paper bags, scissors, and tape to cut out and make book covers.
So every single day, you knew who the poor kids were- they had the brown bag book covers, while the other kids had superhero or some type of commercial book covers.
I remember the feelings I had about myself during that phase of my life. I felt like I was starting out life in a hole that I had no idea how to crawl out of.
Being short, shy, and introverted I was already a bit of a social outcast, and living amongst the substance abuse combined obvious poverty made it even worse as I was bullied, teased, by the other kids, even by some teachers.
For a very long time in my life, I believed what they said- I was a loser, I was poor, I was stupid and would never amount to anything.
God blessed me with a grandfather who taught me the exact opposite of what they told me. God used my grandparents and the military to change my mindset from one of hopelessness to one of self-sufficiency.
As I was thinking and mediating over this scripture, I learned something about myself- I absolutely hate the idea of being dependent upon anyone or anything. It was probably one of my biggest roadblocks to coming to salvation- I didn’t want to be dependent on anyone, including Jesus. I could do it myself.
I bring that up because of what I have seen in life.
People who do not know Jesus fall into one of two categories- they are completely dependent something other than Christ or they have too much pride to accept the help of someone else.
I have experienced both in my life, both professionally and personally.
I have watched people who are otherwise smart, capable, and able to succeed in life chose to live in a state of dependency. If you question it, they immediately point to their health, their situation, and their past to say that it’s not their fault, but because of this issue they can’t climb out of their morass and enjoy life.
If Jesus were to ask them- “Do you want to be healed” they would give you a list of reasons why that can’t happen. Secretly, they have become so dependent and so comfortable in their situation that they honestly cannot see living any other way. It’s like they are living in a prison with gold bars, a comfortable bed, and nice guards to take care of their every need, and any attempt to leave is met with anxiety and fear.
I once knew a man that was receiving disability checks from the government for an injury he had received over 20 years prior. At the time he was injured he had severe mobility problems, but they had greatly lessened over the years and he was now in pretty decent health. He was a gifted evangelist and when he was offered a full time position with a church, he declined saying if he did, he would lose all his government benefits including his health insurance, so he couldn’t get caught doing full time work for the Kingdom. He chose to live in the shadows and not use the gift God had given him.
He was comfortable in his dependency.
On the flip side, you have the self-made people. The people who came from nothing and have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps and overcome the odds and made something of themselves. If you tell them they need Jesus they ask what do I have to do to be saved. The idea of simply trusting in the finished work of Jesus is offensive to them. They will not be in anyone’s debt and can never see the helplessness of their situation. May times this is the spiritual condition of the wealthy- they want to write a check to pay for something that only can be paid through the shed blood of Jesus.
Both the dependent and the independent are in the same condition- lost in the poverty of spirit that comes from having their eyes on the wrong thing.
Before we move on, I want to talk about one other form of dependency.
There is an even deeper and more dangerous form of dependency, and that is secret sin.
Secret sin is something that you run to for comfort, for strength, for fulfillment that is against the will of God for your life.
It could be a relationship, it could be a form of entertainment, it can even be the misuse of food, laziness or a preoccupation with laziness, or even the more obvious form of secret sin like pornography.
I want to let you know something, and I give you this warning in humility and love as a person who has had their own issues with secret sin-
“Your sin will find you out” and “as a person thinks, so are they”.
In other words the long you stay in a state of rebellion the more broken you will become until that sin become so obvious in your life that you can’t hide it anymore.
In reality, there is no such thing as secret sin as God sees all and eventually if you stay in a state of rebellion
“Whatever is done in secret will be shouted from the rooftops.”
I have some good news this morning-
II. Jesus loves the broken (John 9- man born blind)
The bible tells us that Jesus seeks and saves the lost. It was and is HIS entire mission.
He is the shepherd who leaves the multitude of sheep to find the one who ran away.
Jesus is the one who breaks every religious rule to lift his lambs out of the pit.
Jesus will then carry us on HIS shoulders when life has wounded us so bad we can’t even walk anymore.
He does this because he loves us-
A. He meets us where we are-
Note that Jesus didn’t expect that man to crawl his way through Jerusalem trying to find him, but he met him right where he was.
Think about this for a moment- what kind of atmosphere was Jesus walking into?
Sick people, very sick people. Hundreds of sick people with communicable diseases like leprosy. People who couldn’t move, or even find a bathroom to do their business.
Jesus willingly walked into all of that sickness, that stench, that grossness.
Jesus not only did that for them, he does it for us because that is what sin is- spiritual sickness, spiritual stench, and spiritual grossness that wants to rob us of our present joy and future reward.
In other words, he touched our nastiness.
That is our savior. He who was without sin became sin for us.
That’s one of the beautiful things about this biblical account.
The story of the paralytic might raise a question in our minds-
Why does God allow us to go through sickness, poverty, dependence and disease?
I want to refer to John 9 for a moment. In John chapter 9 the disciples are in the middle of a theological argument regarding a man born blind.
The argument centered around a question- did this man’s blindness come from his own sin, or the sin of his parents?
The disciples came from a religious system that believed more in Karma then grace- that God immediately judged sin with physical illness, tragedy, or death upon the disobedient.
That is why the people that Jesus is surrounding himself with are arguing high theology and not bothering to offer this person any hope or help.
Sounds a little like some churches. We would rather argue about our interpretation of the bible than actually roll up our sleeves and do the work of the Kingdom.
Jesus interrupts the argument and refocuses the disciples, and us on a central point of God’s love and sovereignty-
This man was not born blind for any reason other than to show God’s glory.
What does that mean?
Our God is so awesome, so loving, and so in control that even within our bad and horrible rebellion within the exercising of our free will
OR the free will choices of other that directly affect us-
God is always, always, always is guiding and loving us
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.
What about our current rebellion and sin?
What about that really stupid thing I did last week?
What about that person who tried to destroy my life
What about when I’m a nasty rotten no good cheating fool?
in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Now hear me- I would never say God winks at our sin- God hates our sin!
Our Father hates sin because it limits His ability to bless us, His ability to use us, His ability to prosper us, and left unchecked could cause us to be eternally separated from Him.
Our God is so great that He can use something He absolutely hates to humble us and form us into the image of Christ.
And this IS EXACTLY WHY Jesus’ question- “Do you want to be healed?” is so challenging to us.
It’s all about switching dependency
Our spiritual healing is dependent on taking a leap of faith into a life that is completely and utterly dependent on God.
In the book of Revelation, it says in the final days that God will call the church to make herself ready. It uses the imagery of a bride spending hours upon hours doing her hair, her nails, her makeup, squeezing into a dress for that one moment when she is presented to her future husband as a radiant bride.
My friends, God is calling the church into preparation. He wants to present to Jesus a radiant bride. Many of us are asking why the hard times, why the constant struggle, how come it seems like the world is running head long into destruction…
I look at it like this- if you want to really appreciate light, you allow everything else to grow dark.
That is when we as God’s children will shine the brightest.
But before we can shine, we need to allow God to prepare us for that time, and this is the answer to why many of us are going through such a trial at the moment.
Do you want to be healed?
Finally, when we get to the place God wants us- Healed and made well in Jesus name and completely dependent on him, we need to keep it.
III. Keeping the healing
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.
Most people would read this as Jesus warning the formally paralyzed man against sinning or God will strike him down again.
That’s not really what Jesus is saying here-
Another way to say this in a way that makes sense to our 21st century brains-
First of all the word sin literally means to miss the mark. The image painted by that word sin in the NT is an archer shooting an arrow at a bullseye and missing it.
So what Jesus is saying here is
Keep watch over yourself, and don’t let yourself get roped back into a dependency in the things of this world, or even too much self sufficiency.
Because when you backslide and fall back into a besetting sin it’s not like you start over with sin- you pick up where you left off.
An example is drug addiction. Not too many people go right to heroin. Maybe the start with a pill, or marijuana, or alcohol. That leads to something a little harder, a little more addictive until one day a needle is in their arm.
A person delivered from heroin has to be watchful that they don’t fall back into an addiction to heroin. They don’t start over, they go right back to the worse of their addiction.
All sin is like that.
That’s what Jesus is referring to here- don’t let yourself get roped back into a sinful lifestyle because you will go back to the worse of your sin and it will destroy you that much faster.
Maybe that is you today- you are stuck somewhere down the rabbit trail of sin and don’t know how to get out. Jesus is hear for you.
Others of you might be tempted to return to a life of dependency toward things God has said are not good for you.
If that is you, you need to repent to Jesus.
Maybe you’re hear and you have never taken that step to surrender your life to Jesus- today is a great day for that. Now is the acceptable time, and today is the day of salvation for you.
Jesus loves the broken, but HE doesn’t want to leave you broken, but wants you to be healed.