Overcoming the Comfort of our Condition (Gospel of John Part 16)
Text: John 5:1–15
When we started this series on the Gospel of John I mentioned to you all that John wrote this as an evangelistic work. His purpose and goal in writing this account was so that people would come to faith and believe in Jesus. That’s why part of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association follow up program, for new converts, was to have them read the Gospel of John. In this Gospel account; John gives us testimony after testimony of who Jesus is, and why He came into this world. And so when you understand that, it’s pretty obvious why the Holy Spirit inspired John to add this particular story into his Gospel. And it’s one of those stories where if you just hear it, or read through it, and don’t really think about what it’s saying, you might be tempted to say, “Oh, it’s just another one of Jesus’ miracles. It’s just one of the many things that Jesus did.” But you might miss the deeper meaning in it. So this morning, I want us to really think through our text, and I pray that the Lord will open our understanding through the preaching of His Word.
We’re in John chapter 5, and we’ll be reading verses 1 – 15 (READ TEXT).
So the first thing we see here is that there’s a man who has been sick for 38 years. The ESV translates it as being an invalid… and that’s a pretty good translation. The Greek word there is “as-then-ia” and it literally means, having no strength, a weakness of both body and soul. And so this guy had some kind of muscle wasting paralysis. He couldn’t move by himself, and he couldn’t seem to get others to move him to the pool of Bethesda.
Now don’t get all hung up on the event of the angel stirring the water, and one person getting healed. That’s not what this story is about. All we know about this is that this some act of grace and mercy that God has provided. He’s sent an angel down to the pool at certain times. The angel stirs the water, and the first person to get into the water after it has been stirred up, God heals them. And this has gone on for some time. And I personally think that God did that, to set up this particular event we’re reading about this morning. I personally believe that God has been doing this for a while, and everyone knows that there’s this one invalid… this one man, who desperately wants to get into the pool, but people are selfish, and they’ve jumped in before he could get there. In-fact; no one would even bring him to the pool so that he could get in. And so this guy’s been in this condition for 38 years.
So the first thing I think John wants us to see and understand here, is that this man is totally helpless. He’s completely unable to remedy his condition. He’s infirm, and he’s going to stay that way. The second thing we need to see and get a grasp on is there in verses 6 & 7 (READ).
Ok… so this man is helpless… TOTALLY HELPLESS. And secondly; he’s in the presence of the One Person who can help him, and he doesn’t even realize it. You know; Jesus comes and asks him, “Do you want to be healed?” If this man knew who Jesus was, he would’ve said, “Sure, I do, please heal me Jesus.” But instead he says, “Well yeah, I want to be healed, but I don’t have anyone to put me in the pool.” And it’s interesting, because even after he gets healed, the man still doesn’t know who did it for him; at least initially. So John is showing us the man’s helpless state.
The third thing John wants us to see and realize, and understand in this story, is that this man is in a bad way… he’s helpless. And he’s also surrounded by people who are also in bad shape. He’s surrounded by the blind, and the lame, and the sick. But Jesus comes specifically to this man, and selects this man… out of all the others… the one who was the most helpless, and most hopeless. And He shows him grace and mercy, and heals him.
Basically; what John has done here is paint a picture for us, of the human condition. We are all spiritually blind, lame, and infirm. We are helpless, and hopeless. We are spiritually dead in trespasses and sin. There’s nothing we, or anyone else can do. But Jesus, in His grace and mercy, comes to us, and rescues us, and heals us, and by His grace and mercy gives us new life.
We are helpless and totally unable to save ourselves, but Jesus comes to us, and saves us, and does what we could never do.
So that’s the big picture of this passage, but I like I said, I want us to zoom in a little closer and see the intricate details as well. So go with me back to verse 6 and let’s read that verse again (READ).
Now I don’t know about you all, but that’s crazy to me. This guy has been sick for 38 years… basically paralyzed for 38 years, and Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be healed?” And I read that, and in my mind, my initial thought is – OF COURSE HE WANTS TO BE HEALED? C’mon Jesus! But that’s why we need to zoom in and look at it closely.
You know, reading your Bible is good, and I encourage that. Every Christian should spend time in God’s Word. But it’s even better when we go beyond just reading our Bibles, and begin studying them. Really digging in and asking questions of the text. Questions like – “Why did Jesus ask this man this particular question?” Let me tell you why I think Jesus asked this question. The man has been in this condition for 38 years. That’s two years shy of 4 decades! That’s a generation in the Bible. Do you think that maybe… just maybe it’s possible that this man had grown comfortable in his position? Do you think that maybe, he’s just resigned himself to his fate and said to himself, “Nothing’s ever going to change. I’m always going to be like this.”
You see Jesus has a way of getting at the root of things. Obviously this man has a physical problem, but his problem is actually more than just physical. If he gets healed, that means he’s going to be responsible for taking care of himself… for feeding himself… for providing for himself. If he gets healed, he can’t be a beggar anymore. He can’t blame his problems on his infirmity, or on others. He can’t say, “No one will put me in the pool anymore.”
And that’s the question for all of us too… God’s Word says to us that when we come to Christ, that He will change us, and make us a new creation. That He will sanctify us, and change our desires, and passions… but do we really want that? You know; John’s already told us, was back in the first chapter – “Men love darkness rather than light.” And the question Jesus is asking is, “Do you really want to come into the light? Or do you love your sin too much? Are you comfortable in the darkness, with your sin, and your lifestyle, and your worldly pursuits? Or do you want to come into the light? And experience all that this new life in Christ gives… including all the new challenges and struggles that come with it?”
In Matthew 16:25 – 26 Jesus says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his own soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” So His question is – “Do you want to be healed?” “Do you want to be made whole?”
Is Christ asking you that this morning? Do you want to be a fully committed follower of Jesus or not? Do you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit or not? Do you want to be a disciple or not? Because if you do, you will never be the same. Life won’t be the same. Your home and family won’t be the same. Your marriage won’t be the same. Your kids won’t be the same. Your priorities and schedules, and desires won’t be the same.
OUR CHURCH WONT BE THE SAME!
What Jesus is saying to us is that we need to overcome the comfort of our condition.
“GET UP, TAKE YOUR BED, AND WALK.”
In other words, that thing that you’ve been resting on… that thing that you’ve grown comfortable in… that thing that gives you your identity… you need to put it in its proper place, under the subjection and authority of Jesus Christ.
Now catch this… when that happens. When you have this kind of encounter with Jesus, and He changes you. The world isn’t going to understand that. Look at verses 9 & 10 (READ).
Now this guy has been paralyzed for 38 years. He’s been in this terrible condition for probably most of, if not all of his life. And there’s no doubt in my mind that the Pharisee’s know him. They’ve probably seen him around. They’ve probably heard about his condition and his plight. Or maybe even know about it directly from him, if he’s been to the temple to beg for alms. But here they see him. He’s upright and walking. And what’s the first thing out of their mouth?
‘IT’S THE SABBATH YOU CAN’T CARRY YOUR BED ROLL ON THE SABBATH!”
How messed up is that? They don’t give glory to God for the man being healed. They don’t even care about that. All they care about is their legalistic interpretation of the Old Testament Law. And the truth is… they’re even wrong about that. The Old Testament Law never says you can’t carry your mat or bed roll on the Sabbath. The OT Law says that you can’t do any unnecessary work on the Sabbath. No carrying loads to make a profit on the Sabbath. It doesn’t say anything about getting healed and carrying your old bed roll on your way to church. And that’s what’s crazy here. This man was on his way to the temple. He was on his way to worship God, and give thanks and praise to God… that’s how he ended up running into the Pharisees. Because he was going to the temple.
The world doesn’t understand, and people without Christ don’t get it when your life has been changed by the grace and mercy of God. When you say, “I’m not going to live that way anymore.” When you don’t go to the places you used to go, or act the way you used to act, or talk the way you used to talk, the world doesn’t get it. When you take a stand on an issue because the Bible is clear about it, the world doesn’t get it. And not only do they not get it – they don’t like it!
The Pharisees are blinded by their legalism. They don’t care at all about this man. And not only do they not care about this man, they don’t care about Jesus. They’re so caught up in their own world, with their own agenda, and their twisted view of religion, that they can’t even see that Jesus is God in the flesh… that Jesus has the power over sickness, that He can heal a man who has been paralyzed for 38 years.
John wants his readers to understand that Jesus is God, but at the same time he’s showing us that people, even when they are confronted with the reality of Christ, will chose to deny Him, and reject Him, if He doesn’t fit into their plans. People will either outright reject Him, or they’ll be lukewarm followers, pretending to know Him, and follow Him, when in reality their heart is far from Him. But John is saying to us through His Gospel; Jesus really is God… and because He’s God, if you’re going to follow Him, you’ve got to be all in. You’ve got to be hot, not cold or lukewarm.