Summary: The risen Christ gives the power to live and be whole.
I am captivated by the scripture which says, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Then Paul says, “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life” (Romans 5:10). The life Paul is talking about is Christ’s resurrected life and his ability to give eternal life. It is the source of the power we need to come alive spiritually. This is not something we can do for ourselves, it is the work of God. It is a supernatural work whereby God places his eternal life within us.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians saying: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead. . . . As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live. . . . But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship. . . .” (Ephesians 1:18-2:10).
There is a captivating story in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John which beautifully illustrates what this scripture is saying. Jesus has gone up to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the great religious feasts. It is significant that he, as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world, would enter the city through the Sheep Gate, the entrance to the city through which the sheep for temple sacrifices were brought. Once inside the city, he comes to the pool of Bethesda. Lying all around the pool are sick and paralyzed people. They are there because a legend has developed that an angel would on occasion come and stir up the waters of the pool, and the first one to enter the pool after the angel stirred the water would be healed. It was merely a superstition, but it was the last hope for many of these people. It was also a place where they could come and beg for a living, since people would come by to distribute gifts of money or food to these unfortunate people.
Into this sea of desperate people Jesus came. It is intriguing that out of all these people Jesus chose to heal one man. It could have been because Jesus learned that the man had been lying there for 38 years, but there may have been other reasons for Jesus having compassion on him. One thing we do know from this scripture is that it was not because the man sought Jesus’ help. In fact, he did not even know who Jesus was. Jesus encountered him and asked him a strange question. He said, “Do you want to get well?” It might seem kind of crazy to ask someone who has been paralyzed for 38 years if he wants to get well but, of course, Jesus never asks a question without good reason. It was an important question. It got to the core of who the man was. Listen to the man’s response to Jesus: “Sir, 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.” Notice that he did not answer Jesus’ question. He does not say that he wants to be well. He dismisses Jesus’ question and merely complains about his condition. He tells how unfortunate he is. He lists his troubles. To be sure, he has plenty to complain about. But he whines about life instead of answering Jesus’ question about whether he really wants to be well.
In spite of all this, Jesus said to him: “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” And the Bible says, “At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” It is curious that in the biblical record there is no word of thanks to Jesus for what he has done. There is not a single expression of gratitude or joy. There is just a huge emotional blank here. The man has been paralyzed for 38 years, and there is not the slightest expression of thanks or praise to God. Wouldn’t you think he would tell someone about the wonderful thing that had happened to him? Wouldn’t you think he would begin shouting to the other sick people around him that there is someone who can make them well, and point them to Jesus? But none of this happens.