Summary: The second in a series through the book Acts during Fall 2005
A woman who worked for a vet was to have knee surgery. She was nervous about the procedure and asked her boss if he had any advice. He replied, rather half-mindedly, ‘Just turn your worries into prayers, get plenty of rest, and don’t lick your incision.”
I do not think that the latter piece of advice would have been a problem for the woman. But I do think that the vet’s first two pieces of advice, especially the first one, is sound advice. ‘Just turn your worries into prayers.’
Last week I spoke of the anxiety we sometimes have in feeling at home and that part of our commission from the Lord to ‘go and make disciples’ is to help people feel at home in the church and ultimately, in the faith. And we were reminded of the impact that our faith has on relationships with people.
One of the gripping stories from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has to do with the situation at University Hospital in New Orleans. Are you aware of that story?
It was on CNN last week (I cannot remember when), and was a story about the neo-natal intensive care unit at the hospital, and the 18 babies trapped along with the medical staff.
The situation was desperate as one of the nurses desperately tried to get help through a friend in another state via cell phone. Finally, some rescue boats came only to be driven back by armed men.
With little or no food, and no power to keep the medical equipment going, the situation grew critical. Finally, a helicopter arrived and rescued the infants and staff and not one infant died.
In our text for this morning, there was another medical emergency. It was a man, crippled from birth as we read in verse 2, who was in desperate straits.
We do not know how old he was but we could surmise from the conversation that took place with Peter and John; he had lived for a while. We also can surmise something else; he seemed to have no hope of healing because his expectation was that there would no miracle of healing only money given to him.
I am reminded of the story in John 5 when a man in a similar position encounters Jesus. He too is lame and seeks to be put into the healing waters of the Bethesda Pool in the hope that he could be made well.
Now our two stories diverge at this point because in our main text we have an individual who seems content in his circumstances compared to the other who is seeking to get well. He has a hope that he can be well, that life can be better.
However, Jesus asks this man an interesting question, ‘Would you like to get well?’ Why does Jesus ask this question? It seems obvious from John’s account that this man wants to get well. He is anxious to get into the pool because he believes, and perhaps has seen; people get well from soaking in it.
But the question that Jesus asks is a question that deals with the issue of motivation. He seems to be asking this unnamed man, “Are you willing to pay the price for healing?”
Now we need to pay attention to how the man answers Jesus. ‘I can’t sir,’ he says, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred up.’ (There was a belief that when the waters of this pool stirred, it was done so by an angel of God and the first person in would be healed.)
The man is not looking at Jesus for help; he is looking at Jesus to help him get into the water. Jesus is seen here not as the end to his suffering but as a means to the end of his suffering.
Jesus chooses to heal him in a dramatic fashion as we read in verse 8, ‘Stand up, pick up your sleeping mat and walk!’ And he did!
It was Jesus’ desire for this man to get well and He made him well. But, the story does not end there. As we move to verse 14, we read that Jesus addresses the other need in the man’s life. ‘But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.”’
I wonder if the man heeded Jesus’ advice? His words seemed indicate that he linked his illness with his sinfulness. Now today such an assumption is seen as judgmental, right?
Or maybe Jesus simply came to him to remind him of a second healing that needed to take place in his life and needs to take place in all of our lives: spiritual healing that comes from the confession and forgiveness of sins.