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Portraits of Christ: The Great Physician

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Wholeness has become an important word in our society. The Wholeness Movement also called the Wellness Movement has become subjects of academic study in many colleges and universities. Western New Mexico University has a Department of Wellness and Movement Sciences. The University of Buffalo has a Living Well Center. These are just two examples of hundreds of similar academic programs in colleges and universities across the nation.

The movement grew out of the early seventies when many doctors and health care providers concluded that modern medicine and medical technology only focused on the physical problems of the patient at the neglect of their mind and spirit. The result is what we now call holistic medicine. It’s an attempt to treat the whole person and not merely a set of physical symptoms.

The wholeness movement has focused on some pretty good basics. It gives us some fundamental rules for becoming whole: eat right, exercise regularly, don't smoke, cut down on stress, expanding your mind through learning and culture, and nurturing the spiritual aspect of your life. Not bad rules.

And it’s become big business. On—an On-line book store—you’ll hundreds of books related to holistic living. Many, I have no doubt are biblically sound and offer perceptive advise. Others, I have not doubt, are New Age psycho-babble that can ultimately do the reader more harm than good. The point is, that books on ‘healing’ the mind and soul (as well as the body) are hot sellers. A Google search on holistic living provides over 15 million pages.

But long before modern men were interested in holistic living, God was. Our text tells us that treating the whole person was at the core our Lord’s ministry.


    • John 5:3 "Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed." NIV
            1. in what surely must have been a pathetic scene, we find a huddled mass of humanity gathered in a collective agony of hurt, injury, affliction, and misery
            2. they represent a macrocosm of the world we live in
                1. it’s a world full of lost and hurting people in need of healing


            1. the physically sick, the disabled, the blind, and the lame of our text are the obvious ones
            2. but there are others . . .
                1. the wife who is abused by her husband
                2. the handicapped who are shunned by society
                3. the elderly who are abandoned by their families
                4. the child who is sexually molested by an uncle
                5. the spouse of an alcoholic
                6. the loneliness and pain of the divorcee
                7. the sinner without Christ


            1. legend had it that at certain times, an angel would stir or ‘trouble’ the waters of the Pool of Bethesda
                1. the first person to step into the pool after that would be healed of whatever problem they had
            2. we still have our pools of hope today that the world attempts to find security and healing in
                1. There Is the Pool of Hedonistic Philosophy
                    1. many cannot deal with the guilt of their sinfulness and immorality and so they cope by adopting a philosophy that says: If it feels good must be all right
                2. There Is the Pool of Humanistic Reason
                    1. we live in a culture where the autonomy of man reigns supreme—it’s all about me!
                      • ILLUS. Some of you read my February newsletter article where I quoted the Feminist and Pro-choice activist Mary Elizabeth Williams on abortion. She say: “All life is not equal. ... a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She's the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.”
                    2. that’s the result of humanistic reasoning and people like Mary Elizabeth Williams have jumped into the deep end of that pool
                3. There Is the Pool of Scientific and Technological Advancement
                    1. there are those who believe that technology is the cure-all for what ails men
                        1. if everyone could just have access to the right technology, they could be whole
                4. There Is the Pool of Religious Ritual
                    1. religion often leaves us powerless and nursing an impotent faith
                    2. we see in our text that there were some who were more concerned about religious rules and regulations than the fact that a man who had been lame for 38 years was now walking
                      • John 5:9-10 "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.” NIV
                    3. religious rules and regulations are usually ineffective and often produce more hurt than healing
            3. the pseudo-pools of healing of our day appear to offer hope for the masses of humanity and yet the individual is never quite able to avail themself of their supposed healing powers
                1. like the central character of our story, most men lie in an agony of fear, devoid of any inward hope that life will ever be any better than what they now know
                2. life had beat up on this man all of his days
                    1. he had become resigned to his fate and had accepted the inevitable


    • John 5:5-6 "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, . . ." NIV
            1. this is the marvelous thing about God—He loves the world, but He does it one person at a time
            2. God is big enough to give me the personalized treatment whenever I need it


            1. we find Jesus passing from Galilee through Samaria and into Judea in order to go to a feast at Jerusalem
                1. Jesus had just finished the first summer of His ministry—mostly in and around the city of Capernaium
                2. the disciples had returned to their homes while Jesus moved about chiefly alone and unattended
            2. the narrative of our text transports us to the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem
                1. here is a place where thousands of hurting people have gathered in the hope of being healed
            3. Jesus stands and focuses on one individual who has been and invalid for thirty-eight years – in a few moments his life is going to change forever


            1. when a man is at a point of hopelessness that is when Jesus make Himself most available to heal the soul
            2. the person on whom Jesus zeros in on was a fractured man
                1. he was fractured of health
                2. he was fractured of mind
                3. he was fractured of spirit
            3. he would not know joy again until his life was restored to wholeness


    • v. 6b ". . . he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
            1. what a strange question on Jesus’ part
                1. literally Jesus asks, Do you want to be made whole?
            2. the approach at first appears foolish
                1. no sick person would choose to remain sick – would they?
            3. a closer look of Jesus’ question reveals that He was probing the man’s inner heart
                1. Jesus is trying to discover if the man has the will and the faith to be cured
                2. the desire to be cured and the will to be cured are two different things
                    1. the man’s reply indicates that – to large degree – he saw himself as a victim
                      • John 5:7 “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.” NIV
                    2. he felt bound by circumstances and powerless to change his situation
            4. God – on the other hand – seeks to empower us by giving us something real to hold onto
                1. He offers you himself but you must let go of yourself
                2. initially, when Jesus proposed his question to the cripple the man focused on his own inabilities
                3. he saw his helplessness and admitted "I have no one to put me in the pool."
            5. Jesus immediately transfers the man’s concerns from his own efforts to Jesus’ efforts
                1. the cripple is thinking, "I must do it---but I can’t."
                2. somewhere in their conversation he concludes, "If this man is going to help me, I must listen to him."
                  • ILLUS. According to the Bureau of Standards in Washington, a dense fog covering seven city blocks to a depth of 100 feet is composed of less that one glass of water. That amount of water is divided into about 60 billion tiny droplets. Yet when those minute particles settle over a city or the countryside, they can almost blot out everything from your sight. What’s the point? Many Christians today live their lives in a fog. They allow a cupful of troubles to cloud their vision and dampen their spirit. Anxiety, turmoil and defeat strangle their thoughts.


            1. many in our society—and some of you here this morning—are sick of body because you have not taken care of it or you have abused it
                1. Jesus wants you to be whole
            2. many in our society—and some of you here this morning—are sick of mind because you have filled it with the garbage of the world rather than seeking the mind of Christ
                1. Jesus wants you to be whole
            3. many in our society—and some of you here this morning—are sick of spirit because you have been disobedient to the will of God and have rejected the Lordship of Jesus Christ
                1. God wants you to be whole
            4. for most of you here this morning who need to be made whole, it’s not a matter of desire, but of your will
                1. are you determined to do something about the condition of your life?
                  • Matthew 9:12-13 "On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” NIV


    • John 5:8-9 "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," NIV
            1. when we are touched by Christ, restored to wholeness, we are restored also to God – which is the most important part of being made whole
                1. surely this man whom Jesus healed could have sung with joy Bill Gaither’s song, “He touched me. Oh, He touched me! And—oh!—the joy that floods my soul! Something happened, and now I know—He touched me and made me whole!”
            2. how does this wholeness take place?
                1. you must take your eyes off any worldly pool of hope and focus on God’s desire for your life
                2. Jesus is calling you away from your pools of false hope and despair
                    1. what is the pool of false hope and despair you are lying beside in hopes of getting well?
                    2. what is your pool that you believe has offered you so much and delivered so little?
                        1. is it money?
                        2. is it relationships?
                        3. is it a need for comfort and security?
                        4. is it drugs or alcohol?
                3. we all become stuck in these false hopes, but Jesus calls us away from them
                4. He knows we only get well when we leave those false hopes and follow him
            3. God is in pursuit of your life
                1. He wants to make you whole
                2. Jesus is the one pursuing the man at the pool – the man was not pursuing Jesus
            4. faith is not a matter of overcoming every doubt
                1. it is not a matter of having all the right answers
                2. the better part of faith knows something is wrong inside and wants to get better
                3. it is a willingness to look to Jesus Christ for wholeness
            5. do you believe there is someone out there with the ability to get you unstuck from your rut?
                1. do you believe there is someone out there who can make you whole?

A number of years ago, Wayne Watson had a hit song entitled The Old Violin. It was originally a poem entitled “The Master’s Hand” written by Myra Brooks Welch in 1921 and put to music by William Harnett. The words tell us the story of what happens when we allow Jesus to touch our lives and make us whole:

‘Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer

Thought it scarcely worth his while

To waste much time on the old violin,

But he held it up with a smile.

"What am I bidden, good folks," he cried,

"Who will start bidding for me?

A dollar, a dollar" – then, "Two!" "Only two?

Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?

"What am I bidden, good folks?" he cried,

"Who will start bidding for me?

A dollar, a dollar" – then, "Two!" "Only two?

Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?

Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;

Going for three – " But no,

From the room, far back, a gray-haired man

Came forward and picked up the bow;

Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,

And tightening the loose strings,

He played a melody pure and sweet

As sweet as a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,

With a voice that was quiet and low,

Said, "What am I bidden for the old violin?"

And he held it up with the bow.

"A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two?

Two thousand, once; Three thousand, twice;

And going, and gone!" said he.

The people cheered, but some of them cried,

"We do not quite understand

What changed its worth?" Swift came the reply:

"The touch of the master’s hand."

And many a man with life out of tune,

And battered and scattered with sin,

Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,

Much like the old violin.

A "mess of pottage," a glass of wine;

A game – and he travels on.

He’s "going" once, and "going" twice,

He’s "going" and "almost gone."

But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd

Never can quite understand

The worth of a soul, and the change that’s wrought

By the touch of the Master’s hand.

Now, let me conclude with a word of warning. In our day of instant gratification, too many of us look at how this man was healed and expect God to zap us out of our problems. His healing did not end his struggle in life. "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.’" (John 5:14 NIV)

When Jesus came it wasn’t his purpose to release us from the pains of mortality. He came to give us hope in spite of our mortality. Most people are looking for a formula that will result in the final quick solution to their problems.

Jesus is more concerned about the worth of your soul and seeing it healed.

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