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Do you want to get well

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Do you want to get well?[1]

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralysed. 5 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, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

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.”

8 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, 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.”

11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”

12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

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.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

                                                                                JOHN 5

 

We have embarked upon a series in John’s Gospel – focussing on the SIGNS that John sets out as significant in the life and ministry of Jesus.

We have looked at the first – when the water was turned into wine at Cana.

We have considered the second – when the nobleman’s son was healed.

Now we turn to the next miracle in the sequence, and we notice at once that this healing is different

(a) It provokes CONFLICT.  When Jesus heals the man on the Sabbath it starts a chain of disagreement that will one day culminate in the cross. 

(c) It raises the issue of the Saviour dealing with SIN

The work of Jesus was constantly to challenge the accepted religious ideas of the time, and this produced an ongoing argument which finally culminated in His arrest, trial and death.

This chapter introduces that final conflict, and it demonstrates the issues that His coming and ministry aroused.

The nature of that conflict has not changed – and the issues raised by this story of an event that began in a local hospital are still issues today.

When Jesus comes to Jerusalem for the feast, He visits a well known hospital – well, we would call it so today – and he is impressed by the great number of disabled people who crowd its colonnades – in particular with a man whose condition had lasted 38 years.

John tells us how Jesus deals with the man – heals him on the Sabbath – and follows him up later in the temple to complete the work of spiritual healing.

As a result of this healing Jesus comes into conflict with the Jewish leaders, and He makes a very clear claim about His deity:

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. 17 Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” 18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

As we work that subsequent teaching back into the narrative of the healing we meet certain UNCHANGING PRINCIPLES OF CHRIST’S WORK:

Þ  Sin and its effects

Þ  Sin and society

Þ  Sin and the Saviour

 

1.  Sin and its effects

I want to make it clear that although v 14

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.”

suggests a link in this case between the man’s illness and sin – there is no teaching here that all sickness is due to specific sins.   In the most general sense of course all illness is the result of human disobedience – and illness and imperfection in God’s world is due to sin.  In this particular sign I believe we may recognise some essential truths concerning sin and how Jesus deals with it.

All human need – not just the need for healing is ROOTED IN SIN

That is an unfashionable notion – and, as we shall see in a moment, it is still a focus for widespread misunderstanding of Jesus’ work.

However, in this particular instance there is a closer and more obvious connection between the sinful life of the man at the pool and his long standing illness.

(a)   Sin produces a tragic situation               v 3

3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralysed.

On this particular Sabbath the visitors had come as well to swell the large numbers of needy folk in the five covered colonnades of Bethesda.

It is a tragic sight – and it brings to mind the awful pictures of malnourished and sick in sub-Saharan Africa, the pitiful pictures from Eastern Europe and the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.    How often throughout the world the picture is repeated.

This point scarcely needs to be made – but along with the caveat that it is no way the individual sin that produces this effect that we so often see on our TV screens – these are demonstrations of the TRAGIC EFEFCTS OF SIN in its general sense.

The real remedy lies elsewhere than in charitable donations or redistribution of wealth – although those things go some way to alleviate the symptoms.

(b)   Sin paralyses    v 7

Apart from the obvious condition of the man in the story we hears his words, and within them the evidence of the paralysing effect of SIN

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.”

In this man his condition had worked a long term disability – a vicious circle of need – but no help – leading to greater need.

We need to reflect upon this aspect of the work of SIN in the human life.

Not only does it incur the judgement of God – but it is a condition from which it is impossible for us to rescue ourselves.  

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.   ROMANS 5

As all have known from Job onwards – we need someone to intervene – someone to help – someone who is able by His unique nature to bridge the gap between man and God caused by sin.

(c)   Sin underlines loneliness and hopelessness

 

The same words:

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.”

Uttered by the man in response to Jesus’ challenge

DO YOU WANT TO GET WELL?

Are an excuse

Sin not only produces the illness – it perpetuates it by that unique helplessness.

Have we never made it an excuse – I can’t help sinning…. ?

Sin is ever a chronic rather than an acute problem – and all the marks of human misery and helplessness to improve are the evidences of its power.

2.  Sin and society

This narrative rather aptly illustrates the view of sin and its effects taken by the world as it passes by:

(a)   It attracts the crowds

 

Not only the sick themselves – drawn together by a shared misery and shallow hope of a chance deliverance – but the visitors as well:

2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralysed.

Our newspapers are full of the evidence of the attraction of sin and its effects. No news sells so well as the bad news of human misfortune.

A principle that operates in our entertainment  shows how folk will love to watch the misery of someone whose situation is more difficult than their own.

(b)   It gives rise to myths

 

One of the interesting features of John’s narrative is the reference to the stirring of the waters.

In the NIV it is relegated to a marginal reference.

But the man’s excuse which features so prominently in the discussion between Jesus and the man demonstrates that he believed it:

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.”

He is waiting for what?  A natural phenomenon?  And this had become part of the folklore of the time – a partial reason for the “hospital” being where it was.

Bethesda compares favourably with other shrines and other locations associated with healing – always attracting cases – and sometimes attracting scepticism.

A place of desperation – where sin produces its own mythology its own sad catalogue of wishful thinking mixed with unexplained phenomena.

Sadly – for this man the myth was only a repeated disaster – emphasising his complete inability to do more than possibly witness the healings of others!

Are you looking for a remedy for SIN?

Seek it not in the mythology of modern man

Not in the counselling room or the institute of reforming characters.

Not in the strange and often mystical ideas of man in the 21st Century.

(c)   Sin dealt with is frequently unnoticed

 

Despite what we have said about the curiosity of visitors and the appeal of the site – there is another dimension to the misunderstanding – the misrepresentation of SIN in this story.

When Jesus had healed him what did the authorities notice?

Not a remarkable demonstration of the Saviour’s power – but a misdemeanour.

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.”

11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”

12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

This is one of the pernicious effects of sin – that it diverts attention from the real work of dealing with it – away from the root cause  - to focus on some other tradition that has not quite been met with.

When Jesus saw this man he saw his need and dealt with it.

What they saw – was not a man healed after a lifetime of illness – but a MAT ON THE SABBATH!

One of the answers of the religious mind to the need of sin is to fasten upon the observance of tradition and rule – rather than GRACE and HEALING.

We too may fall into that trap.

3.  Sin and the Saviour

SIN must be challenged by the Lord:

o       In the individual – both before and after the work of grace

o       In society at large – by an assertion about the REAL AUTHORITY OF CHRIST in the realm of sin and its effects.

IN THE INDIVIDUAL

“Do you want to get well?”

It is not an unnecessary question – but a focussing upon an ever present tendency to avoid the real issue.

We return to our running theme question :  “What do you want, do you really really want?”   because that emerges from Christ’s challenge, doesn’t it?

Do you want to deal with this problem of sin – or not.

The work of healing is Christ’s – and so is the work of forgiveness.   What is needed at first is a DETERMINATION to deal with the issue.

When Jesus catches up with him in the temple we see the SECOND STAGE OF CHRIST DEALING WITH THE INDIVIDUAL –

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.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

YOU ARE WELL – STOP SINNING  -  and the man is able to identify his healer!

In conclusion – if you look down through the verses you can see the STRATEGY CHRIST USES TO DEAL WITH SIN:

1.     Comes where it is       5 v 1

2.     Understands its extent        5 3-5

3.     Addresses / challenges indifference      5 v 6

4.     Answers its need                5 v 9

5.     Tends to its after-care         5 v 14

Put a different way:-

v    A CHALLENGE TO THE INDIVIDUAL              Do you want to get well?

v    A COMMAND DEMANDING CHANGE              Get up, pick up your mat and walk

v    A SOLEMN CAUTION                                   Stop sinning

Do you want to get well?

Perhaps the water will be moved,

Perhaps someone else will come along to offer you help

Perhaps the moment – the opportunity will pass….?


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[1]Third Sign of John’s Gospel

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