Sunday 26 May 2019

John 5 v1/8

This story is about the healing of a man in the pool at Bethesda.
This is a factual story about a hopeless case of man who had been ill for 38 years, like from 1981 until now.

In this passage we are told of one of the miracles performed by Jesus. The bible refers to it taking place in Jerusalem at a feast of the Jews, but we do not know which particular feast it was.

Jesus was attending this feast in the Jewish calendar, one of which all male Jews were expected to attend in Jerusalem. There are three such feasts, Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles; this was nearest in time to Pentecost.

Near to the sheep market there was a pool around which all kinds of men gathered hoping for a miracle to happen. There were five porches situated around the pool where the weak and infirm would shelter. The name of the pool was Bethesda, which means ‘house of mercy’, and it was where desperate people gathered in the hope of being healed by a miraculous cure; it was in future years identified as being near the Sheep gate in Jerusalem beneath where the Church of St Anne. There are now many Independent chapels with that name today, often also in the Baptist Church.

It was believed that on occasions an angel would visit and disturb the water and when this happened the first person into the water would be healed. What actually occurred was not the work of an angel, but due to there being an intermittent spring, this happened when a surge from the waters from a hill reservoir caused the spring to rise and fall.

Healings may well have taken place just as to-day healings occur at well-known places, such as Lourdes, Harrogate or Bath, where spas are thought to have healing powers and to which many desperate for healing visit hopefully. When however people attend a place, which has a reputation for healings having taken place, they go there expecting a healing, some subsequently feel healed when they may not be.

Some Churches have healing services where dramatic results occur, but often there are psychological explanations; some people can even feel better just by association. However, it cannot be denied or refuted that some people are gifted by God and have powers of healing.

We are told of a man who was unable to stand, and had no one to help him to get healed. When the waters surged there was a scramble and the fittest got there first before they subsided, leaving this man and others like him to miss out. Those who were paralysed or too ill were left to try another time.

Jesus visited the pool and spoke to the man, asking him if he wanted to be healed. But although there were plenty of others with all kinds of infirmities, when Jesus went there, He chose this man. This suggests Jesus had divine knowledge of the man’s condition. It may seem a strange question for Jesus to ask someone suffering so much, but Jesus never asked a question without reason.

It is perhaps significant the man did not say he did, but answered by saying I can’t, he didn’t say I do. There are people who like to either be ill, or pretend to be, they crave the attention they invariably receive.

I have just had to spend a week in hospital and there was man in the Ward who would try any trick or tale to get notice and attention; it would be impossible for anyone to have so suffered and still be alive.

I today’s society where people can obtain financial benefits for being unfit to work, there is the temptation to feign injury or sickness. We have heard plenty of stories of people who are falsely claiming disability benefits and so cheating the government, when in fact they are perfectly able to work; some have been found taking part in sporting, and other kinds of physical activities.

I once had a man in one of my congregations who loved to tell how ill he was. One lady said I never ask Mr X how he is in case he may tell me. The man would walk jauntily down the street until he saw someone he knew and then start limping. A lot of people want to feel ill just to get attention.

Jesus responded to the man by saying ‘get up’. At once the man did so feeling he had better do what Jesus had said, and was told to throw away his bed as he would not need it any more.

Some people just don’t want to make the effort. In such situations people are tempted to give up and feel they must just accept things. Often people suffer from alcohol addiction, which seems to get the better of a lot, they try but the pull is too strong. I have seen some tragic cases of otherwise fine people drinking themselves literally to death.

People do bring illness upon themselves and indeed upon others by their actions by sinful acts. A person who drives a vehicle when they have drunk alcohol and kills or seriously injures another; people who live immoral lives and pass disease on to others as well as incur themselves, and expect the State to spend money on them which could be otherwise spent on deserving cases.

We face many difficulties in life and we just need the desire and determination to overcome them. In a lot of cases there is a ‘will problem’, people give up mentally and there is no determination to fight; there is an emotional issue.

Jesus was giving a message so vital to those who feel like giving up, don’t accept failure, and don’t feel you are helpless and need assistance all the time. Some people do expect a lot of attention and everybody to give them help. But care has to be taken in receiving advice also.

I had a Deaconess who felt she had healing powers and told an elderly lady who suffered with arthritis badly that she would lay hands on her and pray for healing and medication could be thrown away as she would be healed. The elderly lady did so in great faith, and became quite ill.

There are so many things which concern us, but when there is an intensity within us to overcome and a desire to make an effort however seemingly hopeless, the power of Jesus Christ gives us the opportunity conquer that which is conquering us.

John went on to tell that Jesus had face the wrath of the Jews because the man who He had healed was seen carrying his mat and the Jewish leaders who wanted to know how he had been healed, for the priests told him he should not do so as it was the Sabbath day. There was nothing in the Old Testament which prohibited a man from carrying his bedroll on the Sabbath, but Jewish tradition forbade a man carrying something from one place to another on that day.

The man did not know who it was that had healed him, but later after he met Jesus in the Temple and Jesus identified himself. The man then returned and told the priests it was Jesus who healed him.

We have to realise Jesus came into our world to preach the gospel
not to perform acts of healing. The miracles of healings performed were an indication of that purpose for the church to understand. Jesus was acting against Jewish law and custom in this healing for it was performed on the Sabbath when it was obviously not urgent, the man had waited 38 years one day extra would not have mattered. In doing so, Jesus was being provocative in seeking a clash with the Jewish leaders.

The Jews saw suffering as a consequence of sinning. Whilst Jesus performed other acts of making people well and did not attribute their illness to sinning, it will be noticed that when Jesus met the man sometime later, he told him, ‘now you are well; so stop sinning or something worse may happen to you’

There is a lobby, especially in the United States, which believes that national disasters are God’s reaction to a nation’s sin. When 9/11 occurred in America there were people who sincerely believed because of the nation’s general behaviour against God’s will. Secularists were of course outraged, but it struck a chord with many Americans who were reminded of God’s outrage in events recorded in the Bible.

In closing, let me remind you of an event in Britain in 1984.

A man newly appointed to be a bishop was due to be consecrated in York Minster the magnificent Cathedral in that city. This man had shocked the majority of Christians all over the country, by mockery of the Resurrection story and his rejection of basic doctrine; people were appalled at his appointment as Bishop of Durham, a traditionally evangelical Diocese, and protests at such an appointment were of course ignored.

At the time a new lightning conductor had been fitted to protect three million pounds worth of renovation and smoke detectors were installed throughout the building. On the night of the service to appoint this man, shortly after the service had ended a bolt of lightning of a million volt struck the building starting a fire which blew the whole system, and shut down every smoke detector.

A meteorological map of the area showed over the whole county of Yorkshire there was only one trace of cloud, which circled over the Minster for twenty minutes, which should have produced a few drops of rain, and despite it being a million volts of lightning, there was no thunder. Sixteen meteorologists stated there was no possible meteorological explanation, and all were convinced it could only have been an act of God.

The following day amid the ruins of the Cathedral, the then Archbishops dismissed that suggestion because God would not do such an act. Such a statement only displays a complete misunderstanding of God, and is unworthy of any further comment.

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