Monday 22 April 2024



John 5:1-17                   

Jesus was attending a major feast in the Jewish calendar, one of which all male Jews were expected to attend in Jerusalem. 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.  There are many Independent chapels with that name today.

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  This is similar to what happens at the Catholic shrine Lourdes, where spas are thought to have healing powers, and to which many desperate for healing visit hopefully.  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.

The facts, of course, are that the pool of Bethesda, like many similar pools in the Jerusalem area, is an intermittent spring. At times, water is released in surges from hidden reservoirs in the hills around the city, causing these springs to rise and fall suddenly. Some healings did occur there. Even today, healings take place in these special areas where people go, believing they can be healed. But most of these healings can be explained psychologically. When people believe they are going to be healed, and they are in a place where healings supposedly occur, and they do the expected thing, many of them are healed. Thus the pool at Bethesda had established a reputation as a place where people could be healed.

Some Churches have healing services, where dramatic healings do take place, and they go there expecting a healing, they subsequently feel healed.

We are told of this man who had been ill for 38years and was unable to stand; this is like someone suffering since 1986.  But although there were plenty of others, with all kinds of infirmities, when Jesus went there He chose this man.  But although there were plenty of others, with all kinds of infirmities, when Jesus went there He chose this man.We do not know why. He is weak, feeble, and unable to stand, probably because of some wasting disease .

So here was a great crowd of people -- paralyzed, blind, lame, sick -- all waiting for the water to be troubled. Out of that crowd Jesus picked one lone man. He did not empty the five porches, healing everybody. He did not invite them all to come down so that he might lay hands on them; nothing of that sort. He went to only one man.

The value of a story like this, and the reason it is in the gospels, is not only to reveal to us who Jesus was -- truth about the Lord himself -- but also to show us how God proposes to deal with human helplessness and weakness. Undoubtedly it was the helplessness of this man that drew Jesus to him.

We all can see ourselves, in a sense, helpless, weak, lying at the pool of Bethesda this morning. We all need help. We all find ourselves paralyzed at times, unable to do the thing we want or ought to do. This story is included in the gospels in order that we might understand how God proposes to help us through the ministry of Jesus.

When Jesus saw him and knew he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be healed?"   This may seem a strange question to ask a man who had been ill for so long, but Jesus would not have asked this without cause, He wanted the man to answer. Obviously it was important for this man to answer (at least to himself) the question, "Do I want to be healed?"

I had a man in one of my congregations who loved to tell how ill he was.  One lady said about him, I never ask Mr X how he is in fear 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.

 There are people who like to be or feel unwell. 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 activities.

I know many people today who do not want to be healed. They do not want to receive divine help in their problems. They do not want to be helped out of their weakness. They love their weakness, their helplessness. They are always craving the attention of others through their helplessness. They sometimes flee assuming responsibility for their own lives. I have even seen people turn their backs on a way of deliverance ; they knew would have to work, and did not want to be healed.

I am sure if this man had answered Jesus along these lines, our Lord would have gone his way and not done a thing for him. You cannot help somebody who does not want to be helped.  Some, are not ready to admit they cannot make it on their own.. Jesus can do nothing for them.

This man really did want to be healed, but was always beaten in the rush to get into the water and had given up hope.  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. 

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.  The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.  In other words, "Yes, I want to be healed, but I cannot. I've tried, I've done everything I know how. I want to get into that water, I want to be healed, but I lack the ability; I've no one to help me. I've given up. I have no hope."

Many people here are like that. They have given up on their situation, refusing to believe there is any hope it can change. They see no way, from a human viewpoint, so they have resigned themselves to being weak, failing and faltering Christians for the rest of their lives.

I know there are some who thought they had it under control. You tried to stop, but you discovered you could not. It is amazing to me, how many people casually feel they are in control of something that really has control of them. You have heard of the person who said, "It's easy to stop smoking. I've done it hundreds of times!" That is a revelation, of course, of how much it controls him.  

Jesus then said, ‘Rise, take up your pallet, and walk." And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked.  Notice, that the first thing Jesus says to do is what the man could not do, what he had tried for 38 years to do. The man must have reasoned  "If this man is going to help me then I have got to do what he tells me to do."

In those words he is saying something very important to people who need to be healed: do not make any provision to go back on what you have done.. Cut off any possibility of going back. Let somebody know the new stand you have taken so that he will help hold you to it.

The third thing: "walk." Do not expect to be carried -- walk. Many people want to be carried after they are healed. They expect everybody to gather around them and keep them going -- a common area of failure. But if Jesus gives you the power to rise, Jesus is the One who can give you the power to walk every day, to keep going. That is an important thing to see.

John now traces the immediate reaction of others to this event, for that day was the sabbath. Now the man is in trouble over the Sabbath restrictions.  The Law of Moses did say that the Jews were to keep the Sabbath, and not do any work on that day.  The rabbis had carefully studied that regulation, and, probably innocently and with good intentions, had spelled out 39 different ways by which the Sabbath could be violated by certain types of work. But the real motive of their hearts is instantly revealed when the man says to them, "The man who healed me said to me, 'Take up your pallet, and walk.'" Their reaction, was instead, "Who is the guy who told you to disobey one of our regulations?" This reveals them for the religious bigots they are.   The man is in trouble.

Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you." The man had gone to the temple because the Law required that one who had been healed had to make a thanksgiving offering. Jesus knew where to find him.

He calls the man's attention to the fact that not only had he been physically healed, he had been spiritually healed. His sins had been forgiven; he had been washed, he had been cleansed; he was a new man -- physically, spiritually. It is not always sin that makes people sick. There are other accounts in the Word of God, that indicate sometimes it is the corporate sin of the whole lost race that produces sickness in an individual. We must remember, from the book of Job, that we are not to always blame the individual for his sickness. But sometimes -- and I think the individual always knows -- sickness is caused by sin he is involved .

The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. He had to explain who it was had healed him, and he told them. And this was why the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did this on the sabbath.

They had heaped all these regulations on the Sabbath law, but Jesus ignored them frequently because the regulations were the tradition of men. Jesus explains why he breaks the tradition. Jesus is saying, "You go back to Moses and to all that the rabbis have added to his Law. But I want to go back further than that: God is at work; God is doing this. The merciful and compassionate God has found this man. He is working and I am his instrument. That is why I am doing this."

What Jesus said is true for us today: God is working in this twentieth century. He is working in  the pressures and problems that come to each one of us; Only God's work will last. All that men do will fall away to nothing. Even though it be religious work it will be nothing.

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 want everybody to give them help.

But care has to be taken in receiving advice also.  I had a lady 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, so that medication could be thrown away as she would be healed.  The elderly lady did so in great faith, and became quite ill.

John tells that Jesus went on to face the wrath of the Jews, because the man who He had healed was seen carrying his mat, and the priests told him he should not do so for it was the Sabbath day.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

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