When I was in kindergarten, I broke my leg trying to climb a neighbor’s retaining wall. The only thing worse than having a teenage girl carry me home was the long recovery process.
The cast ran from my toes to my upper leg. Even with crutches, it was almost impossible to walk without someone helping me.
Initially, I couldn’t stand up on my own. To go to bathroom, I had to call for help. If I wanted something to drink, I had to call for help.
Eventually it got better and I learned how to milk the situation to my advantage. As I saw signs of progress, I had hope things would change.
What happens when there’s no hope? Perhaps you find yourself at a low point in life – or you love someone who is losing hope.
Here’s what I didn’t know in kindergarten: If we really want to be healed, then we must be prepared to accept a new way of living.
In today’s story, we find Jesus going to a place most religious people would have avoided …
1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 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 paralyzed. – John 5:1-3
Why would the religious people have avoided this place? Two simple reasons: one theological and the other human nature. The theological reason was a concern of becoming ceremonially unclean. The other reason is more basic to all of us: it would have made them uncomfortable.
This is one reason you wouldn’t want to go on vacation with Jesus. He’s likely to end up with people most of us are trying to avoid.
This is part of what makes Jesus so remarkable – he’s more concerned about the needs of others than his own reputation.
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. – John 5:5-6a
How long is 38 years? Think about what happened 38 yrs ago? (1979)
- Average household income was $17,500
- The cost of a gallon of gas was only 86 cents
- ESPN began broadcasting
- A partial nuclear meltdown occurred at Three Mile Island
- 63 Americans were taken hostage in Iran
- The first season of the Dukes of Hazard aired on TV
- Sony introduced the Walkman
- Pink Floyd released album, “The Wall.” Sold 6 million in 2 weeks.
Much can change in 38 years. For this man, 38 yrs felt like an eternity.
Out of the entire crowd, Jesus saw this one man. That is the gospel! Jesus sees and cares for the one person. Perhaps Jesus knew that this man’s infirmity had cast a long shadow over his life. That’s what makes Jesus’ question so curious …
Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” – John 5:6b
At first glance, this seems like a strange – almost cruel – question. If you had been in a bad situation for 38 years, wouldn’t you want to get well?
In his answer, we find that he was not only physically paralyzed – at some point he had become emotionally paralyzed as 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.” – John 5:7
His answer reflects two things: an unhealthy amount of self-pity and the hopelessness of basing your life on a myth.
The self-pity is obvious … I have no one to help me. Here’s the danger of giving in to self-pity: we build up an entire way of life around our self-pity.
R.T. Kendall wrote: “Self-pity is more interested in defending itself than looking for a solution.”
Even God can do little for us if we are comfortable with our place in life.
But what about the myth? There was a legend that an angel would stir the water and the first person to get in got healed.
Over the long period of living with his problem, this man had become convinced that God operated on a “first come, first served” basis. That he helps those who help themselves.
Jesus refused to debate him and chose to heal him instead.
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. – John 5:8-9a
Something more than the man’s limbs came to life. The power of God began flowing through his spirit.
From start to finish, this miracle is illustration of God’s grace. Jesus shows up uninvited and heals this man. And now everyone will live happily ever after …
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders 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 Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well. – John 5:9b-15
The letter of the law had come to dominate its spirit. Don’t miss this … The religious leaders were more interested in their rules and traditions than they were the well-being of people.
May that never be the attitude of our church.
Jesus is still asking, “Do you want to get well?”
In your personal life, will you accept responsibility for the actions and attitudes that are harming you? That first step is the most important step.
The next step is to reach out for help. Here at Mountainview we have opportunities such as Stephen Ministry, LifeGroups, and studies for men and women. If you are concerned about your kids, commit to having them in church each and every week that you can.
I also believe Jesus is asking the church a slightly different question. It’s the same question he would ask Pharisees: Do we want people to get well? If so, what are you willing to do about it?
There are paralyzed people all around us. Many of them are seeking hope in a myth, when Jesus offers real hope.
Let’s not be like the religious people who walked by the blind, lame, and paralyzed and never stopped. Let’s be like Jesus. Let’s stop and get to know them.
Then let’s invite them to a place where they can encounter Jesus.