July 25, 2006
"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. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie - the blind, the lame, the paralyzed . One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 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?" (John 5: 2-6)
Stuck in a bad place for 38 years! 38 years!! There is not much in our passage to tell us the exact nature of what had gripped this sick man for so long, except that he couldn't move without help. Was he an invalid from birth? We don't know. What we do know however is that his condition was hopeless. Local tradition said that once a year an angel would come and stir the waters and the first one in the water would be healed. Our man may have been brought to the pool once a year when the troubling of the waters was expected or he may have sat there near the pool all the time. There were a whole lot of disabled people at the pool when Jesus perceived this man's situation by His knowledge. He focused on one man out of the crowd and chose this one man to be healed. Some suggest he may have been the one who had given up all hope of ever getting well. He'd been sick for 38 years! He probably tried other things to get healed. I think he was ready on that day to hope in something else.
Could that "one man" be you? Could you be the one that Jesus heals? Could your life be the one that is turned around dramatically? Are you ready for something else, as he was? Are you tired of where you are? Are you ready to make a change? Have you been stuck in a bad place for 38 years? 15 years? 5 years? Too long?
Jesus sees the man, perceives his condition and asks a seemingly strange question. "Do you want to get well?" At first glance we say, "Well, duh, Jesus, he's always there at the pool, waiting, hoping to get in - why would he be there if he didn't want to get well?" Looking deeper though, this wasn't a foolish question at all. Is it possible that Jesus knew something that we don't? I believe it's very possible. Many people who are chronic invalids have no hope of a cure. Others use their "sicknesses" as means to get sympathy and really don't want to get healed. We all know of people who profess to want help out of their circumstances, but they really want help to stay in them. People often are happy, for a while anyway, in their sin and dysfunction.
I used to know a homeless man who held a sign that said, "Homeless and Hungry. Will work for food." So many people tried to help him. But he wouldn't go where help was available or where there was work to be done. He didn't even want free food available at the local food pantry. As long as people continued to toss money at him, standing there looking sad, he was happy. Others get along quite well on welfare or government assistance. It is hard to walk away from that and "be healed" because they are stuck in a trap of earning power being no match for government benefits. They are in bondage to a system of rules, regulations and what seems to be no way out. It is the standard in families for generations, has contributed to the disintegration of the family and rewards what morality penalizes. Something is wrong and it's hard for trapped people to want to be healed. There may seem to be no other way to live life outside of the dysfunction. And I would like to add that money isn't the answer, because without a change of heart, more money just feeds more dysfunction.
Being healed causes problems. Our man may have been a beggar. He may have been getting along on the generosity of others. If you didn't have legs for 38 years and then got them, how would that change your life? His survival depended on people helping him, giving him food, doing things for him and giving him money. After he was healed he would be expected to earn his own money, do his own things and with probably no training. Handouts would be gone. He'd be pressured by society to marry and have children. There were a lot of reasons to not want to be healed. We can become addicted to our weaknesses and "disabilities". Our discomfort becomes comfortable once our whole life revolves around it.
Is our disability a broken home? Were we abused in our childhood? Mistreated in a marriage? Generationally bound by a government system? Are we "paralyzed" by our anger at those who have mistreated us? Do we live in self-pity? A sin that we just can't seem to control? Our disabilities may be actual physical illnesses or bondages in our mind and emotions. Dysfunction and disability come in many forms. What is yours? And again, Are you the one? Are you ready for something else? Do you want to be healed?
So we determined that Jesus asked the right question, but I believe that He got the wrong answer. And the wrong attitude. I can just hear the whining of one filled with excuses for not getting well. "I have no one to help me. Other people get ahead of me. It's not fair. I have no strength. I have no friends. I've tried but it's just too hard." Get the picture? My goodness, if the angel came once a year, this guy had 364 other days to ROLL himself to the edge and just plop in when the angel came. He was wasting 364 other days when he should have been preparing for his one day of blessing. How many days do we waste in self pity and excuses and then when our one day of blessing is here, we're not prepared or ready? We have no resume written when the job opens. We have acquired no knowledge when the opportunity comes and passes us by. We have no finances saved when God asks us to give or to go. We are too wrapped up in our own dysfunction to help someone else.
Again, with healing comes responsibility. We cannot rely on our excuses any longer. We must become self-sufficient. The chains of bondage are broken. We can't be held back by the labels others have placed upon us. Healing also means hard work and determination. What are your attitudes and excuses? Are you not rich enough? Are you too white or too black? Are you from the wrong side of the tracks? Were you beaten or abused? Did your husband leave you to raise the kids alone? Are you too messed up to have a message?
So at this critical juncture, our man must make a choice. Remember that his brain wasn't disabled. It was decision making time. Would he continue to lie there, doubting that he could be healed? Would he just flat out refuse to get up? Would he use excuses when Jesus told him to "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!"? (v.8) "It's just too hard!" - to clean my house, to pay my bills, to go to work, to get rid of friends who are bad influences, to pour my self into my children, to serve God in a ministry, to stand strong and be a witness in the face of adversity and tough circumstances and not fall apart. Out of self pity and on to blessing! Jesus stands in front of us just as He stood in front of our man. Willing and able to heal. Saying, "I'm not going to help you to live in weakness when you can live in my Strength." We have no excuse today. Jesus stands ready and willing and able to heal you...today, right now!
Our man's back was to the wall. He chose to pick up his mat and walk. Will you? Muscles long atrophied were completely restored. What needs restoration in your life? Jesus can heal you. You have no excuse. You have a chance to change your life.
After our man was healed, of course, adversity came, as it will for us. People started coming around and telling him that he shouldn't carry his mat on the Sabbath and insisting that he tell them who healed him. (v. 10-12) When you decide to pick up your mat and walk, to start living a whole new way, people will show up. They'll tell you that you can't do it, this is the way it's always been and there's no hope for making a change. You will face discouragement and anger from those who don't agree with your new lifestyle. "They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead." (1 Peter 4: 4-5) Satan doesn't want you to prosper and do well. He wants to keep you down and out and ineffective for God's kingdom. He doesn't want you get sick and tired of being sick and tired. The Bible says that we will struggle but don't let the devil, his lies and excuses or the people he uses against you to keep you from walking. You have inside information on who they are and who sent them, so be wise. The Bible says, "Be strong in the Lord and the power of HIS might." (see Ephesians 6: 10-12) You'll never be able to do it by yourself or in your own power. But God .....And verse 15 tells us that after the man was healed he "went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well." Go tell someone, a lot of someone's, what Jesus has done for you!
I apologize for the length of this message but I believe it is critical to our growth in our walk with Christ and in our being able to enjoy the abundant life that Jesus died to give us. Once you've made your decision to pick up your mat and walk, don't ever put it down again and go back. Jesus told the man, "Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." (v. 14) You need to stick with it and make a commitment. If not, you'll go back to where you were and fall right into Satan's trap for your life. Satan has a trap. God has a plan. A wonderful, glorious plan for your life. Open yourself up to a new life in Christ. One that includes the power of God over our weaknesses, sickness and sin. If we do, if we're willing, just like our man, we can pick up our mat and walk.
Pray: Lord, I stand before you as a weak, broken, sick and sinful person. I admit I am utterly unable to heal myself. I open myself to your healing power and accept the changes that your healing will make in my life. I know this will open me up to new problems that I've never faced or imagined before and I trust you to be there with me, carrying me through to your glorious kingdom in Christ Jesus. Thank you for healing me.
Walking with you,
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