************ Sermon on John 5:5-6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 27, 2005
"Healed by the Master"
At Bethesda Pool was a man who had been sick for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been sick for a long time, He said to him: "Do you want to get well?" "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" (Jn 5:6-7). A footnote at the bottom of our Bibles explains this:
From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease he had.
There were lots of sick people at the pool. Why did Jesus pass by all the others – the blind, the lame, the paralyzed – and come to this man? He did it so that He might teach us about the need for patience; He did it to teach us about His almighty power.
I Great Patience
A The last time I preached on this passage I didn't say much about the 38 years the man had been in the grip of his illness. But as I looked at this passage again I realized it speaks to everyone who has grown old and feeble, all who face unending poverty, all who live with illness, all who endure family crises, all who have lived with the surging storms of unexpected troubles. As we face these kinds of things, this paralytic lies before us as an example.
Who here would be so foolish, or so miserable and distressed, as to think his or her troubles compares with those of the invalid in front of us? Who here would not choose his own problems if given the choice of choosing between his and the invalid's? If any of us were sick for 20 years or 10 or only 5, would not these years have been enough to make our souls despair and put us into the depths of depression? If our affliction was 20 years or 10 or only 5 how many of us would not have lost all patience and given up all hope of a cure? Yet this man did not leave the pool but stayed there for 38 years and proved his great patience.
Isn't it marvelous that the man could have stayed there that long – waiting, hoping, praying, being patient? Could I do that? Could you? Do we have what it takes to endure under such trials, and for 38 years at that?
B Christ stood there and asked him, "Do you want to get well?"
What sort of question is this?
You have a crippling illness. "Do you want to get well?"
You suffer arthritis really bad. You need your knees replaced. "Do you want to get well?"
Someone you know and love has an addiction? "Do you want him to get well?"
Your child is disabled. "Do you want your child to get well?"
You or a loved one are suffering from a mental or emotional illness. "Do you want to get well?"
You have troubles getting around. You have heart problems. You are a diabetic. You have cancer. You or someone you know has AIDS. "Do you want to get well?"
"Do you want to get well?" As I said the last time I preached on this passage, that sounds like a dumb question. Who of us wouldn't say, "Of course, I want to get well. Of course, I want my children to get well. Of course, I want the disabled to be made whole." When normal people are sick they want to get better, they want to be healed, and they look for a cure.
So why does Jesus ask such a silly, needless, and insulting question? What is His intent? What is the purpose of His question?
Christ knew what the man was going to say, but He still asked him if he wished to be cured. Christ did not ask him because He did not know the answer. Christ wanted to give the paralytic an opportunity to tell of his personal and tragic disaster. Christ did this so we would learn a lesson in patience.
C How did the paralytic respond to Jesus' question? We notice that he did not take the question the wrong way, he did not become angry, he did not say in reply, "You see that I am paralyzed, and you know how long I have been sick. So why do you ask me if I wish to get well? Did you come to make fun of my misfortune and to ridicule my troubles?"
Most people are sullen and surly and bad-tempered even if they have been confined to bed for only a week. But when your illness has been your constant companion for 38 years, how likely would it be that you would be patient, kind, loving, and gentle? If you were sick for 38 years would you not have lost all graciousness and self-discipline?
Nonetheless, the paralytic was neither sullen, surly, or bad-tempered. He simply said, "Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred." See how many troubles this man had – he was sick; he was poor; and, he had no one to stand by his side.
"While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me." This disappointment is worse than all the others. By itself, it is enough to break and move a heart of stone. I can imagine the man, every single year, crawling along, striving to be the first to reach the pool. I can imagine him, each single year, hanging at the very brink of having his hope come to a happy fulfillment.
And what is worse, he endured this not for 2 or 3 or 10 years but for 38 years. He made every effort but failed to reach the reward. The race was run, but the prize went to another over those many years.
And still more difficult was the fact that he saw others freed from their disease. You know the expression: "Misery seeks company." It always helps when things go wrong to see other people in the same kind of situation. It keeps you from self-pity, from thinking that God or Satan is picking on you alone. But now imagine that many others who share your troubles are set free from them and triumph over them. That makes your own situation seem worse, doesn't it?! This is why a poor man feels his own poverty all the more when he sees another poor man become rich. That is why a sick man feels more pain when he sees that many of those who were afflicted have rid themselves of their ailments, while he has no such happy end.
This is what happened to the paralytic. It is true that he was struggling against sickness, poverty, and loneliness for so long a time. It is true that he saw others freed from their ills while he was always trying but never had the strength to succeed. It is true that he had no expectation of being rid of his suffering. Nonetheless, he did not leave the pool and go away. Each year he hurried to the waters as fast as his ailment allowed.
As for ourselves, after we pray once to God for some favor or other and fail to get it, we become troubled and bothered and upset. Or, we stop all prayer.
Can we praise the paralytic as he deserves? Can we condemn ourselves enough for our negligence? What defense or pardon would we deserve when we slacken our efforts and lose heart so quickly, whereas he stood determined and patient for 38 years?
I came across an absolutely wonderful prayer the other day. I wonder if I could pray it and mean it. Here is the prayer:
"Lord, if it will be to Your glory, heal suddenly. If it will glorify You more, heal gradually; if it will glorify You even more, may your servant remain sick awhile; and if it will glorify Your name still more, take me to Yourself in heaven."I would have to say that the man in front of us this morning, the one who had been an invalid for 38 years, was given the grace to pray this kind of prayer. Again, would I be able to pray this? Would you be able to pray this?
Do you see how the 38 years did the paralytic no harm because he endured everything with patience? His soul had been tested and tried. And the testing of his faith produced perseverance. And, 38 years of perseverance made him mature and complete, virtuous and disciplined. His faith had been tested by his misfortune as in a smelting furnace, and came through with flying colors.
II The Master's Power
A What, then, did Christ do? In front of everyone Christ said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."
Why did Christ command him to take up his mattress?
Think about this for a moment. If you were cured of a disease that paralyzed you for 38 years, would you be able to pick up your bed? I think we all realize that when doctors heal their patients from diseases, they cannot bring a sick man back to health in a single moment. They need a long period of time for the patient to recuperate, a long time of therapy and muscle building, so that all traces of the disease may, little by little, be driven out from the body. But Christ does not cure in this way. In a single moment of time, He both frees from disease and restores to full health and strength; there is no interval between the cure and the recovery. As soon as the sacred word was uttered by His holy tongue, the sickness fled, the word became deed, and the whole illness was completely cured.
B Physical healing is not the only thing that Jesus did. Notice what else John's Gospel tells us:
(Jn 5:14) 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."
Do you see the Great Physician's wisdom? Do you see His concern? Not only did He free the man from his ailment at the time he was cured, but He also dealt with his sin – which, as we all should know, is the ultimate cause or root of all sickness and disease.
When the man was lying on his couch, Jesus said nothing to him about his sins. For the souls of those who are sick are distressed and unable to hear such words. So first Jesus drove out the disease, first he restored the man to health. Then, after He proved by His deed His power and His concern for him, He gave His word about sin and salvation.
Do you know what this tells me? Jesus is full of compassion. He understands us and our fallen situation. He is able to sympathize with us. But this also tells me that Jesus is interested in the whole man. Man, as you know, is composed of two parts: body and soul. Jesus has come for both. Jesus has plans for both. He wants to cure or raise the body and to forgive or heal the soul. But, then, He is a total Savior interested in the total man.
Jesus is able to heal. He is more than able to heal body and soul. He is almighty God. He is able to do anything. That's the message of this passage about Jesus.
But, as I already said, there is also a message here about us. It is our job to be patient like the paralytic. It is our calling to wait upon the Lord – His will, His time, His plan for our life.
Topic: PatienceWe certainly see this, don't we, in the case of the paralytic at the pool. My prayer is that as our almighty Lord works with us, it will be seen in our life as well.
Title: Suffering's Reward
A young man, a Christian, went to an older believer to ask for prayer. "Will you please pray that I may be more patient?" he asked. The aged saint agreed. They knelt together and the man began to pray, "Lord, send this young man tribulation in the morning; send this young man tribulation in the afternoon; send this young man...." At that point the young Christian blurted out, "No, no, I didn't ask you to pray for tribulation. I wanted you to pray for patience." "Ah," responded the wise Christian, "it's through tribulation that we learn patience."
Let me end with the inspired words of James as he thinks about pain and suffering:
(James 1:2-4) Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (3) because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (4) Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
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