************ Sermon on John 5:6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 28, 2003
"Do You Want to Get Well?"
"Do you want to get well?" Jesus asks this of a man at Bethesda Pool, sometimes called Bethsaida Pool. He is an invalid. He has been disabled for 38 years. He is lying by Bethesda Pool because it has sometimes been used of the Lord to bring healing. Some minor Greek manuscripts say that the first one in the pool after its waters have been stirred by an angel will be healed. This man, however, has never been able to be first. So there he lies, crippled, disabled, invalid. "Do you want to get well?"
What sort of question is this?
You have an illness, like Jack Van Leeuwen. You find yourself in constant pain. "Do you want to get well?"
You have suffered an aneurism like Peter Dragt. "Do you want to get well?"
You suffer arthritis really bad. You need your knees replaced, like a couple of our members. "Do you want to get well?"
Your child is disabled – physically, mentally, emotionally – and a number of our families have this. "Do you want your child to get well?"
You or a loved one are suffering from a mental illness – we have that too in our church family. "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?" What a dumb question, Jesus! 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.
So why does Jesus ask such a silly, needless, and insulting question? What is His intent?
I A Sick Man
A "Do you want to get well?" When most of us suffer health problems the answer to this question is obvious – of course we want to get well. Yet, that is not always the case. This past week I came across a prayer by Ole Hallesby, a theologian from Norway:
Topic: Healing"Do you want to get well?" "That depends," says Ole Hallesby, "on what most glorifies God." I'm not sure if I could ever pray this way; and, like me, I'm sure most of you would rather pray for healing too.
"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."
"Do you want to get well?" More than once I have heard of those who don't want to get well because they love the attention and care they get and the prayers that are offered on their behalf when they are ill. These people seem to operate on the principle, "I would rather be a some one who is sick than a no one who is well." Then there are those who don't want healing because they want to collect the disability benefits – a lifetime of money without having to work for it. Still others prefer illness because it helps them to avoid responsibility – I don't have to go to work, attend worship services, serve on committees, or be in the Consistory or school board if I am sick. And then there are those who are too proud to admit they are even sick so refuse to seek healing. "Do you want to get well?" "No, not really," say most of these people in a moment of honesty.
"Do you want to get well?" says Jesus to the invalid. The Lord wants to make sure he really does desire healing from his physical disability.
B "Do you want to get well?" It is obvious that the man suffers from more than a physical disability. He also suffers from loneliness.
(Jn 5:7) "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."You can almost hear the agony, see the tears, feel the disappointment. "I have no one ..." How awful.
Loneliness is one of the curses of modern living. In our cities today many people don't even know their neighbor – the people in the house or apartment next door.
Perhaps you heard of the family that went out of their way to welcome some newcomers to church. On finding that the visitors had recently moved into the community they asked them how they liked their neighborhood. "Terrible," was the answer. "None of our neighbors talk to us and no one has welcomed us into the area."
After the service the members noticed the visitors were in the car in front of them as they drove home. What made this unusual is that they followed the visitors all the way home. As they pulled into their driveway they noticed the visitors pulling into the driveway next door.
We call this a Maalox moment.
So many people today are lonely. Talk to our widows or widowers; life is lonely without one's spouse, even if the children and neighbors visit a lot. Surprisingly, people even can be lonely in a crowd. David Riesman published his study of modern man under the title "The Lonely Crowd."
Immense efforts have been made to glue life together again. Governments encourage community centers. People join clubs, cliques, and brotherhoods. One psychiatrist has said: "The lonely have taken to pack-running in mindless organizations."
"Do you want to get well?" When Jesus asks this of the invalid at Bethesda Pool He has more in mind than physical health; He is also asking if the man wants to be restored to a full life with his fellow men – a life without loneliness, isolation, and rejection.
C "Do you want to get well?" The invalid at Bethesda Pool also needs healing from oppression. More specifically, he needs relief from the Pharisees and their legalism. Jesus could speak of those who are "weary and burdened" (Mt 11:28) by all the rules and regulations of Judaism. The invalid is certainly one of these.
In healing the man Jesus said, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk" (vs 8). Upon seeing him the Pharisees said, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat" (vs 10). Here is a man who has been healed after 38 years of paralysis; yet the Pharisees don't or can't rejoice in his healing; all they can see is one of their many rules being broken. It seems they want the man back on his mat. Their view: it is better to be lame than to break one of their man-made rules and regulations.
"Do you want to get well?" Jesus is asking the man if he wants freedom, redemption, from the legalism of the Pharisees and their scribes. Do you want to remain burdened and heavy ladened or do you want to serve and worship the Lord in freedom?
D "Do you want to get well?" Finally, Jesus also has in mind sin and salvation. Jesus meets the man after his confrontation with the Pharisees and Jesus says, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." The man's real sickness is sin; the only cure is salvation.
We know from elsewhere in the Bible that Jesus does not accept the conclusion that there is a one-to-one connection between sin and suffering. We see this with a man born blind. The disciples asked, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (Jn 9:2). Jesus' answer: "Neither" (cf Luke 13:1-5). Yet, there is a general connection between sin and suffering. We know that all suffering and pain is a result of original sin. We also know that sometimes our sin has consequences that are less than pleasant. Adultery, for instance, can break up a marriage; homosexual relationships can lead to AIDS; pre-marital sex can lead to an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy; theft can lead to prison; alcoholism can lead to poverty and abuse.
"Do you want to get well?" Jesus wonders if the man wants a full, complete healing of all that is wrong in his life: health problems, loneliness, legalism, sin. What it comes down to is this: Jesus wonders if the man wants release from the realm of Satan.
II Jesus' Ministry of Healing
A "Do you want to get well?" Scripture tells us that Jesus, the Great Physician, makes the invalid well. Jesus' healing ministry to the crippled man is summed up in four verbs: saw, learned, healed, and crucified.
First of all, we are told that Jesus "saw him lying there." Few people know how to see. Most people in our society don't see the homeless, the bag-ladies, the street bums, and so on. They look right over them or through them or past them; it is as if they are not there. Or, consider that many elderly are put into Nursing Homes; criminals are put into jails and prisons; the worst of the disabled are put into institutions; our society doesn't see these people or think about them because once they are out of sight they are also out of mind. Or, when many people visit a sick person, they often gaze out the window. They avoid the patient's eyes, lest they become involved in his distress. But Jesus saw the invalid. Jesus entered his empty, lonely world. Jesus made contact. Jesus committed Himself to being involved in the man's life.
It further seems that Jesus went out of His way to do this. There was a festival, a feast of the Jews, in Jerusalem, and everybody went downtown to celebrate. But not Jesus. He went to Bethesda and ministered to the invalid. This is totally in character for Him Who left the ninety-nine sheep in order to find the one that was lost.
Second, we are told that Jesus learned that the invalid had been lying there and been in his condition for a long time. The Greek word for "learned" implies understanding. Jesus understood. He sympathized with the man. It is as if He put Himself in the man's place.
Third, Jesus healed the man. He asked him, "Do you want to get well?" He said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The fourth verb is crucified. We don't find the word in this passage but it certainly underlies it. It is by means of the cross and the grave that the man is delivered from his sin and made whole before God.
B In this ministry of healing Jesus attacks the realm of Satan and heals every broken, twisted part of the crippled's life. But, then, this is why Jesus has come. He has come to make the broken whole, to lift up what is bowed down, to heal what is sick, to save what is lost. Jesus' healing ministry is complete, to body and soul, mind and spirit, emotions and psychology. Diseased, depressed, dysfunctional, defeated, and sinful we can all come to Jesus and find in Him what we need for healing. As Jesus Himself tells us:
(Lk 4:18-19) "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, (19) to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Or, as the Lord God tells us through Moses, "I am the LORD who heals you" (Ex 15:26). Truly, He forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases (Ps 103:3).
III Do You Want to Get Well
A "Do you want to get well?" That's the question Jesus asks you and me this evening. Do you want to experience a full and complete healing of whatever is wrong, broken, or sick in your life?
Healing, of course, always depends upon Christ. Whether the illness is physical, mental, spiritual, social, emotional its healing always depends upon Christ. It is by grace. But it is also through faith. Jesus demands this faith of the paralytic. He says, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!" Jesus calls the man to believe in what is beyond human ability. He calls him to burn his bridges; He tells him to take his mat off the ground so he can't relapse and fall back onto it after the first faltering step.
To experience the Lord's healing of whatever is wrong, broken, or sick in our life we also, by grace, must come to Jesus in faith.
B "Do you want to get well?" Jesus demands more than faith of the paralytic. He also demands holiness. He says, "Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." To sin means to put on wrong, brokenness, sickness. It is sin that leads to disease, depression, dysfunction, defeat. So if we, by grace, want to experience the Lord's healing in our lives we must put off sin and put on righteousness and holiness.
C "Do you want to get well?" Jesus demands that we imitate Him. Jesus wants us to be His ministers of healing and mercy to others that are hurting, lonely, sick, and broken. Family after family tells me that we as a congregation excel in this area. Yet, there are always some who are left out, ignored, forgotten, over-looked. Let us all strive to reach out to anyone who needs healing – whether the healing be physical, mental, social, emotional, or spiritual.
It is true that with the coming of Jesus there is wondrous, beautiful healing:
(Lk 7:22) The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.At the same time we know we are sinners living in a sinful world – so any healing now is only temporary and partial. So we have to wait, patiently, for the return of the Lord. At that time
(Is 35:5-6) Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. (6) Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. And we pray: "Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly."
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