John 5:1-15

“After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda having five porches.  In those lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.  For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.  And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.  When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?  The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.  Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed and walk.  And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.  The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.  He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.  Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?  And he that was healed wist [knew] not who it was:  for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.  Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.  The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.”  (John 5:1-15). 

 

Now we even have another story were Jesus works in a man’s life.  There’s a contrast.  We’ll talk about that in a moment.  There’s a number of differences and similarities.  That’s encouraging to me.  God may work in his life that way, God may not necessarily work in my life that way, but he may work in a different way.  In the end, he’s working, that’s for sure.  We’re told again, Jesus goes up to Jerusalem for a feast.  He goes up there a number of times during those years of ministry.  He is under the Law, he’s a Jew, and he faithfully abides by the Law [the Old Testament Law found in the Torah, the first five books of Moses].  But as we remind ourselves, he came to be under the Law, but also to deliver us from the Law [from the penalty of the Law].  And you’ll see what that means a little bit in this text.  The Law was bondage, legalism just takes the fun out of life, that’s for sure, and you’ll see that in these verses.  [Comment:  The Law is in no wise done away with, and the very words of the New Covenant state, both in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:8-13, that God will write his law in the hearts and minds of believers.  Legalism is the requirement that people obey the Law of God all on their own.  God’s Holy Spirit transforms a believer, so that believer comes into harmony with God’s Law, whether the OT Law of God or the NT law of Christ, as they walk through life with Jesus.  Refer to the sermon series of 1st John 1-5 by this very same pastor to see this better explained, the subject of Law and Grace, as John preached it.  So do not be confused by the terminology of saying the Law was bondage.  It was the legalistic system the Jewish leadership had over the ordinary people that was bondage, the legalistic system, both then and now that says you’ve got to keep God’s law all on your own, no matter what, or else you’re gonna fry.  That’s legalism.]  Now Jesus as he goes up to Jerusalem, he goes specifically we’re told at a point, to this pool.  You can see the excavation of this site in Jerusalem today, it’s next to Saint Anne’s Cathedral.  And when we go to Israel as a congregation, we’ve done it a couple times we’ve had trips, there’s this Cathedral we love to go to because the worship, the acoustics is really beautiful, and you’re in the Old City in Jerusalem.  We have a little worship time there, it’s very beautiful.  Right next to that, outside, is this excavation of this very site.  And it was a site that used to be disputed, the Bible referring to this place, critics are always looking for ways to tear apart the Scripture, and in the end they’re always disproved.  But this is one of those places where ‘Ah, we don’t know this place existed.  I know the Bible says it, but there’s no evidence.’  Well you can go today and actually look, this place that has a pool with five porches, at least it’s been excavated, this site.  And you can see it, and we’ll have a Bible study when we go there and consider this text right here.  Well he goes to this place.  Now just get the picture, we’re told in verse 3 that there’s great multitude of sick people, there’s blind, there’s lame, there’s paralyzed, and they’re all lying around it.  When I read this I envision parts of the world where they don’t have the medical things that we do, they don’t have hospitals, and in some religions I know in India there are people that will actually go to rivers at certain times and dip in the river believing, like the Ganges river, that there’s a healing that can take place.  So you see all these people, with all kinds of sores, and crippled, it’s a sight.  And that’s the picture here.  And some of them have been there a long time, and the reason why, is because of an understanding that when the water stirs, whatever exactly that means, when the water stirs, if you get in there quickly, in fact, if you’re the first one in, there was a belief that you would be healed.  So you would come as a person maybe that’s crippled, or a person that’s blind, and you would wait.  Now, what an experience.  You don’t know when it’s going to happen, you’re sitting there, some of them day after day, week after week, and maybe you’ve been there a few times and there’s such a crowd you can’t get to the water.  Or maybe you have an ailment that really makes it hard for you to move, and so somebody always gets in there before you.  When the excitement goes through the crowd, ‘The water’s stirring!’  poof, somebody’s in there before you are.  That’s what’s been happening.  Now in these verses we’re told in verse 4, depending on the translation, you may not have this in your translation, this angel, New King James, this angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred the water.  [the NIV is missing verse 4, and has in the margin: “Some less important manuscripts [have] “paralyzed---and they waited for the moving of the waters.  [vs] 4. 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.”]  That’s the explanation we’re given, an angel would come down.  And related to that, God working, that there is healings that took place at that time, interesting, you would wonder, ‘Why would God work that way?’  Now that verse, verse 4, you may not have in your translation, you read it and I didn’t read it in my translation.  The truth is, is that verse is not in the oldest texts, the parchments.  We have so many parchments of the Bible, so many texts, that we can really even get critical of the very verses.  And this is one that is in some, but isn’t in the real old ones.  So some translations have chosen to leave it out.  They’re not sure.  [For two alternate views see http://www.ibs.org/niv/mct/4.php and http://www.trinitarianbiblesociety.org/site/articles/grktxt.asp, the latter being that of King James Bible adhering Baptists.  You decide, each has merit.   Both groups are devout Christians.  The truth on this matter will not be resolved until Jesus comes back and tells us.  The truth probably is on both sides of the textual fence.]  Is this an authentic verse?  And there is a true question, is it authentic?  We don’t know.  Did an angel really come down and do that?  Little strange.  Is it true?  We don’t know.  I lean towards that it’s true, and that’s because in verse 7, we are told that the water is stirred.  We’re not told why or how, so it’s very possible that initially in the text, and we just haven’t found those parchments, the old ones that would have, the very oldest that would show that yes, there was this understanding.  I lean towards it, maybe you don’t.  That’s OK.  But the truth is, is the water was stirred for some reason, some believe maybe it was a bubbling, a spring, and at times like a geyser it would just bubble, and they would jump in.

 

To crippled Christians, rise and walk

 

But anyhow, the point of the story, there’s a man in crisis again.  God ministers to people in crisis, that’s for sure.  And God loves, man, if you’re struggling with all these things, and maybe some of you think you’ve been forgotten, you’ve been set aside.  That is not true, you can know that God is near to you, God cares very much, even about the situation that you’re in.  This man is a little different.  He’s been suffering for a long time.  The nobleman, we would assume is a short season, his crisis.  This man has been suffering for 38 years.  Maybe he’s been there for 38 years.  Maybe at least a number of years by this pool, waiting and waiting and waiting for God to work.  And getting this sense that, ‘God, if I don’t get out there, I miss out, oh bummer.’  And sometimes you can only imagine, that’s a bit discouraging.  And with that, that helps me understand why he responds the way that he does.  Jesus comes to him, it’s as if Jesus seeks him out.  God does seek us out, and he seeks you out in your life.  And Jesus comes to this man, and he actually says to him ‘Do you want to be made well?’  Now, if you were a paralytic, what would you say?  ‘Yes!  Why do you even ask such a question?  Of course!’  But the truth is, that question does need to be asked.  Even in our world, even in this congregation this morning, there are times, there are people that are suffering, they’ve got issues in their life, they struggle with this lifestyle, they struggle with this anger, they struggle with this or that emotionally, whatever it is, this physical thing.  And in some cases it seems they want to stay there.  They really don’t want Jesus’ help, because, ‘Well, hey, if I’m a flake, I don’t have to provide for my wife, I don’t have to provide for my kids, I don’t have to get a job, I’ve got this emotional thing that I can’t work, my wife struggles, my kids struggle, and that gives me an excuse.’  You know there are plenty of people that will say ‘No, I don’t want to be made well, that gives me an excuse for me to live this way, and be this way.’  Well Jesus says to him, “Do you want to be made well?”  I like the King James, King James says “Wilt thou be made whole?”  Made whole, in your life, made whole in your being, I love that word, made whole.  It isn’t just walk, but being made whole.  Some of you want to be made whole in your life.  There’s things missing, there’s things that are grieving you, there’s things that are suffering, and you want to be made whole, you want that fixed.  And Jesus comes to you and says “Do you want to be made whole?”  I like Charles Spurgeon the way he makes commentary on this verse, he says “A question probably needed to be asked to excite his hope,”---I mean, this guy’s been there a long time---“which had grown languid or just weak through long waiting and frequent disappointments.  The question may well be put to those who have for years been seeking salvation and the use of the outward means of grace without success.”  Maybe you’ve tried all kinds of church experiences and you’re here today, and you’re thinking, ‘Alright, here’s just another church, my friend dragged me, I’m here.’  ‘I tried this, I tried that, I mean, I’ve tried God, I’ve given him enough tries, you know.’  And you’re kind of here with that attitude.  God may surprise you, because he surprised this guy here today in this text, he surprises him.  Or maybe you’re a Christian, and you’ve been in a situation a long time, you say ‘I’ve tried, I’ve tried, I’ve waited, I’ve waited, I’ve waited, and maybe today’s your hour.  God says ‘You’re finally going to be at a place’, sometimes it takes a long time, it takes a while for us to get there where we’re ready.  And today you’re ready.  Maybe you don’t even know it, God’s just going to simply say something to you, and it’s going to bring healing to your life, emotional healing, victory from something, you’re going to leave something  behind you’ve wished you left behind a long time ago.  Maybe today’s the day.  The truth is, as we go on, this picture of this man is a great picture for us as Christians [or Messianic Jewish believers], what God wants to do.  And so often, we’re kind of inbetween, even as Christians, and we don’t need to be.  That’s for sure.  Well the sick man gives excuses, he says “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water’s stirred.”  ‘I mean, “while I’m coming, another jumps in there.”  ‘I can’t get there, nobody’s helping me.’  And so the frustration and wanting it to change, and it’s not changing, it going on and on and on.  And maybe that’s me too, to God, God comes, and I say ‘Oh, it’s gone on, the frustration, excuses.’  But you know, God doesn’t need any excuses, he just needs you to say “Yes, I believe, yes I want it, yes I’ll take of it.’  Well, verse 8, “Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed, and walk.”  Interesting what he says, is exactly what he couldn’t do.  I mean, he says “Rise”, do something that you haven’t been able to do.  He doesn’t reach down and message his leg and then straighten it, straighten it, and kind of woo, lift the guy up.  He says ‘Get up and walk’, which is really an amazing thing to do if you’re a guy who hasn’t walked.  There is a step of faith that has to be taken at that moment.  There is a response that has to happen to the Word of God, and I tell you that’s so true so often with Christians.  Romans, I’ve been talking with a number of people in our church, those chapters, 5, 6, 7, and 8, new in Christ, when I became a Christian I was crucified with Christ, the old man has died, the new man is raised to life.  ‘But for whatever reason I know I’m a Christian, I know I’m saved, but I’m not accepting that I’m new, that the old is gone.  I’m not walking in that.  I’m not believing it for some reason.  I’ve got all these excuses, all these reasons why I cannot change.  I can’t get over that.’  But the Word of God says ‘Rise up and walk.’  That’s really what it says.  You are new in Christ.  The old man has died, the new, all things are new, the old is gone.  That is a reality of the Christian experience.  So you’re saying ‘I’ve got all these excuses, got all these things, this is what I am.  He says ‘No.’  Paul says “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”  There’s new life.  So it’s a great picture, ‘Rise’, maybe some of you today, that is all God is saying to you, ‘Rise, leave today, and walk in newness of life.  Walk in the newness of life that I’ve given you.’  Take a look at the cross, get away for awhile if you need to, consider the cross, consider what Jesus has done, there’s nothing else that needs to be done to fix you.  It’s already been done.  God’s Son came and he died and he was raised to life and he broke the curse, and he’s given us life abundantly.  And in that is any sort of victory I need, over any lifestyle, over any sin, over any emotional struggle. [Comment: sin is the transgression of the law of God, 1 John 3:4, but this time it is God through Jesus writing God’s law internally in our hearts and minds—that’s the balance between law and grace, the missing ingredient---Jesus in us---the law of God is good, not evil. It’s just we can’t do it, keep it on our own, it has to be written on our hearts and in our minds with a Spiritual pen, where God, Jesus does the writing.] I can walk.  The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, that should be in my life.  If it isn’t in my life, it’s not that God is teasing me, it’s that I’m not saying ‘OK, I’m ready.’  And the only way to really do it, is ‘Rise, get up and walk.’  Go and trust the Lord.  Chuck Smith shares a story, I remember listening to a Joshua tape recently, and he shares this story, I’ve had similar experiences in my life.  He used to have a tremendous anger problem.  And once in a while something would happen, and if you know Chuck today you’d really not believe that’s true, but he used to really fly off the handle.  He’s really a kind man today, really loving.  But there was for years of his life, man, he just lose it.  And they say, when you lose your temper, some call it temporary insanity, it can really be like you’ve gone crazy for a moment, you’re not yourself.  Of course when that happens, you’re ashamed, there’s regrets, you’ve done things, said things you wished you hadn’t.  So he had those experiences.  He tried every method, I mean there’s lots of anger management courses you can take, you can go through seminars, you can be part of little groups that meet, just to manage anger.  And none of it worked for him, and generally, none of it works for anybody.  But he was a Christian, and he went through a season walking with the Lord, walking by faith, and without even realizing it, what happened, is a crisis came that would normally set off his fuse, and he had to look back and say ‘Wait a minute, I didn’t get angry.’  And then month and years passed, and he looks back ‘God just took it from me.’  The classes didn’t work, the little exercises didn’t work, all those things didn’t work.  What worked was just the Spirit of God.  Rise, just get up and walk.  Jesus Christ, died, raised to life, that reality became a greater reality, even in Chuck’s life.  It happens, it’s part of our Christian walk that these things take place sometimes, because you’re finally realizing, this is what the Lord wants to do.

 

Basic difference between legalism and grace

 

Well, Jesus said to him “Rise” and that’s exactly what he did.  And you can only imagine this man got up, and man, he, not only did he get up, with legs wobbling, like some of these supposed miracles [in these tent healing revivals] where the guy is just staggering and he collapses outside, and now the congregation goes, ‘Now look at the miracle!’, you know, the guy sort of walked [no it didn’t happen this way!].  This guy gets up, he can carry his mat, this guy has been healed.  This guy is a new man, and he walks with his mat.  Well, here’s the deal with the law, legalism, religion, traditions of men rather than the Spirit of God, the Jews then say to this man, it’s unbelievable they would say this, but they do this consistently, they say “It is the sabbath, it is not lawful for you to be carrying your bed.” (verse 10)  ‘You’re breaking the tradition.  You’re breaking our religion here.’  [Comment: The Sabbath was one of the Ten Commandments the Jews were commanded to keep, but the Jews had put external laws, do’s and don’ts, around the Sabbath Command that were not part of the Law of God, but became part of their Jewish tradition.  God also spelled out in the Torah law that mercy, not judgment was to be shown in such matters.  If your ox were to fall in a ditch, it was spelled out as being OK to remove the ox, and Jesus said later, a man is far more valuable than an ox or sheep. The Sabbath-keeping Churches of God use this as one of their proof texts for believing the Sabbath command has not been abrogated or transferred to Sunday.  To learn why, log onto:
http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/Has%20the%20Sabbath%20Been%20Abrogated.htm
]
  He says to them, ‘Hey man, I’m just doing what the guy said.  I was a paralytic, I was there for years.  He said ‘Get up and walk.  I’m just doing it.  Man, this is radical.  Every step I take, this is a blast!’  “And they said to him, who is the man who said this to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk?’” (verse 12)  That’s troubling to them that anyone would actually say such a thing.  “And he that was healed knew not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.”  (verse 13)  There was a big crowd, and he left.  That tells you a little bit about some of these guys that show up in their white limo’s and white jackets and they have these healing crusades, and they have their names in the big lights and they give you their books and they got their names in big letters, and they got their name everywhere, everybody talks about them.  Jesus heals this guy, and the guy doesn’t even know who he was, and touches his life.  Well, he says ‘I don’t know.’  Verse 14, though later we’re told that Jesus found him in the temple said to him ‘See, you’ve been healed, you’re walking, sin no more lest a worse thing come upon you.’  Well that would say that, in this particular case, that this man’s physical ailment was related to his sin.  He had done, you know the curse, all of the curses in the world, death, ailment, all that ultimately is traced to the root of sin.  Although that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m sick because I’ve sinned.  Sometimes, we even see in the Scripture in John chapter 9, there was a man that Jesus healed, and they asked him who sinned, and he said “Nobody sinned, neither him nor his parents.  This happened so the glory of God would be revealed.”  And sometimes I suffer not because I’ve done wrong, but because God’s glory wants to be revealed in that situation, he’s going to work, he’s going to give a measure of grace.  But there are times where I have reaped what I have sown, and sometimes it’s even physical.  I’ve gone down roads, I’ve done things I shouldn’t have done, and now I’m reaping the fruit of that.  Of course you can think of AIDS and all sorts of things.  But Jesus comes to him and says “You’ve been made well, sin no more lest a worst thing come upon you.”  ‘Change your life, I’ve touched your life, now change your life, and go walk as a man whose been touched by God.’  And there is a message there for us, some of us here today.  Maybe you’re here, you meet people who are like this.  They want to come to God, but, and I meet them, and they’ll tell you ‘I want to come to church, I want to come to God, but you know, I’ve got these things, I got this habit I’ve got to break, I’m working on it, I’m going to get there, and then I’m going to show up.’  And then the thing is, you never see them, because they’re trying to get their life right, and they’ve got it out of order.  What God says is ‘Come to me, believe, and watch what I’ll do.’  And some people get it backwards, and it’ll never work the other way.  [Comment:  the first way is a sort of legalism, and the Torah-observant churches have it that way, repent first, and then come to church.  The grace oriented churches have it God’s way, ‘Come to me, believe, and watch what I’ll do.’  And there are true born-again believers in each type of church, and they are the ones who have come to God, and are letting God write his laws in their hearts and minds, changing them from the inside out.]  All we need to do, all that is required, the work, is to believe.  Then the Holy Spirit comes in to me and begins to change my life.  So you’ve come this morning, maybe you’re not a Christian, you’ve never asked Jesus into your life, you’ve got all kinds of issues.  Don’t think you’ve got to clean them up now to impress God.  All you need to do is believe this morning.  Receive Jesus Christ into your heart as Lord and Saviour, and then let God do the work, let the Spirit do the work, and he does do the work, supernaturally.  He starts to change from within.  So Jesus says ‘You’ve been made well, your life has been touched, sin no more lest a worse thing come upon you.’  And there is a warning too, for Christians.  Man if God’s worked in your life and changed you, and you’ve gone out now all that stuff is gone, don’t go back there.  Because if you want to learn too that God is a God to be feared, it’s a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God, we’re told, under his judgment.  And there is a warning also.  Well, the grace of God, Jesus touches these lives.

 

The contrast between the two people

 

You know, contrasting the two stories that we have here, you’re got a rich man, you’ve got a poor man.  You’ve got one of position, fame, and prosperity; you’ve got a guy whose just at the lowest, lowest, the guy can’t even walk, different places.  You’ve got one guy whose seeking Jesus, he’s in crisis, he’s seeking Jesus.  Another is in crisis and he’s not even seeking Jesus, Jesus seeks him.  One guy’s crisis has been in a short season, kind of a sudden thing.  Another guy, it’s been going on for a long time.  Well, one you see the result.  In his case, the result of seeking Jesus.  Jesus worked, but he didn’t even see it, it took another day.  The other person, Jesus works, and he sees the result immediately.  I mean, you can just go through and you can see the differences in their two stories.  But there is a similarity, and that is that God speaks, Jesus speaks, and both respond in faith.  And as they respond in faith, they see God work.  And that’s the neat thing.  We’ve come from different places, we’ve got different names, we’ve got different lineages, we’ve got different families, we’ve got different jobs, we’ve got different dogs, cats, and we have different lives.  We’ve come here this morning.  But there’s one Lord, and he wants to work in our lives.  And whatever the situation may be, all we need to do is respond in faith.  And as we respond in faith, God will work.  And his grace is sufficient.  Let’s close in prayer….[transcript of a sermon on John 4:43-54; 5:1-15, given somewhere in New England.]

 

See http://www.unityinchrist.com/romans/Romans6-1-5page1.htm  as a companion study on themes brought out in this transcript.