On our trip to Israel a couple of springs ago, I had the opportunity to go to an excavation of the pool of Bethesda in the north-east corner of the old city. I looked down a very deep hole to where a thousand or two thousand years of dirt and conquering and rebuilding had covered.
But to uncover some of the original pillars and some of the original flooring of the porticoes of that old spring, and to stand there and to try to imagine the noise…after all, it was close to the small sheep gate where the marketplace conducted its business, the smells and the aromas of those cattle sales accompanied by the moans and the cries of so many people who stayed on those porches surrounding that Bethesda Pool, in hope against hope that they might be healed.
On that one particular day, a non-descript man walks in amongst them with the power to cure them, the power to heal. And He walks, not just to everyone, but to one of them, and He offers healing grace…healing grace.
I want to speak to you about that this morning. I invite your attention to John, chapter 5. We begin in the very first verse of John 5. It says, "After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches."
Bethesda…beth is house, and Bethesda simply means the house of mercy, or house of grace. And it is surrounded by these porticos, or porches, these Roman porches with all of their columns that had a roof that allowed people to get out of the sun and stay by this pool. This pool was fed by two different streams. One was underneath the other that caused the water to come into that pool area.
And as such, it became a place of healing. And that's what verse 3 tells us. It says, "In these [in those porches] lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had."
Here were these people who had found no other cure to their ailment. Some were blind. Some were lame. Whatever the condition might be, this was a place of last resort to come and to unfold your bed and to make quarters right there by that pool in hopes that you might be able to get into the water when the water moved.
Now I want to be very clear. No angel touched that water. It was a legend. It was just what they believed. Probably because the two pools fed into the water, and one pool being not as constantly flowing, would create a gurgling motion when it would empty into that pool. And the legend had developed that an angel came down and touched it, and that's why it gurgled, and so the first one in gets healed.
The Bible never speaks of that. Angels never go out on their own. They're not in charge of doing any such healing, nor is it limited to the first person to reply, or the fifth caller. That's not the way God operates. But this is how the legend developed. And it's very similar to the legends that we so often look to, to find healing in our lives.
Rather than trusting the God who created us and the God who offers healing to us, sometimes we rely on what the world has said. It says, "You need more money." It says, "You need to be good-looking." It says this and that, and we find ourselves putting our beds by the porches of those claims in life, and hoping that we might be the first one to get represented, the first one to be touched, the first one to be healed by the world's legends.
I don't know if you're living and looking toward some claim of popularity, some claim of athleticism, some claim of high academics, some legend today that says if you achieve this, if you're the first one to that, then you're going to find success in life, you're going to find cure in life.
You might even be one who suffers a physical ailment, and because nothing else has worked you're beginning to listen to those charlatans. You're beginning to wonder if maybe their claims of physical healing, those preachers who proclaim this, maybe that's true. Maybe I just simply need to go there and to be touched by them. My friends, you may be living and hoping for some sort of superstition to heal you today.
Well so was this one certain man in John 5, verse 5. It says, "Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years." I don't know if he was 38, which means he would have had it from birth, or more likely it seems by the reading later, that he had gotten it sometime…that he had it now for 38 years.
That would be today as though he had contracted it in 1971. And some of you weren't even alive in 1971, but if you were, imagine from 1971 up through today to have that same infirmity, that lameness, that whatever it was that this man had that never went away. And he gets hopeless, and he begins to wonder if maybe this cure at Bethesda is a cure for him. And so he comes in hopes that somebody will get him into that water fast enough that he might be cured.
Verse 6 says, "When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, 'Do you want to be made well?'"
Now I want you to notice that when Jesus comes here to Bethesda, He comes to a place that is filled with crippled people, people who are lame, people who are blind, people who are paralyzed, but Jesus does not heal every one of them. You might think, "Well, that's unfair." The fact that He comes with that power, but yet He doesn't heal all of them, they all need healing.
But Jesus goes to one man in particular. And you notice by the reading He knows the man's condition. He knows that he has been in that condition for a long time. After all, He is God. And certainly He knows when the man encountered that disease, that affliction. He knows how long the man has had that affliction. And like a laser light, He walks through all of the other needs now, and He goes to this one man.
Why this man? You know he doesn't really qualify for healing. In fact, if you look with me down to verse 14, you discover that in this man's case his infirmity was a result of personal sin. Fourteen says, "Afterward Jesus found him [that was the man He had healed] in the temple, and said to him, 'See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.'"
Now here is a man who is in the condition he is in because of his own sin. Perhaps as bad living he contracted a disease, but perhaps because of his rebellion against God, God has afflicted him. First Corinthians 11 tells us God does that, by the way. He even does that to church people, 1 Corinthians 11 tells us.
Here is a man who doesn't deserve it by his own actions. He deserves to be on that bed, crippled, by our way of viewing things. Maybe Jesus walks by a poor, old grandmother who is blind and whose only hope in life is that she might be able to see her newborn grandchild. But Jesus doesn't heal her.
Maybe Jesus walks by a father who, more than anything, wants to have strength given back to his legs so he can go back and provide for his family that they don't have to live under the trees and on the streets.
But Jesus walks right by that person, and He goes to this man who is in the condition he is in because of his own choices in life…who got what he deserved. And now, not only that, but this man is not relying on God for healing. He is not praying to God. He is relying on local superstition. He is relying and following the crowd and wanting them maybe…that's the encouragement that he has. He wants their lives, to him, to be true.
So he believes that which makes no sense, has no scientific basis to it, and yet he's so hopeless and so desperate that he's going for this superstition. Why then does Jesus come only to him? Why does Jesus come and heal this man who is not praying to God, who is in the condition he is in because he has sinned against God? Why does Jesus heal him? Grace…grace.
He heals him, a man who does not deserve His mercy. And that's why He heals you. And that's why He saves you. He heals this man because God chooses to do it because God is a God of grace.
In fact, if you want to look down to verse 13, it says, "But the one who was healed [and that's this man] did not know who it was." In other words, my friends, this man does not even profess Christ as his Savior. This is not a healing that came after he claimed Jesus as his Lord. This man never claims Jesus as his Lord. Here is a man who never sees Jesus as the Messiah, whose own personal life got him into the mess that he is in, and who is relying on local legend to heal him, and yet God chooses to reach down and touch this life.
I want you to let that burn into your heart because I want you to see how powerful and undeserved God's grace is…how He reaches past all of the barriers, all of the infirmities of our lives and chooses to reach down and to touch us.
That's what He did with this man. He is no more deserving than you were. If the Lord has saved you, He has saved you not because of you pedigree, not because of your memorization, not even because of your family, and not because you've come to this church. He simply chose to do so. He reached down and He quickened, He woke up, your dead spirit. He reached down and He spoke to your hear because He chose to.
You didn't win a race. You didn't excel in a contest. God looked past all of your lost friends who had more reason than you to have eternal life and He touched you. He touched you for no other reason than God's grace.
Oh, I tell you, when this sinks in there is no reason you shouldn't be up here, knees bowed and hands stretched out and say, "Oh glory, God."
I thought I was saved because I was raised in a church family. I thought I was saved because I have been a good boy, because I have kept my nose clean. Now I'm realizing that I'm as wicked as this man.
And the reason that I am saved is not because of the family that raised me and taught me the Bible, it's not really because of Sunday school. Those are wonderful things, but the only reason you're ever saved is that God chooses to touch your heart. And by His grace…we know there is nothing we can do to earn salvation, and yet we sometimes go through our lives thinking we've earned it, thinking we've studied enough, we've lived clean enough, and yet we're no different than this man.
There are people all around you who deserve forgiveness more than you. And yet God chose to forgive you for no other reason than His love, His crazy love, for you.
Well, as you might imagine, when God touches a heart, when God quickens a dead spirit, when God enters into your undeserved life and gives you strength enough to walk for Him, there are going to be people, sometimes religious people, who aren't going to understand the change. That's what happens.
We look down to verse 9. It says, "And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath. The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, 'It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.' He answered them, 'He who made me well said to me, 'Take up your bed and walk.'"
Then notice their response, "Then they asked him, 'Who is the man who said to you, 'Take up your bed and walk'?" Now notice the man in verse 11, he said, "He who made me well said to me, 'Take up your bed.'"
But in verse 12, they pay no attention to the He who made me well part. All they hear is the violation of their law and their response is, "Who told you you could take up your bed and walk?"
I tell you there are, in every generation, those who feel it is their duty to guard tradition, those who feel it is their duty to guard their religious observations, and they don't see the miracle because they're blinded by the violation of the religious practice. They can't see God at work. All they can see is that there is something different going on than what they understand to be the norm.
They will see the deliverance of a person, and they'll interpret it as defiance because in their deliverance, they're different now. And the way they walk is not as one who had been steeped in that religion would walk. And they see it as defiance. They fail to see the deliverance.
They will see someone who has experienced freedom from addictions, freedom from sin, and they'll determine it to be rebellion because they don't instantly become like and don't instantly appreciate the same religious things these other people so appreciate. They're more focused on a violation of the Sabbath than a return to temple worship.
Here is a man who hasn't walked in the temple in four decades and they're upset that he's violating the Sabbath. Sound familiar?
It only comes from a heart that has lost its sense of grace…a heart that decides that it deserves God's love, that it deserves God's provision of a good church, and a good Sunday school teacher, that it deserved God's provision of a good country to live in, that it somehow deserves God's provision of a good family, and has lost that sense of grace.
There are people here this morning that might look at another family. There are certainly people in churches throughout the country who will do this, who might look at another family and not every member of that other family is in church with them today, although every member of their family is in church today, and they might look at them, and they might judge them, and they might wonder, "What did you do wrong as a parent? What did you do wrong as a husband? What did you do wrong as a wife and mother?"
When instead what they ought to do is they ought to come down and they ought to on their knees with their arms stretched say, "Oh God, glory, I can't believe that by Your grace You've saved everyone of my children."
We assume that we did it. We brought them to church. After all, we took them to VBS. After all, we prayed at every meal. And like it or not, we think we're the good parent, and we don't realize their salvation is equally and totally by the grace of God. Oh, what parent could not want to lift up praise to a holy God since every one they love is likewise saved?
It doesn't come but with any guarantee that's going to happen. It's only that God, in an undeserved fashion, chose to gracefully bless you.
And some will respond with judgment. Some will see God's deliverance and look at the thing they're not doing right. Some will be so steeped in their tradition, so steeped in their problems, so steeped in their personal views, so out of touch with the grace of God, that they'll question the salvation of another person.
They'll question the motivation of another person who claims the name of God; even though their Bible tells them that no man in his natural state would claim the things of God. And so for someone to stand up and to lay claim to a holy God is not seen as another miracle, but is seen with question. Well, we'll see. We'll see how much they wind up looking like me. We'll see how much they wind up talking like me. And we fail to lay hold of the grace of God, His healing grace.
Jesus asked this man, "Do you want to be made well?" And in verse 7, "The sick man answered Him, 'Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.'" I have a reason why I'm not healed. I need some help. I don't have anybody fast enough to drag me into the water. That's why. He really doesn't even answer the question that the Savior is asking him.
"Do you want to be made well?" Is this your desire is what the Greek language tells us in this question. In one sense we would say, "Duh, of course I want to be made well." But Jesus is penetrating his heart with a verb that he uses here, "Do you…are you willing to be made well," is what He is asking him.
The man says, "Well, this is the reason I haven't done it because there is nobody to take me." Let me tell you something, this man has a dozen people around him who can take him into the water. The problem is nobody can cure him but Jesus.
You might have a dozen Christian friends around you. You might have a dozen people; you might have a great family, but nobody can heal you but Jesus. Nobody…there is no excuse that you can make when it is Jesus who does the healing.
You can't say, "Well, I wasn't raised in a proper family. I didn't have all the opportunities," when I just got done telling you that anyone here who has received salvation has done so purely by the grace of God. And that same God offers it to you, if you want to be made well…if you want to be made well.
So Jesus tells the man, "Rise up, rise up." He says in verse 8, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." Jesus gives him a command, but obviously with the command, the power to carry it out.
Jesus offers you a command today to surrender to Him, to follow Him, to turn away from that sin that so besets your Christian life, to walk away from that habit that so swallows up all of your resources, that so consumes you, that you can't even express love to any other people besides God Himself.
And God, today, is asking you to rise up and walk. He is telling you today to take up that bed of sin, that bed of addiction, that bed of comfortable disobedience that you've made, all the while claiming, "Poor is me, poor is me." And God tells you today, "Rise up, take up that bed and walk."
Transcribed by Digital Sermon Transcription