Date: Jan 24, 1999 Where: SHMC Words:
Sermon Title: Stirring of the Healing Waters
Text: John 5:1-9a
W. L: H. Sawatzky Invocation/Einleitung:
· People are often immobilized/paralyzed by life experiences.
· E.g. Recent congregational survey – “How many friends do you have ?
· Response from an elderly person: “Really no one!”
· Towards the end of life – stuck away in a seniors home – away from friends & loved ones.
· Loneliness, despair, fear of the unknown future.
· A young child traumatized by school mates or teachers at school.
· E.g. too big for his age; not the right perfect Barbie shape; difficulties keeping attention;
· Paralyzed by the labels people put on them: stupid slow learner; and all sorts of other things I can’t repeat from the pulpit.
· Take a teenager coming up for graduation, or a young adult - paralyzed by choices:
· Education & career; dating, sexuality & marriage; faith & friends; thousands more…
· Middle aged spouse & parent in a mid-life crisis – paralyzed by a feeling of unfulfillment about his career and family life.
· Times in everyone’s life – when we are temporarily paralyzed and unable to move forward in our life.
· A person embittered & stuck because of an ugly event that took place many years ago.
· Maybe a church fight, or a disagreement over some insignificant thing.
· If these examples describe your life situation then you have come to right place today.
· Today Jesus is walking down this stretch – and maybe – just maybe he will take notice of your state in life.
· A few years ago I had a real teacher who helped me to identify some deeply rooted issues in my life that go all the way back to my early years, and I always blamed a number of other people for my misery.
· My teacher was very gentle and patient with me – until I finally drove him to the edge & he said something that sounds very much like something that Jesus would say:
· “You really seem to enjoy your misery! The way I see it, you have a decision to make: do you want to keep blaming everyone else for your misery all the time? Or are you going to get off it and move on?”
· We sometimes have all the right intentions:
· We want to have more friends; we want to be treated with dignity and respect – already in our early years on the school ground; we want so badly to make the right educational & career choices;
· But so often we trip ourselves up by placing the responsibility for our success and well-being in the hands of those around us.
· The issue is that we waste so much energy waiting for someone else to make us happy.
· We wait for the angel of the Lord to stir the healing waters for us.
· Patiently! Day after day, year after year we wait. Maybe the next time someone will help me into the pool, and I will be healed.
· Maybe tomorrow someone will remember me and come for a visit and cheer me up.
· Maybe this weekend my prince charming or the girl of my dreams will come and bring me roses & sunshine for the rest of my life.
· Maybe, if I act a little more like a bully the other kids will stop calling me four-eyes or bean-stalk, or whatever.
· Maybe – just maybe – someone else will smile on me…
Let us look at the text one more time.
The Healing at the Pool
5 Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2 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. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. (waiting for the stirring of the water; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was made well from whatever disease that person had.) 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 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?”
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.”
8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
· This remarkable story of healing is found only in the Gospel of John.
· The Pool of Bethesda was a pond or a reservoir for holding water.
· Bethesda: “House of mercy”
· In ancient times the spa was believed to have special healing powers
· Even today many people go to the spa or the pool to relax, exercise and refresh their energies.
· Located close to the Sheep’s gate on the North side of Jerusalem – close to the temple.
· Sheep designated for the sacrifices were brought in to the temple through this gate.
· Some scholars have speculated that the healing properties of this pool came from the blood of the sacrificial animals.
· The pool stirred only at a particular time, and the healing extended only to the first person to get into the pool when it was stirred.
· Jesus is going up to Jerusalem, perhaps to one of the three annual feasts.
· Its on a Sabbath day, and he comes by this pool.
· Jesus sees the great multitude of those who are sick: blind, lame, paralyzed
· Social outcast: enemies of society
· Ritually impure: no one would touch them for fear of becoming impure
· Of all these patients Jesus takes note of the helpless man on his mat
· He has obviously given up on his chances for healing – no one is willing to help him.
· After 38 years of paralysis and alienation from society – who could blame him.
· … and Jesus helps him into the water… right?
· Not quite! He does some investigating.
· He “learns” that this man has been in this condition for a long time.
· And he asks him a strange question:
· “Do you want to get well?”
· “Do you want companionship & friendship?”
· “Do you want the other kids in school to respect you for who you are?”
· “Do you want to get a good education & career?”
· “Do you want to find the right partner for your life?”
· “Do you want enter your golden years fulfilled and with no regrets?”
· “Do you want forgiveness & reconciliation?”
· “Do you want to step confidently into a bright future?”
· Whatever is paralyzing you: “Do you want to get well?”
· This is where we usually start to think of all our good reasons – or shall we say excuses – why we can’t get well.
· “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred.”
· “While I’m trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
· “Nobody cares about me anyway – I’ll never have friends.”
· “I can’t help it if all the other kids are mean to me.”
· “It’s not my fault that my parents can’t pay for my expensive University education – and I can’t get a decent job.”
· “I’m trying to make a difference in our church – but the Ministers and the leadership are never going to change.”
· “You can’t change the mentality and attitude of our members anyway.”
· And, as our well rehearsed excuses graduate into very believable reasons – we loose all faith and hope that we will ever get well.
· Like the man on his mat we resign ourselves to the belief that we are dependent on someone else’s “mercy” for our happiness.
· If they don’t want me to find wellness and joy, I guess I can’t do anything about it.
· And so we vegetate away in a sad and miserable existence.
· Until we finally hear the word of Jesus that commands us to “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!”
· Never mind the opinions and expectations of others – YOU get up and walk.
· The merciful voice from beyond our human existence asks, “Do you want to get well?”
· You see, this question demands our response.
· Sometimes its so much easier to remain in the rut.
· Its so much easier to look for excuses than to get off our tush and do something.
· We can remain lazy and ineffective – paralyzed.
· As long as we can blame someone else for making us miserable we don’t have to take responsibility for making any changes in our lives.
· It’s the other people, the mean kids, my parents who never understood me, the Prof. who failed me in the exam, the boyfriend who didn’t share my dreams, … and you can add your favorites here too.
· Jesus response to the paralytic is remarkable.
· He could have sat down beside him and said: “OK, here’s my plan: next time the water stirs you be ready, and I’ll sit right here by you and roll you into the water.”
· But he didn’t…
· Jesus asked, “Do you want to get well?”
· Then “Get up! Take your mat and walk.”
· This is indeed a strange command to be given to person who has been an invalid for a better portion of his life.
· But this word is the healing word of the living God!
· It is a word that demands faith – and the story doesn’t give us any indication that the man had any hesitation whatsoever.
· He believed.
· He got up and walked – perhaps for the first time in his life.
· At once the man was cured.
· My friend, I invite you to hear the healing word of Christ today.
· If you find yourself in an impossible situation, waiting for someone else who help you to get well at the right moment when the waters are stirred – I invite you to let the word of the risen Christ penetrate your soul and stir in your heart.
· Listen to his command: “Get up! Pick up your mat – that is the excuses that have kept you on the ground for so long – and walk.”
· Don’t let another moment go by before you respond.
· “Do you want to get well?”
· “Then believe, forget your excuses and walk in the power of the Living God!”