Healing of Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda Scripture: John 5:2-9

June 21, 2017

Healing of Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda

Scripture: John 5:2-9

In central California of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, grows a kind of tree that is one of the wonders of God’s creation:  Tall and huge trees look like skyscrapers, “giant Sequoia and Redwood trees”.

And in most of the parks where those trees are protected, rangers can show you a cross section of one of those trees, and show you how the rings of the tree tell the story of that tree’s life, year by year.

Here’s a thin ring, a year when the tree hardly grew at all because of a drought;

Here’s a couple thick rings, reflecting healthy years, when the tree grew by leaps and bounds;

Here’s where the tree was struck by lightning; Here’s a year of savage blight and disease;

Here’s a fairly normal year of growth.

“And that’s the way it is with us,” says Dr. David Seamands, in his groundbreaking book, Healing for Damaged Emotions. “Just . . . beneath the protective bark, the concealing, protective mask, are the recorded rings of our lives.”

There are scars of ancient, painful hurts . . .

There are wounds that never properly healed . . .

There are more recent injuries,

something someone said,

something someone did,

something someone neglected to do.

Some go so deep that they shape who you are even today,

and some are so incredibly sore that it just takes a word or a look

to open the scab,

and create fresh hurt on top of hurt-- the hurts you don’t deserve.

You see, many of us here are intent on launching a distinctive and dynamic church here in Minneapolis, but there are things to be done… things that we will take care of before we proceed very far in that process.

And so, just as a dentist cleans out all the decay from a cavity before filling it, just as a housepainter scrapes off all the flaking paint from the house before applying a new coat,

so we want to begin by asking God’s help in cleaning out any detritus and deadwood that may be in our hearts and souls so that we can start this new venture with whole hearts, clear minds, and clean hands.

So let me ask you to turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of John, chapter 5

John 5, and we’re going to study verses 2-9 this morning and see what God’s Word, the Bible, can teach us about healing the hurts we don’t deserve.

Look with me at John chapter 5, from the New International version:

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 paralysed.

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.

We’ll stop right there; the story continues, because the healing of that man created a stir among the more religious people of that day. Rather, there are three things I’ll ask you to notice about what took place at that Pool of Bethesda that day, and the first is:

I.    What Jesus Saw

In verse 2, John tells us about the pool of Bethesda, a pool whose existence was questioned for years by many Bible scholars. . . until, that is, a construction project near the Church of St. Anne in 1888 uncovered traces of a pool with five colonnades exactly where John said it was.

 

 

 

It was there at the Pool of Bethesda that Jesus encountered a man, as verse 5 says, who had been an invalid for 38 years--which means this man had needed healing since before Jesus was born!

But it’s the first part of verse 6, I want to draw your attention to. Look at that verse, where it tells us what Jesus saw:

Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time. . .

Now keep in mind, John has just told us, in verse 3:

Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.

This hurting man was surrounded by “a great number” of sick people . . . and yet Jesus saw him lying there. . .

And I want to take just a minute here to encourage you with the Word of God this morning…

I fully believe what was true that day beside the Pool of Bethesda is true today here as well.

I want to say to anyone here today who is hurting, first:

1. You’re not alone. It’s not just you.

There is “a great number” of hurting people all around you right now. If you were to take a good look around this room, you would see “a great number of hurting people, suffering people who don’t have it all together,

people with scars, people with wounds so deep and some so incredibly sore that it just takes a word or a look to open the scab, and create fresh hurt on top of hurt,

But remember, I asked you to notice what Jesus saw. What was it?

Jesus saw him lying there. . .

The second thing I would point out to you is:

2. Jesus sees.  He is not forgetting your pain, to your hurt, to your need.

Just as he saw that man and learned--

whether through human or divine means, we don’t know--but

he learned that he’d been there a long time, and he knows just how long,

how much, how deeply you’ve been hurting, too.

You see, a lot of us Christians fail to do what Jesus did by the Pool of Bethesda;

We fail to acknowledge the reality of people’s hurts.

We avoid the subject because it makes us uncomfortable--for any number of reasons.

Or we communicate to people, “You’re not supposed to hurt. If you were a real Christian, if you were truly spiritual, you wouldn’t feel this way.”

Or we offer surface answers/advice to deep hurts, saying, “Just pray. Have more faith. Let go and let God. Ganbare! Ganbare! (Try harder & go for it)”

YUCK!  Bad advice!

Do we think people are stupid? They know exactly what to do, but often cannot do it physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

Jesus didn’t say that… Jesus saw him lying there. . .

That’s an important line. Jesus saw the man’s hurt and knew that it was real, and it had been real for a long time. And then what did Jesus do?

II.  What Jesus Asked

Let’s read verse 6 in its entirety now:

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?"

Now that is not a stupid question.

A lot of people don’t really want to be healed; they don’t really want to be made whole.

Does that sound crazy? It’s not, because saying “yes” to Jesus’ question "Do you want to get well?" means two things. It means, first of all:

1. Admitting your hurt.

Some of us, if Jesus were to walk up to us right now and ask, "Do you want to get well?"

What would you say to him?

“What do you mean, Lord?  I’m fine, really. Don’t worry about me; go help that guy, Donald, he’s the one with problems.”

But "Do you want to get well?"

If you do, it’s gonna mean admitting your hurt. . . to yourself, to God,

maybe even to a few trusted friends.

But that’s not all. Saying “yes” to Jesus’ question also means:

2. Choosing healing over hurt.

When Jesus asked, "Do you want to get well?" it was not a rhetorical question, nor was he being flippant.

William Barclay observes that Invalidism is not [always] unpleasant. Someone else does all the working and worrying.

And another Bible scholar points out that… An Eastern beggar often loses a good living by being cured.

So, you see, some of those people by the Pool of Bethesda may not have chosen healing over hurt, if healing meant losing their income, losing pities from others, or no longer being able to lean on others.

And likewise, some of us actually choose to hold onto our hurts,

because we would rather complain,

we’re not done seething in anger at those who hurt us,

because we know it’ll take WORK to get better, and besides,

we rather like the sympathy we get, or the attention,

or the feeling of playing the martyr.

But Jesus asks, "Do you want to get well?"

If you do, then it means admitting your hurt and choosing healing over hurt.

But there’s just one more gem I would point out to you from this short passage in the rich mine of God’s Word, the Bible, and that is, notice:

III.   What Jesus Said

Look with me at verse 7. After Jesus asked this man by the pool, "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."

*Remark:  In modern versions of the Bible, there is no verse 4, because that verse doesn’t appear in the earliest manuscripts available to us. It was probably a later addition that was trying to explain that the water in the pool would occasionally be stirred, like a hot spring, and that it was believed that the first person into the pool would receive the maximum benefit of the water’s healing powers.

So that’s what the man meant when said,

"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."

Do you see what he’s saying about the depth of his hurt? He’s saying, “I’m not only crippled, but:

#1, “I’m friendless: I have no one to help me.”

#2, “I’m flailing: While I am trying to get in. . . ” I’m straining and struggling and flailing, and it’s not doing any good.

#3, “I’m frustrated: someone else goes down ahead of me…for many many years. It’s not fair”

Does any of that ring a bell with you?

Doesn’t that sound like so many of us, in our hurts . . . friendless, flailing, frustrated?

But it’s what happens next that I most want to direct your attention to. Look at verses 8 and 9:

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.

Now, please notice that Jesus apparently didn’t TOUCH the man, or even point to him . . .

He said, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."

Jesus had the power to heal him, and he did.

But notice something else that I believe is operating here:

Jesus told a man who couldn’t even drag himself into the pool

TO GET UP!

And the man did! Wow! Impossible became possible by Jesus.

And I believe also that there are many hurting people here who need to believe Jesus can heal you.

The Bible says,

He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3).

And

This is what the high and lofty One says--he who lives for ever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).

God is able and willing to heal your hurts, and I believe he is saying to you this morning, “I am with you. I want to revive your spirit and restore your heart.”

But don’t miss the fact that Jesus said to the man by the Pool of Bethesda,

"Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."

In other words, “It’s time for you to leave your hurt behind. Pick up your mat and walk.”

I think God is also saying to many in this room, “It’s time to leave your hurt behind. Pick up your mat and walk. Choose healing over hurt. Take the first step.”

Will you do that this morning?

Will you believe in God’s goodness and grace?

Will you believe that he wants to revive your spirit and restore your heart?

Will you admit your hurt?  Will you make the healing choice?

Will you pick up your mat and walk?

Will you pray with me silently as I pray aloud:

“Lord Jesus,  I believe you. I believe in your goodness and grace.

I believe that you want to help me heal.

And I’m willing today to admit that I’m hurting.

I’m willing-- Help me to be more and more willing as this week goes on

-- to choose healing over hurt, to make the healing choice,

and take a step at a time toward healing and wholeness.

Help me, Lord, heal me,  in the healing name of Jesus I pray, Amen.”

I invite you to continue calling out to God in the final moments of our time together . . .And as we sing a final chorus, please continue to submit your hurts to God as we sing, and let him begin --or continue-- the healing process in your heart and life.

 

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