Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 12/1/02
"Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them" (Luke 7:22, RSV).
In John, Chapter five, we read that Jesus went from Galilee "up to Jerusalem" to attend a feast of the Jews (Vs. 1). In America, we generally say we're going "up" to a place if it is north of where we are; likewise, we say we're going "down" if it is south of where we are. Our guide for the tour of Israel we took in March of 2,000, said that no matter where Israelis begin the journey, they always say they are going "up" to Jerusalem, perhaps because it is a sacred place, a holy city, or perhaps because it sits 2,500 feet above the Judean wilderness. So, Jesus, who was in Galilee at the time, went up to Jerusalem to attend the feast, though He had to travel south to get there.
The Apostle John sets the stage for His comments by observing that there was, "in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie, the blind, the lame, the paralyzed" (Vs. 2,3). The scene he describes takes place on a deck or porch by the Pool of Bethesda, covered to provide shade from the sun, perhaps, with many infirm people lying around, each hoping against hope to be the one healed when the angel stirred the waters. In the NIV and RSV versions, verse 4 is left out, but it is vital to the understanding of our story. So, here it is in the Philip's version: "(They used to wait there for the "moving of the water," for at certain times an angel used to come down into the pool and disturb the water, and then the first person who stepped into the water after the disturbance would be healed of whatever he was suffering from.)" (John 5:4, Phil.). An NIV study note observes that, "verse 4 was doubtless inserted by a later copyist to explain why people waited by the pool in large numbers."
One of these cripples lying there was a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. John does not tell us the exact nature of the man's illness, but it was a form of paralysis because he was lame. Jesus passed by, and asked him one of those penetrating questions that He became known for: "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?" (Vs. 6). People today might think, "Well, duh? What do you think? Of course, he wants to get well." In those days, of course, there were no welfare benefits, no Medicare or Medicaid, no hospitals, no HMO's, and no ERs. A cripple certainly could not earn a living, and his only source of income would have been to beg. Thus the possibility existed that if he were cured, his income would vanish along with his disability. Thus the question is relevant, and even today, I think it is important to know if a sick person wants to get well. That may sound ridiculous, but it is easy to see that some illnesses buy the patient something, even if it is only sympathy, or getting out of something they don't want to do, like going to church, or to a family reunion, or doing a job they hate, to name three.
"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." Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk" (John 5:7-8, NIV). Those words never cease to thrill me, and each Sunday when I stand before you here, looking at a sea of walkers and wheelchairs, I long for the Lord to stroll by and say to each one of you, "Get up! Leave your wheelchair behind and walk!" We pray these words out of our longing to see you healed, but nothing much has happened so far, except you know we love you and are taking your petition before the Throne of Grace. When Jesus said it, however, the SAME power which framed the worlds and flung the stars into the inky black night of space surged through this man's frail body. Strength coursed through his weak and useless limbs. Muscles flexed which had been atrophied for thirty-eight years, tendons strained and Lo, the man stood up and was instantly healed. It brings tears to my eyes and a hunger in my heart to contemplate this mastery God has over the human body, the soul, and the spirit of man, so that this crippled man was now better than he had ever been! What must the others waiting by the pool have thought watching this miracle? How would they have felt that the Lord of life healed this man, but they remained the same as they were? The interesting thing about Jesus, which He explains later in this chapter, is that He didn't wave His hands and heal every last one of them lying by this pool. He could have, but He did not. Why? Stay with me, because it becomes clear shortly. Immediately after Jesus told him to pick up his mat and walk, we read, "At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked" (Vs. 9). As often happened, when Jesus did a miracle, the members of "the religious right" (Pharisees), were not far behind, and because it was a Sabbath day, they pounced on the newly healed man, saying, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat" (Vs. 10). This guy, who could now walk like other people, wasn't about to take the fall. He quickly passed the buck, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.'" So they asked him, "Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?" The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there" (John 5:11-13, NIV).
I want to emphasize in bold type here that this man had no idea who Jesus was. He had no faith at all because He had never heard of Him! Surely, this is a telling rebuttal to the Word of Faith teachers who are still preaching every Sunday morning that our healing depends on OUR faith, OUR confession, OUR response. If we don't get healed, they say, it is because we don't believe. God breaks out of every box men try to put Him into, and in the miracles of Jesus, you see enough variations to show that healing had to do with the will of God, rather than the will of man! God, not man decides who is healed! "Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you" (John 5:14, NIV). If this statement sounds harsh, remember that according to the Law of Moses, disease was a consequence of sin. "If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon you which I put upon the Egyptians; for I am the LORD, your healer" (Ex. 15:26, RSV). This incident occurred before the cross, which means that the Law was still in force. It would be difficult to find a worse thing to come upon the man than the paralysis he had suffered for thirty-eight years, but perhaps Jesus was merely reminding him of the power of God in his life.
"The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him" (John 5:15-16). It amazes me that this man who had just had his life handed back to Him by Jesus, went to the Pharisees and ratted Him out. Was this because he was afraid of them and hoped to curry favor, or because he was angry that he had no source of income now that he was made whole? Whatever the reason, it is obvious that this man was no paragon of virtue, to put it mildly, no giant of faith, and obviously, he was about a quart low on gratitude! He reminds me of nine of the ten lepers whom Jesus healed. All ten had come to Him crying out loudly for Him to have mercy upon them. Jesus heard their pleas and told them to go show themselves to the priest (required under the Law. See Lev. 14:1-32), and as they went, they were healed. The scripture relates, "Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" (Luke 17:15-18, RSV). Here's another example of faith found outside the house of Israel. The nine Jews went on their way, but the Samaritan turned back praising God.
The lame man did not ask to be healed, nor praise God when He was, nor offer any thanks to Jesus at all, and still, God healed Him. This clearly demonstrates God's sovereign election of grace. God had said to Moses, "...I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy" (Ex. 33:19, RSV). Paul picks this up in Romans 9:18 and says, "So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills." Here is another cogent reminder that religion, typified by the Law, was about what man had to do to obtain God's favor and mercy. Life in the Spirit is about God's will and supremacy in ALL things (Eph. 1:11). Paul makes the Father's total sovereignty abundantly clear with his metaphor of the potter and the clay: "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?" (Rom. 9:20-21, RSV). Clearly, God decides who gets healed and when. If He decides to heal an ungrateful man, it shall be done.
Jesus was the bridge between Law and grace, but of course, the Pharisees were firmly entrenched in their own version of the Law. They weren't really following the dictates of Moses, but had twisted them around and watered them down for their own convenience. They were extremely eager to get rid of Jesus, because He threatened them to their bootstraps. John tells us that they persecuted Him for healing the lame man on the Sabbath. "Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God" (John 5:17-18, NIV). Most Christians think of God as their Father on some level, but this was an extraordinary idea, and extremely offensive to first century Jews, who thought it blasphemous that Jesus was making Himself equal with God, which in fact, He was (Phil. 2:6-7).
Jesus used this opportunity to speak truth to them, giving them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to LIFE" (John 5:19-24, NIV). I would encourage you to read the whole passage to the end of the chapter, but from what we've just seen, Jesus more or less signed His own death warrant with this proclamation to the Pharisees, as He tells them that they have never seen the Father nor heard His voice (Vs. 37), and then He concludes, "nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent" (Vs. 38).
How many times have you heard a preacher or teacher insist that you have to memorize scripture so "the word" will be in you? This flies in the face of Jesus' statement that they did not have God's word because they did not believe in the One He sent. There were no bibles in those days, only words written on a scroll. It would be more than 1500 years before there was a printed bible, and longer still before the majority of people could read. Are we to believe that no one had the word dwelling in them for 15+ centuries? This is the logical conclusion of what the church teaches, but it simply is not true. In fact, Jesus says just the opposite, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to ME to have life" (John 5:39-40). Sadly, this describes a good many Christians, who read the bible daily, seeking life, when only Christ through the indwelling Spirit can impart life. The letter kills, Paul says, but the Spirit makes alive (II Cor. 3:6).
Jesus ends His discourse by saying that He will not accuse them before the Father, because Moses will accuse them. He asserts, "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?" (John 5:46-47). The Jews used Moses to "book, chapter and verse" every item in their lives, but they did not recognize that Jesus was the prophet whom Moses said would replace Him. Moses had said, "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren, him you shall heed" (Deut. 18:15), and God confirmed it to him. (See Deut. 18:18). The Jews studied the scrolls and learned the words of Moses, but when Jesus walked among them, they couldn't fit Him into their doctrines. Sometimes I think that if Jesus came into some of our church services, He would be asked to leave because He does not conform to the organization's worship agenda. Some do not want any manifestations of the Spirit in their services either, using the excuse that God wants things done decently and in order (I Cor. 14:40). Do they think that God would be too rowdy to be decent? Or is it a matter of who is in control of the service? The results of their worship services tell the tale.
Do you love the Lord with all your heart and all your soul and all your might, as was commanded by Law? (Deut. 6:5). I suggest to you that if you have never met Jesus personally, you cannot truly love Him. When you do meet Him, He flows out of your belly like living water so that all who encounter you, encounter Him. Lord, open our eyes to see the living Christ in our midst this day, the healer, the restorer, the Savior, the Counselor, the everlasting Father. We lay down our hearts and minds before you, Father. Fill us up with Yourself, until we overflow with Your love, Your mercy, Your kindness, and when the time has fully come, with Your power. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 11/30/02
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/29/08.