Seeing the Glory of Christ and Walking Away — John 5:1-18

// February 1st, 2017 // Sermons

As we work our way through the Gospel of John, we are now in chapter 5. This marks a new section in the gospel. The first section was chapter one and covered the things that happened before Jesus’ public ministry. The next section started in chapter two (with the wedding at Cana) and ended at the end of chapter 4 back in Cana (with the healing of the official’s son. That section was focused on Jesus’ glory. Now, in chapter 5, we begin a new section that goes through the next couple chapters. Each chapter begins with a miracle and is followed by a conversation resulting from that miracle–a conversation by Jesus about who he is.

Tonight, we’re going to look at verse 1-18 in chapter 5. However, we’re only going to look at the interaction between Jesus and the Paralytic. I’m saving the in stuff with the Jews until next week for a couple reasons. First, because I don’t have time to cover all of that in this message. Second, because the interaction with “the Jews” sets everything up for next week’s message. So, I wanted to take time this week to dive deeper into Jesus’ healing of the paralytic man. Let’s look at the passage. It’s John 5:1-18.

  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, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ ” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5:1–18, ESV)

At the beginning of this story, we find Jesus back in Jerusalem. Remember our last message. Jesus left on a journey from Jerusalem to Galilee because the Pharisees were getting worried about Jesus popularity. So, Jesus heads north to Galilee where he will not receive honor. However, now he heads back to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish feasts. We don’t know what feast it is, and John doesn’t tell us, so we shouldn’t spend much time talking about it. We just know that Jesus returns to Jerusalem because of a feast.

Then, when Jesus gets into town, where does he go? It’s really an interesting question to think about.  Jesus arrives back at Jerusalem and heads to Bethesda–a place where there are multitudes of invalids–blind, lame, and paralyzed. That’s where he heads.

Just to help you get a better picture of this place in your mind’s eye, I have a picture up on the screen for you. Archeologists have uncovered this place and have been able to create a reconstruction of what it would have looked like. So, take some time to get this picture into your mind. These things lining the pools are called colonnades, or porticos.  You can also see where this is located in relation to the temple (which is also in the story). The sick people would lay in these covered hallways, next to the pool, waiting for the water to bubble. They believed that when the water bubbled, the first person in the water would be healed. In some instances, people would be repeatedly placed in the water, hoping to be healed.

So, this is where Jesus heads. As he walks through the place, he sees a paralyzed man, and knew he had been there for a long time. We don’t know how long the man had been at Bethesda, but we do know that he had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. Probably not from birth, otherwise it would have been mentioned. This would tell us that the man is probably an older man.

So, Jesus sees the man, and KNOWS that he’s been there for a long time. Then he asks him a question. “Do you want to be healed?” There are many people who want to read into this question much more than is there. They will try to say that Jesus wouldn’t heal the man unless he wanted to be healed. However, that’s not the point. The point is that Jesus is initiating the conversation with the paralyzed man. In many of the other healing stories, people are crying out to Jesus, asking to be healed, but here, in this instance, Jesus approaches the man and initiates the conversation.

So, Jesus asks the man, “Do you want to be healed?” How does the man reply? “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” That’s an interesting reply isn’t it? In reality, Jesus asks him a “yes” or “no” question. It would have been easy for the man to just say, “Yes, I want to be healed.” Instead, he goes into this story about how he can’t be healed because nobody is there to bring him into the pool. D.A. Carson says that this response is “the crotchety grumblings of an old and not very perceptive man who thinks he is answering a stupid question” (243). In the past, I always read this as being someone pleading for help, but once you understand the character of this man as the story goes on, this is a better picture. He thinks Jesus is asking a stupid question and responds accordingly. He basically says, “What do you think I’m doing here? Do you think I like laying around here, waiting for someone to carry me into the pool? Do you think I like laying here helplessly? Do you think I like relying on other people to carry me into the pool?” And, in all of that response, he never really answers the question. In some way he says, “Of course I’d like to be healed,” however, he can only see himself being healed one way. The only way he can imagine being healed is by the pool.

I want to hang on that thought for a little bit, because this should remind us of ourselves. We should not look at this man down our noses saying, “I can’t believe he was that foolish.” We are the same way–each and every one of us. We have a problem, we want it solved, but we can only see one way for that problem to be solved. We stay focused on one particular way for that problem to be solved. We can’t see outside our little box. We ask Jesus to help, but think he’s not helping because he’s not doing it the way we want him to help. Yet, Christ works in our lives in ways that are much greater than we can ever ask or imagine. He works in ways that are outside of our own experiences and expectations. He works in ways that are much more powerful and effective than we typically expect. By limiting Him, we miss out on bringing him glory.

Yet, here’s the interesting thing. Even though the man doesn’t understand Jesus. Even though the man has limited Jesus. Even though the man is crotchety toward Jesus. Jesus says, “‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk.’ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.” Many have noted the immediate reversal of situation here. At the beginning of the story the man was powerless and carried in on the mat. Now, the man has strength and is carrying the mat. The situation has completely changed. Also notice one important thing: the man still has not shown any faith and will not show any faith in this situation. Some have tried to connect the man’s faith to standing up, but John writes this story in a way to portray this man as not having faith. Yet, Jesus still heals the man.

Now, this all happens on the Sabbath and it begins to cause problems. One of the rules that had been implemented at that time was that nobody could carry something on the Sabbath. Since this man was carrying something on the Sabbath, the Jews come after him. It’s a condemnation on them that they say nothing of his healing. They say nothing of the miracle. They are completely focused on the violation of their law and they come after him for it. And this guy, responds just like Adam and Eve in the garden. It’s not my fault. It’s someone else’s fault. Don’t look at me. Look for the guy who told me to do it. When they ask who told him to do it, he doesn’t know. Isn’t that interesting? The guy had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years and someone heals him and he doesn’t take the time to figure out who he was or what his name was.

One reason that man didn’t know it told to us by John. He says, “for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.” So, Jesus took off right after he healed the guy. Why did Jesus do that? Because there was a crowd there–probably hundreds of people. I think this still follows the logic of why Jesus left Jerusalem and headed for Galilee. He wasn’t looking for crowds of people. He wasn’t looking for people to swarm all over him. So, he miraculously heals this man, then retreats before a large ruckus starts.

However, Jesus doesn’t stay away from the man. The passage says, “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” We don’t know how long “afterwards,” but eventually, Jesus found the man. He sought him out and found him in the temple. Thinking back to the initial question Jesus asked the man, Jesus says, “See, you are well!” I asked if you wanted to be healed and now you are well. Then Jesus says something that we need to dwell on a little bit. He says, “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” I find that command worthy of meditation. Jesus searches this man out and commands him to stop sinning so that nothing worse happens. Now, some would hear this and think, “Ok. The man must have been paralyzed because of sin, right? That’s why Jesus tells him to stop sinning unless he ends up with a worse condition.” However, John explicitly goes against this type of thinking. Yes, all sickness, disease, and bad things are the result of sin in the world. And, yes, some people are in bad situations and difficult conditions because of sin. However, John wants us to look past the physical ramifications of sin, to the eternal consequences. Jesus finds this man, who was physically healed in a miraculous way, and tells him to stop sinning–to repent–so that he can experience more than just physical healing, but also spiritual healing and forgiveness of sins. What does a man benefit by having a healed body but suffer the loss of his soul? Jesus knows this man has still not repented and believed. He still has exhibited no faith. So Jesus searches him out and calls him to repentance for the salvation of his soul.

How does the man respond? He heads off and tattles on Jesus to the Jews which caused the Jews to start persecuting Jesus. The man never responds in faith. He walks away healed in his body, but awaiting eternal punishment in hell.

There are similarities in this story and the last one, isn’t there? In the last story, the man comes to Jesus asking for the miracle without Jesus. Jesus rebukes him, heals the man’s son, and sends the man on his way. However, this man believes in Jesus and receives him, and receives what he truly needed. However, in this story, we see a man who received the healing but rejects Christ. Jesus comes to him and reminds him of his need to repent and turn to Him, but the man doesn’t respond–doesn’t show faith–and walks away. Ridderbos says, “It’s a portrayal of people who will not let themselves be moved to enter the kingdom of God by Jesus’ power and words, no matter how liberating the effect of those words. The story thus represents a particular response to the gospel, one with which, without any further explanation, the Evangelist confronts his readers” (190).

This is a reminder to us that we will encounter many people in the world who come very close to Christ, experience some of his power, experience some of his beauty, and experience some of his glory. Yet, they will walk away without believing. They will reject Christ for the world. They will simply take the physical blessing they receive from Christ, or the church, and reject the salvation of their soul. They will settle for a temporary good thing, and completely miss out on an eternal treasure. This is not easy for us to watch. It is extremely difficult to watch when you love someone who is doing something like this. However, it does and will happen. We must faithfully love them, faithfully speak truth into their life, and faithfully call them to repentance. Apart from that, we leave it between them and God.

This is also a warning to us. Every day we face the temptation to settle for fleeting pleasures. Every day we face the temptation to walk away from the eternal benefits of Christ for something as simple as physical healing (yes, I said simple–in light of eternal reward). Christ is not only addressing this message to “other people,” this message is also for you. It’s a call, from Jesus himself, saying, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” Throw your sin at Christ’s feet, ask for forgiveness, and turn from it. Repent. Find the blessing that results from being forgiven by God through Christ. Rest in that blessing. Then, trust in the power and leading of the Holy Spirit to assist you in sinning no more.

This is also a reminder of the powerful voice of Christ. We must not forget the important picture we have of Christ from this passage. This story isn’t just about us–it’s about Christ. He is the one who finds the paralyzed man. He is the one who initiates the conversation. He is the one who shows compassion on the paralyzed man. He is the one who speaks a word and heals a man. He is the one who seeks this man out and calls him to repentance. This is who we give our lives to. We give our lives to Christ, who seeks us out, initiates the work in our lives, has compassion on us, has incredible power to heal and to save, and who calls us to repentance. Let us leave here tonight, with that beautiful, powerful picture of Christ in our minds. Let us love him more deeply. Let us give our lives to him more fully. Let us seek him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

One Response to “Seeing the Glory of Christ and Walking Away — John 5:1-18”

  1. Marcia Ruis says:

    Beautifully said! It is such a ‘sweet challenge’ to let Him ‘carry the ball’!

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