"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." At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. Praise the Lord for that. That's an exciting story, isn't it. Of course there's more to this story. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat."
But he replied, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick it up and walk.'"
So they asked him, "Who is this fellow who told you to puck 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.
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." The man went away and told the Jew that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Basically, excitement filled Jerusalem. They were getting ready for a big feast. As they were getting ready for the celebration, everything was great except in one corner of town. There was a problem because there was this pool surrounded by sick people. People that should have been in a nursing home but they didn't have any nursing home, so that was it. They were all lying around or sitting there, sick. A place of unpleasantness, called the Pool of Bethesda. The pool was beautiful, but it was surrounded with gloom and death. And there beside this spring-fed pool on the northeast side of town was an open-air infirmary with a lot of people there with long- term disease, the blind, the lame, the dying.
You've heard of "Granny Dumping" haven't you, here in the United States? Every year about a hundred thousand elderly are left on the doorsteps of hospitals by there so-called "loved ones," who then speeds away in the car and the hospital cares for them and then sends them to some trashy rest- home where they while away their remaining years. That's going on.
The Pool of Bethesda was sort of like that. The location is between the temple and the sheep gate. The ancient Pool of Bethesda gets it water from the Bethesda Brook, which is spring-fed. And that's the water department of Jerusalem. That's their emergency supply. King Solomon had all that prepared and dug it up and made the lower sections of the brook where it enters Jerusalem in to pools. And Bethesda is the most famous of those pools. When my wife and I went there in 1985, we saw that and some of it had been crumbling and caving in. But the pool was divided into two rectangular pools, separated by one of those five porches. The other porches surrounded the pool. And Bethesda, I think, was undoubtedly used for washing sheep prior to the time they would take the sheep in to sacrifice them in the temple. That was one of the primary purposes. So, this immediately points us to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Can you see Jesus in all these verses?
The name Bethesda came from the Hebrew "Beth Chesed." "Beth," if any of you are named 'Beth" your name means "House." Chesed means "mercy." It was a "House of Mercy," being merciful to these people that didn't have any place to go. But when Jesus visited this strange asylum, there was nothing reminiscent of mercy. It was a place of suffering and discouragement. Everywhere Jesus looked, He saw the sick, the blind, the lame, the deformed, all waiting for a miracle to happen. Obviously the miracle was not happening. Disease and exposure made many look like shriveled up old apples. They thought an angel would come and occasionally stir the water in the pool, and the first one to jump in would be healed.
The ragtag bunch looked like helpless inmates at a concentration camp. All were waiting for a miracle that probably would never happen. No one seemed to care for them. It was like Auschwitz in World War II. During World War II the Allies never bombed the railroad tracks which led to Auschwitz. They knew thousands of Jews and Slovaks were being delivered to the death camp on those tracks but did nothing about it. But Jesus did something.
Jesus knows about your impossible situation, too. Jesus cares for you. You may feel that you are in an impossible situation, marriage, finances. Jesus know about that. And He's going to help you. He will come soon and save you. Jesus arrived one day to Bethesda and found a man who had been waiting there for thirty eight years. You know, if I had been focussing for thirty eight years and the miracle had not happened, I think I would have given up. Would you wait thirty eight years for something to happen, and it never did happen, wouldn't you give up? You would be desperate. That lame man did not give up, and I want to tell you not to give up on Jesus, because he's coming.
He wasn't even thirty eight years old when that man arrived there. Imagine that day. The lame man woke up just like on much like any other day. Did you wake up on Friday morning, by the way, and look out your window. Wow! What a sunrise! I ran back to the house and took a picture of it. It was wonderful! You never know what a day is going to bring. Something great could happen on that day. And today this man will met Jesus and that's the greatest thing that ever happened to him. And if you meet Jesus Christ, that's the best thing that could ever happen to you. He met Jesus. He will walk again. Today he will have his sins forgiven, he's going to be healed. And Jesus specializes in helping the helpless and hopeless. Yet he begins his day just as hopeless and helpless as ever. You never know what a day will bring. Your stock could shoot up or crash. The lab might call declaring that you have cancer. You never know what could happen. Or you might become a millionaire on that TV program.
In this picture of misery, we see a microcosm of the condition of the world today. Because the world today is just about like the Pool of Bethesda we're all hopeless without Jesus Christ. It is a world which is lost; spiritually sick; dying in sin; unable to help itself out of its problem. There are many significant things we can learn from the Pool of Bethesda.
1. WE CANNOT HELP OURSELVES
We are in the same condition as the lame man. Romans 5:6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. He died for what type of people? For bad people. He died for sinners, for ungodly people. He's not waiting until you get good enough to come to Him, to heal yourself and then come to Him and He'll kind of finish up the touches. He comes and dies for the ungodly. He comes to the sick to those who can't help themselves. You can't save yourself, any more than the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda could heal himself and walk. We are like this man, helpless to solve the problems, unable to lift ourselves out of the pit. But Jesus is able. He was unable, and you are unable without Jesus to break free from the habits that disable us. If you are smoking, can you stop cigarettes without Jesus? Can you break loose from the chains of habit that have you. You can't, not without Jesus. But with Him you can do it. So, we're unable to help ourselves. We're unable to heal our sickness. The world is sick. The Government cannot fix it; public programs can't do it. Only God can, but many in the world have not yet seen God, just as this man had not yet seen Jesus.
Why did Jesus choose to help this lame man that day? There were probably a couple hundred people there. Why would He choose the one individual? I think maybe this person was the most helpless, the most hopeless. Jesus likes to do the impossible. Are you the most helpless person here today? Is your situation desperate? Jesus specializes in the most helpless and hopeless. You can be helped. Your situation does have an answer. That answer is Jesus Christ. Jesus specializes in helping those who don't think they can be helped.
2. NEVER GIVE UP.
That handicapped man had not given up. He still stayed by the water. Let me ask you a question: if he would have stayed at home that day, would he have been healed? If you skip church will you get the blessing? It won't happen. The crippled man would not have been healed that day had he quit Bethesda and stayed at home. Don't quit church. Don't give up. Stay beside the water. Quitting is giving up. Jesus is the water of life. Do not leave the presence of Jesus. Stay in the presence of Jesus. You stay on the path where people are trying to go the direction you want to go. Don't get on that other path. They're going the wrong way. Without Jesus we are indeed hopeless. You need to stay near the water of life.
This man dreamed of the time he would walk again, but each morning when he woke up he still couldn't walk. But his dream did not die! We must Keep dreaming! The day you quit dreaming you begin to die. Keep hoping. The most profane word we use is 'hopeless.' When you say a situation is hopeless or a person is hopeless, you are slapping God in the face. Is there anything hopeless with God? Nothing is hopeless with God by your side. Nothing at all.
Things might be bad but they could be worse. A man by the name of Jones purchased his dream car on October 17, 1989, a fancy red Porsche. It's what he always wanted. He drove off the lot and headed straight to the third game of the World's Series at Candlestick Park in Oakland, California. During that historic game, an incredible earthquake hit the city of San Francisco. The game was called off. People came running out of the stadium for their lives. Not only was the game cancelled, but he went out there to his dismay, not only had an earthquake hit, but his car had been stolen, as well. A thief had taken his car. The car remained missing for several days as the police were preoccupied with the devastation of the earthquake. Finally they found his red Porsche. It was discovered underneath the collapsed Nimitz freeway. And the thief was still in it. He had died in the car he snatched. Mr. Jones had lost his car but he had not lost his life. Where there's life, there's hope, and it could have been him in that car. The insurance can replace the car. Things can always be worse. It could have been him who was crushed. So keep hoping. (Proclaim, Spring 1994, p. 8)
The incurable man kept waiting. He had been waiting a long time - thirty eight years! This almost mirrors the productive extent of a person's life: thirty eight years! This is precisely the length of time the Israelites wandered in the wilderness after Sinai until they got out of the wilderness (Deut. 2:14). In Jesus' day, it's precisely the length of time that humans had waited for the Messiah to come. It had been about thirty eight centuries since the promise of a coming deliverer in Genesis 3:15. Humans had waited many centuries for the Messiah. Now Jesus had arrived, but the world was like the Pool of Bethesda. Just a fraction were ready for Jesus. Only a fraction of those living in the world accepted Him as Messiah and were saved. That day at the Pool of Bethesda only one man was saved. John 5:3 says there was a great multitude of feeble frail folk.
In the same way, Jesus' coming is not very far off. We're all waiting for the Messiah to come. Y2K is coming and everybody is getting ready for that. That's a fixed date. Is everybody ready for Y2K right now? We don't even know what's going to happen, do we? The point is, they know when it's going to happen and not everybody is ready. If they knew when Jesus was coming, they wouldn't all be ready, not until the last minute. And you can't get ready at the last minute. So you need to be ready now. I wonder if the handicapped man kept his bed rolled up and ready to go every day. I wonder if this handicapped man had been praying for Jesus to come. I wonder if maybe Jesus came to him in answer to his prayers and his faith. I don't know.
3. JESUS CAME!!
Jesus came to him. And you don't always have to come to Jesus. Jesus comes to you. Suddenly, the Lord was present. The divine Physician stood beside the maimed man. The creator of the world! The man looked up to the face of Jesus. Jesus issued a challenge to the man. He asked, "Do you want to get well?" Jesus still asks the same question today. Jesus offers an abundant life, rather than a life of misery and bondage. John 10:10 (KJV) ..."I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." Ah! That's the kind of life Jesus want to give you.
Jesus addressed this man with love. Jesus came to help the hopeless man. It was Jesus' passion to save. Luke 4:18-19, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." It was in Jesus job description to save people.
Jesus was the only hope of this man. Grace is the sinners only hope. This man cannot walk. Apart from Christ he is dead. Grace is unmerited favor, unearned, undeserved. Jesus came to save the paralyzed man. He asked, "Do you want to be saved?"
4. NEVER MAKE EXCUSES
The man at Bethesda began to list excuses. John 5:7 "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." He had an arsenal of excuses. He started throwing out excuses, "Of course I want to be healed, but I can';t do this and I can't do that. It's just impossible. Poor me! No one cares, everybody hates me, I guess I will go eat worms!" Does anybody care? Jesus does!
The man also lamented, "Someone else is quicker than me; while I am trying to respond, they get there before me." He was blaming his failure on someone else. Friends, until you stop blaming others you can't get help. Do you blame your failure on somebody else? Until you stop blaming others you can't get help. Stop blaming others for your crippled life.
They say: I am not a faithful Christian because of what a hypocrite said to me one day in church. Or they say they haven't seen a good example of Christianity. Excuses. Excuses!
Friend, you can be made strong today! Today can be the day when you can get the victory in your life. You came here to this church today looking for healing. You can leave here a different person. Christ has issued an invitation to all who will, come and drink of the water of life freely - Revelation 22:17 You can't exhaust the supply; the water of life is there. It's free. Don't turn it away. Jesus said in John 6:37 "...whoever comes to me I will never drive away."
Are you yearning to be whole? If you are, Jesus is waiting to make you whole. John 4:14, "Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Who can get this? Whoever, just whoever. That means YOU. You can be saved, today. You can get the victory. You can change your life.
5. JESUS CHRIST IS THE ONLY REMEDY
How many of those people there at the Pool of Bethesda could save themselves? Nobody. What was their only hope? The physicians couldn't do it. Nobody else could do it. Only Jesus. The lame man had hope in no one else. Today the only remedy for the problems of the world is Jesus. Acts 4:12 "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." No other name, only Jesus.
6. WE MUST ACT ON JESUS WORDS
This man had been living a horizontal life. He hadn't been vertical in years. Jesus told him, "Get up. Stand up. Take up your bed and walk." He had to act on that. You have to act. You have to do something. You have to change your life to. To do that you have to leave behind you your old ways, the habits of your failure and you nave to take the first steps away from that life. And Jesus will empower you, but you have to act and have faith.
7. THE MAN WAS HEALED!
The hospital crowd was stunned. The man had arrived at the pool with his back on his bed, but he left, with his bed on his back. That's what Jesus could do for you. Vigorous vitality vanquished his vexation. It came in to him through the Life-giver. You can't meet Jesus and be the same. Power comes to lift you up when you accept Jesus Christ. When the man obeyed the word of God he was healed.
Scoffers there that day probably whispered to each other: "Obviously, Jesus doesn't know who He is telling to get up and walk. Why, that man has been here longer than any of us, and he has never been healed." But the scoffers did not share in the healing, did they.
8. When you begin the Christian life, CRITICISM WILL COME.
As soon as you are baptized, you're going to get criticized. As soon as you set out on a new life, people are going to criticize you. Persecution hounds the righteous.
John 5:9b The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat."
The Jews of Jesus day had thirty nine classifications of work. One of them stated that it was a sin to carry a burden on the Sabbath day. Then they had to define what a burden was. The Rabbis said that if a person carried a needle in his robe on the Sabbath he sinned. You can't do that. It's the Sabbath. There were theological quarrels as to whether a person could wear his artificial teeth on the Sabbath day. I doubt if the teeth were worth much anyway in those days. And about whether you could wear a wooden leg on the Sabbath. That's carrying a burden. And you can't walk with a crutch or a cane. What was the punishment of breaking these laws? It was death by stoning, so this was a serious matter. This man went ahead and carried his bed because Jesus told him to. You need to be brave. The pharisees were quick to criticize Jesus when they should have been rejoicing.
Is there a Pool of Bethesda in your town? Is there a place of suffering, discouragement and affliction in this community that we need to go to? And as the arms and hands of Christ that we need to be helping someplace? Jesus is calling you to show the light of Christ to that darkened place. You can be Jesus' hands. John 5:14 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." Where does Jesus meet the man? In Church! You know, it's a good thing for you, after Jesus has done something for you to be in church. Jesus expects His people to be in His house on His Sabbath Day.
Jesus beseeches the healed man to stay on the path of life. He says, "Sin no more!" By the way, be careful if your King James Bible was printed in 1716. That particular year the printer made a flagrant mistake. In John 5:14, the final copy read "SIN ON MORE" rather than "sin no more." That must have been a good year for Bible sales, because it seems like a lot of people are still heeding the advice of that old edition. Houston Post, Sept. 21, 1993, p. B-7
Finally in John 5:15 the man left telling everybody about Jesus. That's the mark of a Christian, isn't it. You want to share your faith. No matter how dark the sin of yesteryear, your future is bright with Jesus Christ. He came to this world. He died on the old rugged cross. We celebrate His life at this season: we celebrate His birth. I am thankful that Jesus came, but it won't do any good for Him to have been born in Bethlehem unless He's born in your heart. So, I urge you to let Jesus come into your impossible situation and heal you. And He wants to, and He will if you will allow Him.
Opening Hymn: #132, O Come All Ye Faithful Scripture: Responsive Reading 787. (John 5:1-16.) Closing Hymn: #118, The first Noel <991204Gettys#474
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last updated 12/5/99 by Bob Beckett.