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Jun 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 15, 2014 – John 5:1-16

The Question Within the Question

Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered [waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.] A an was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. John 5:2-5

In 1952, French author Francois Mauriac was awarded the Nobel prize for literature. According to the Nobel Foundation, he was chosen, “for the deep spiritual insight and the artistic intensity with which he has in his novels penetrated the drama of human life.”
Mauriac once wrote about what he wanted to hear from priests and preachers. He said, “Oh how avidly I would listen to them, if they spoke to me of the Son of man, not as theologians, not as sociologists, but as those who see, who touch the resurrected Christ!”

– that is exactly how John talks to us about Jesus–as one who had seen and touched the Lord Jesus

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life . . . we proclaim to you also . . . (1 Jn. 1:1-3)

• he wanted us to meet and experience Jesus
○ and when we do, we discover that, in Jesus, God comes close to us

We can ignore the part about the angel
– it is not found in the oldest or the most reliable manuscripts
• it’s an example of someone trying to help the Bible make sense
○ it drives me crazy when people do this — it’s like Uzzah taking hold of the ark to steady it
• not everything in the Bible is intended to satisfy our intellect or make us feel good
• regardless of how we feel about it, we need to be with what it says until it performs God’s work in us

Regarding Bethesda, we know people flock to sites of miracle (e.g., Lourdes in France)
– I imagine the “regulars,” the men and women who showed up every day
• a community forged by a common bond of brokenness and suffering
• uncomfortable with how they were treated by “norma”l people they huddled around the pool
○ no one gave them strange looks – everyone was accepted
○ it was a social life of sorts that made their disabilities tolerable
– John zeroes in on one particular person
• this will be the man who meets Jesus

Vv. 6-9, “When Jesus saw him . . .”

This is all we need to hear – we know something big is about to happen
– Jesus won’t leave him as he found him
• in most healing stories, people came to Jesus
○ in fact, in the previous story a “royal official” from Capernaum came out to Cana to request healing for his son
• in this instance, however, Jesus came to the person in need
– given the environment and people who assembled there, Jesus asked a strange question
“Do you wish to get well?”
there must be a reason for this question
• Jesus did not just heal him or assume he wished to get well
○ the man may have wanted something else — a deeper healing with his family or with God
Jesus was capable of giving him something else
○ so he initiated a dialogue with him

Healing this person was not the challenge for Jesus
– getting him to open up about other needs he may have had was the challenge
• if I have a disability, it’s easy to think that’s my only problem
○ if that were resolved, life would be wonderful
• so I look for the angel to come and work magic
○ and because it doesn’t happen, I settle in to my lesser life
– we admire and celebrate people with disabilities who live as if they had no disability
• who attempt greater achievements than we do — entering marathons or climbing mountains
– but a question remains, Who are we once we get beyond the disability?
• no, the challenge was not the healing, but getting him to open up
• Jesus didn’t ask about the superficial, the obvious
○ his question went deeper – into the man’s soul

Every time I read it surprises me that this disabled man did not simply say, Yes!
– perhaps he was suspicious – and I don’t blame him
• maybe Jesus was another con hawking his snake oil
○ this is something else that drives me crazy–legal ads on television for settlements regarding medical procedures
○ someone wanting to profit from another person’s misfortune
– anyway, perhaps the disabled man misunderstood the question
• maybe what he heard Jesus say was, “You’ve been here a long time. Don’t you want to get well?”
• that would make more sense of his answer
○ if he could have done it himself, he might have been healed by now
○ but he’s dependent on others, but has “no man”

This, to me, is a key line in the story! “I have no man to put me into the pool”
– can we pause here and take a breath?
• I can’t do this on my own. Others can do it on own or they have someone to help them
○ I have no one to help me
• so it hasn’t happened and never will happen
but he does have Someone, now
• the man standing in front of him – and Jesus being there is a game-changer
• now he has to take the Lord’s question seriously

While he’s trying to get his explanation out for the umpteenth time, Jesus heals him
– “Get up. You cannot lie here any more. Move on”

Vv. 10-13, It turns out, Jesus broke the law

First, he healed on the Sabbath
Second, he told the man to carry his mat on the Sabbath

There are two parts to the man’s answer to the Jews
1. “He who made me well”
2. “was the one who said to me . . .”
• they deleted the first part and focused on the second
○ weren’t they even curious? “What do you mean ‘made you well?’”
• and what was the more remarkable action, what Jesus said or what he did?
– in the stories of Jesus we find lots of examples of “ugly religion”
• religion goes wrong when loses the priority of love
○ when it overrides empathy with technicalities

Now we come to another key line in the story, “he did not know who it was”
• he had been touched by Jesus, received compassion and a gift from Jesus, but he didn’t know Jesus
• that’s exactly why we are here today looking at his story

Vv. 14-16, Jesus wanted to be known by him

The Lord tracked him down to finish their conversation
– “Behold” – look at yourself and this new situation, but still I’m not done with you
• he had been helpless, with no one to help him
• now Jesus put his life and future into his own hands
○ “What are you going to do with it?”
– he can now do things for himself
• and he is now responsible for the outcome
• perhaps that’s exactly why he hesitated when Jesus asked, “Do you wish to get well?”
○ the hidden question, “Are you ready to change? Are you ready to take charge of your life?”

Conc: Just being there, Jesus changes the question

Now it was not “Do you wish to get well?” because with Jesus “all things are possible”
– but rather, it is do you choose to get well?
• after the Stanley Cup finals this last week, I wish to be a star hockey player
○ but I choose not to do the long and grueling workouts for twenty years, take the bumps, or lose teeth
• I wish to know Jesus, but I choose to watch TV
○ (that may sound more guilt-eliciting than I intended)

It always comes down to this, Jesus and the individual human person
– do I choose or even desire the life he would cut out for me?

Those of you who think Jesus has never come to you–he has!
– perhaps it was in the very best moment of your life, or in something intensely beautiful or awe-inspiring
– or it could have been in the hardest moment of your life
• but he has come to you, even if you do not know who it was that touched you
• and he comes to you today in his own quiet way

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