A guy suffering from a miserable cold begged his doctor for relief. The doctor prescribed some pills. But after a week, the guy was still sick. So the doctor gave him a shot. But that didn’t help his condition either. The doctor said, “Okay, this is what I want you to do- go home and take a hot bath. Then, before you get dressed, throw open all the windows and stand in the draft.” The patient protested, “I’ll get pneumonia!” The doctor calmly replied, “I know. THAT I can cure!”
Today is the 3rd Sunday of Lent- the season leading up to Easter- as we continue our current sermon series- Full Promises. This series is leading us right up to the empty tomb and risen Savior of Easter Sunday. Along the way, we are picking out JUST a few of the high points in the life of Jesus Christ to see what impact these stories, and the promises they offer, have on our lives. Notice that the title of the series- Full Promises. The world tends to offer “empty promises”. But Jesus offers us FULL promises…all built on one enormous empty promise- the empty tomb of Easter. Through these promises, Jesus offers to empty us of the things that hold us back, that hold us down. The 1st week’s full promise was that your loneliness will be gone. Last week’s full promise was that your wandering will be gone. Today’s promise is that your paralysis will be gone.
1Corinthians 15:50-52 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
In 1985, a band called Katrina and the Waves released the American radio version a song called Walking on Sunshine. It made it all the way to #9 on the American charts that year. The lyrics include these words: “I used to think MAYBE you loved me- now I’m sure. And I just can’t wait till the day when you knock on my door. I feel alive! I feel the love! I feel the love that’s really real! I’m on sunshine!”
The key to the last Bible passage is the last word- changed. The key to those song lyrics is walking on sunshine. And together, those act as a perfect set-up for today’s main Scripture.
John 5:1-9 Later Jesus went to Jerusalem for a special feast. In Jerusalem there is a pool with five covered porches called Bethesda. This pool is near the Sheep Gate. Many sick people were lying on the porches beside the pool. Some were blind, some were crippled, and some were paralyzed, and they waited for the water to move. Sometimes an angel of the Lord came down to the pool and stirred up the water. After the angel did this, the first person to go into the pool was healed from any sickness he had. A man was lying there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw the man and knew that he had been sick for such a long time, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered, “Sir, there is no one to help me get into the pool when the water starts moving. While I am coming to the water, someone else always gets in before me.” Then Jesus said, “Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 And immediately the man was well; he picked up his mat and began to walk.
A kindergarten teacher was observing her class of children while they were drawing. She would occasionally walk around to see each child’s artwork. As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was. The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.” The teacher paused and said, “But no one knows what God looks like.” Without missing a beat or looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, “They will when I get done!”
Every day there were many who were sick or disabled who gathered at the pool of Bethesda. That begs the question- why there specifically? The story was that an angel came periodically and stirred the waters of the pool. The lucky soul who could out-maneuver everyone else and get in the water first would be healed.
This particular man had been disabled for 38 years…probably his whole life. He couldn’t walk TO the pool and he couldn’t get IN the pool when the water stirred. This was his live, day in and day out- someone would carry him to the pool of Bethesda first thing in the morning, he would lay there ALL day…just hoping to get in the water…and then he would be carried back, unsuccessful, at the end of the day. Every day was the same. It was just his body; everything about the man was paralyzed.
But then one day, all of that changes. Jesus comes by. He is walking along by the pool when He sees this man, this particular man. And somehow Jesus just…KNOWS…that the man had been unsuccessful for 38 years. He KNOWS that this man was doing nothing more than existing. And in response, He asks the man what seems to be a painfully obvious, almost mean question, “Do you want to be made well?” When you first read this, you want to say, “Well DUH, Jesus! Of COURSE he wants to be made well!” But it’s really not that simple, is it? How many people do YOU know who desperately NEED to be made well, but they don’t seem to genuinely WANT to. The illness or affliction has so defined them that they don’t know how to live any other way. The pain and dysfunction has become the norm. The devil you know versus the devil you DON’T know. And so they choose…CHOOSE…to stay right where they are, sitting idly by the pool of Bethesda, hoping someone else will do something for them.
Did you notice how the man answered Jesus’ question? He immediately started making excuses, “It’s not my fault! No one will help me. Someone always beats me to pool!” No taking responsibility. No taking ownership. Just one long string of passing the buck so he doesn’t have to face the reality. But the reality stares him in the face every day- he just doesn’t want to claim it…because then he would actually have to do something about it.
Based on the answer the man gives Jesus, I am convinced that he didn’t want Jesus to heal him, didn’t realize or recognize Who Jesus really was. Instead, he wants Jesus- young, strong and able-bodied, to hustle him down to the water’s edge and help him into the pool…and beat everybody else in the process.
But Jesus doesn’t do that- no big surprise. Instead, He does something WAY more amazing and miraculous. He tells the man, “Stand up, pick up your mat and walk.” “Well, that sounds all well and good there, Jesus, but if’n it was THAT simple, don’t you think I’d a’tried that a LONG time ago?!” But notice the word that describes how the healing happened- “immediately”. Not in the great by and by on some far shore…but HERE…and NOW! And that is exactly what happens. This man, who had been unable to walk for 38 years…his entire life…begins to stand. He gets to his knees, then one foot, then both feet. He “tests the waters” if you will, seeing if his legs will actually support him…a
nd they do. He looks at his legs, he looks at Jesus…and then a smile bigger than all outdoors breaks across his once-pained face. He bends down, picks up the mat…and immediately goes scampering through the temple courts like an overactive 4 year old! He is healed! He is whole! He is walking on sunshine. The former runs through the temple courts, praising God.
Immediately after the part of this story we read, the Pharisees, the church leaders, are distressed. And it’s NOT only because Jesus broke the law by healing on the Sabbath. It’s also NOT only because the man also broke the law by carrying his mat on the Sabbath. They were distressed by how this Jesus character was describing His relationship with God. He wasn’t JUST claiming that God was His Father; it was MUCH worse than that! He was actually claiming to BE God. And for the Pharisees, that was scandalous at least and blasphemous at most.
And it’s a struggle people have had ever since. But the issue isn’t really whether or not Jesus claims to be God. There’s really not much argument there. No, the real issue is whether or not He actually IS who He claims to be. And everything Jesus says and everything Jesus does hangs on that one single issue. Who He is…REALLY is…literally makes all the difference in the world.
There’s NO question about what He says. The question is- is it true? And it seems to me that there are only 3 possible answers to that question. Three simple answers that will immediately define how you see Jesus Christ. In response to that question, Jesus is either A. a liar, or He is B. a lunatic or He is C. the Lord. If He is just a liar, then He is doing nothing more than many people do- twisting the truth to manipulate others into doing what He wants them to do. If He is instead a lunatic, then He really THINKS He’s God…but He’s wrong. But if He is the Lord…well…that’s a game-changer! If He really is who He claims to be, then we should expect Him to have authority over sickness, demons and death.
If He IS the Son of God, then He should have the power to act on God’s behalf…act AS God. If He is the One and only begotten Son of God, then we should expect that He can…and will…cleanse the temple, heal on the Sabbath and forgive our sins.
The Pharisees were so legalistic, so pious…so sure they were right. But wanting to be right and thinking you’re right are NOT necessarily the same as actually being right. In fact, I find that those who are the most wrong are often those who are most sure they are right.
So- who IS Jesus! Is He a liar, a lunatic or the Lord? The Gospel of John gives us a clear answer to that question- Jesus IS the Son of God. He speaks and acts on God’s behalf. He is God wrapped in human flesh. He is Emmanuel- God with us. And what’s His mission? To offer a much deeper and more permanent healing than the mere physical. He offers us healing from our sin. To offer us wholeness. Jesus didn’t need the angel-stirred waters of the pool of Bethesda to heal. He has the power of the universe at His fingertips.
Regarding your faith and your involvement in church, there is ONE question that is THE most important one you will EVER ask. And frankly it is NOT about the color of the carpet or the menu for Wednesday night dinner or the Sunday morning song selection. It is, instead the question we have raised this morning- Who is Jesus?
There is a Korean legend that is meant to explain the conditions of Hell. According to that legend, Hell is endless rows made up of long tables that are full of food. People are seated around those tables…with 3’ long forks and spoons attached to their forearms. The people can’t feed themselves and they are unwilling to feed each other. So they sit- starving and paralyzed.
Have you been there? Have you ever felt like you simply couldn’t function? Have you felt that you couldn’t do anything- even get out of bed? Have you ever felt paralyzed, starved for connection? Maybe you haven’t felt paralyzed physically, but what about emotionally and spiritually? Are you starving…paralyzed?
Psalm 37:3-6 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.
I mentioned the song Walking on Sunshine earlier. The chorus to that song is simple and to the point- “I’m walking on sunshine! I’m walking on sunshine! I’m walking on sunshine…and don’t it feel good!”
How do we do that? How do we walk on sunshine? How do we empty ourselves of our spiritual paralysis? 1. Live responsibly, 2. Live expectantly and, 3. Live victoriously. Jesus promises us that, if we live responsibly, expectantly and victoriously, He will heal us- our paralysis will be gone.
How do you fight that kind of paralysis? You ignore the enemy and resist the temptation to do nothing bur panic, hunker down, get the wagons in a circle and hibernate. You both realize and acknowledge that God is up to something, and He wants to do that “something” with…and through…you. You realize that, at the end of the day, legalism doesn’t get it and tradition doesn’t get it- you need Jesus.
Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
Tomorrow- Hurry Up and Wait!