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John was purposeful in the accounts he included in his gospel. His intention in this passage is to show that Jesus was opposed to the legalism of the religious leaders and that He, as God incarnate, was the only source of healing and restoration. The story of the lame man sitting by the pool of Bethesda offers a clear picture of change: who can change, how they change, and what makes it possible.
Compassion and the Compentency We Have with Christ: How We Can Feed Five Thousand
Bingo! The Answer is "Jesus". (And the Question is: "Who is God?")
The King and His Kingdom and What You Must Know to Enjoy them Both
Jesus on Jesus
Do You Want to Get Well? Here's Your Man and Here's How.
From Confusion to Crisis to Clarity to Completion: The Progression from Christlessness to Contagious Faith
What Worshiping in Spirit and Truth Means for Disciples and the Harvest
The Woman at the Well: A Picture of Grace, a Picture of Us
It's the Relationship, Stupid: The Right Well for Your Bucket
Clearing the Way, Preparing the Way, Getting Out of the Way: How Great Men Respond to the Greatest Calling
Turn to John 5 with me. This is a pivotal moment in the book. It's a great book. John is writing this book so that we might know that this Jesus is not just some guy who hung around and moved on. He wasn't a great prophet, a great teacher. He is very God of very God. He is the visible image of the invisible God. He is the one who has come that you might know life.
John says, "I'm introducing him to you, and I'm doing it very strategically and purposefully, grabbing stories from his life that are not random. I am trying to show you something here." So today, we're going to take a look at a pivotal moment. It all starts with this little verse 1. It says, "After these things…" You have to go, "Okay, what are these things?"
It's really chapters 1 through 4. It's Jesus kind of coming on the scene publicly and identifying with sinful humanity through a baptism of repentance. Then he starts to tell folks that he is, in fact, the Son of God, that he is the Messiah, that he is the one who has come. He has some success and folks start to follow him. He has a great conversation with a Jewish leader to show him that no matter how good you think you are in keeping the law, at practicing righteousness before men, that will never be enough righteousness to get you rightly related to God.
He answers the question, "How good is good enough?" The answer is, "Not like a Pharisee, not like the most religious people on earth. Everybody needs regeneration and a gift of grace." Then we come to another woman. A woman who is so far gone and so out of touch with God that he answers the question, "Can this Messiah deliver somebody who has nothing to do with him, who has lived a life in direct confrontation with the will of God? How bad is so bad that you can never be redeemed?"
The answer is, "There is no bad that is so bad that it can never be redeemed." We see an entire village come to know him and ask him to spend time there to teach them more. We see him go up to the northern region in Galilee and he straightens them out on their desire to make him a genie, a wonder worker, a miracle worker, somebody who kind of just pulled off the things that pleased them and made their region more famous and made their lives more at ease.
He said, "I'm not here to make your life easy. I'm here to deliver you from the death that will exist in you necessarily when you live far from me." Then some time passed and it says, "After these things there was a feast of the Jews…" Jesus is now going to move back down to Jerusalem. We don't know what feast it was.
We're pretty sure it wasn't a Passover feast because John uses those Passover feasts to really anchor the chronology of his ministry. There are other feasts, many in the Jewish calendar, around seven, that folks would go to Jerusalem to celebrate and honor God and remember him: Feast of Tabernacles, Rosh Hashanah, all these different ones that we would go there and worship. This is one of those. We don't know how many days have passed since the end of John 4, but it's weeks or months, and Jesus finds himself back down in Jerusalem.
Whenever he goes there, he is escalating the confrontation between those who say they know God and represent him and Jesus, who is God. He is trying to bring folks back. He is trying to show them the goodness and greatness of who he is. So today, let me tell you what we're going to learn in John, chapter 5, because John put this here for a reason.
You're going to see that God hates people who misrepresent him. Too many folks misrepresent him as a God who is only concerned with dos and don'ts, rule keeping, rule following, and behavior modification. He hates legalism. Folks ask me sometimes, "Todd, are you a religious person?" I go, "Well, define that."
If they always define it with a sense of, "I have to perform and do things out of fear that if I don't do good enough long enough I'll never be acceptable to God," I totally reject that. I go, "No, no, no. I'm not religious in that sense. I'm a person who lives in relationship with a God who pursued me when I did not want to pursue him. I don't live in fear of God. I don't make God in my image."
I basically, in my flesh, have a utilitarian view of man. I want you to be good enough around me, kind enough toward me, add spice to my life in such a way that you're worth me putting up with, and then we'll get along. That's how I think as fallen natural man. We make God in our image. He must be like that. We must be good enough long enough that we do him some good, and then he'll let us into his club.
That's religion. It is not consistent with Scripture. It never has been. God gave us law for the purpose of revealing to us the standard of righteousness that is there to show us as a mirror, "I look nothing like that." That we would then say, "So what are we going to do? If that's the standard and there's a God who is going to hold us accountable, how are we ever going to be restored?" The answer comes in God himself coming to be our provision.
Jesus says, "I've come to deal with that separation. I've come to remind you who I really am, show you my love." That's the second thing we're going to learn today: who God really is. What his character is like. Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. He says, "You've seen me. You've seen the Father. All the fullness of deity dwells in him in bodily form." We're going to learn something about the character and nature of God this morning. Do you want to know what God looks like? Look at Jesus.
Then we're going to find out how we change. Do you want to know how people change? Do you want to know how your life can radically be transformed from darkness to light? Do you want to know how you can become a person whose life pivots 180 and all of a sudden, that which is made of ashes is a thing of beauty. I gave you some examples last week of folks right here in our body whose lives are dramatically transformed.
If you're in this business, the business of life change, it isn't long before you are just immediately stunned by two things. I continually am overwhelmed with how much some people change. It is a beautiful thing to watch! Lives that are radically transformed from self-destructive and alienating and oppressed and depressed and isolated to lives that are things of beauty and warmth and care and connection and compassion and graciousness and benevolence. It's awesome. It is awesome to watch.
Then, it's amazing to me how little some people change, how some people just never change. I mean, here we are. We've been around Watermark now for about 11 years and I'm telling you what's amazing is that some folks show up here, and within a week or two weeks, they're diving in and they are connecting and they are walking in humility. Their lives are just taking off. This becomes a place they meet Christ, and their lives are radically changed.
Then there are other people who have all kinds of reasons, that this is too big or it's too this or it's not enough this or you view me this way or I can't connect. I don't know where to go. They're here for years. Maybe even some of them are members, but they don't avail themselves to the means of grace the Scripture talks about and their lives don't change and they're right here. Same place.
Some people change incredibly. Some people just don't seem to change. Their marriage is still largely something they tolerate. Their relationship with their kid is fractured. They're still just as materialistic, self-absorbed, insecure, living in fear, controlled by the ways of the world. What's the difference? I'm going to show you today what makes a difference and why people change.
Let me just take on this one idea because it's going to come up a little bit later. I'll talk about it specifically as it's related to this thing called the Sabbath because we're going to be confronted with it in just a moment. Let me just give you a little insight into why God hates legalism so much, why he hates religion and that idea.
Religion is something that man has invented to control other men. It really is. I agree. Religion is a problem. I don't believe Christianity and God revealing himself through Christ is a problem. I think that's what will unify the world and actually divides the world and I'll talk about both of those things. Because some of the world is going to reject that the way to God is through grace and some will accept that it's through grace and that grace is manifest in Christ.
Not because I say so, but because an empty tomb says so and because a sovereign creator God says so. That will be the pivot point for every man's eternity. I'm betting my life on that. I'm telling you, I've experienced life and I've come to understand that. Let me give you a quote that a friend wrote that I read this week that I thought was really good about legalism. This is why God hates legalism. I'll talk about what legalism is here in just a moment. Here we go. Watch this.
"Legalism…" Which is the keeping of dos and don'ts. It's keeping score, telling other people what the can do and can't do, and giving me control if I am the one who gets to make the rules and tells you if you don't do these things, you're out. You want to be in. Therefore, you'd better follow the rules. "Legalism denies God's grace and presumes to earn favor through deeds. It is a man-made righteousness that exalts humanity rather than the Lord."
I earned my way. I'm good enough. I ought to get into heaven. God is lucky to have me on his team. "Legalism produces one of two things. Either pride or deep despair and depression. In the people who are under its spell, pride for those who keep the list to their own satisfaction and depression for those who recognize their utter inability to keep the list." Can't do this. I can't be good enough long enough. "Criticism," he writes, "is the primary motivation."
In other words, you want to avoid criticism or I'm going to be one who motivates you by threatening to criticize you if you're not good enough by the standards that we lay out there. "The goal of legalism is to give as much criticism as possible and to avoid criticism if you're on the other end at all costs."
So I'm going to follow you, leader, because I don't want you to criticize me. I don't want the community to ostracize me. Criticism is deadly. Use it, they would say, effectively. Pass it on. Rule people with it. Let them live in fear and intimidation. Now watch this. This is the best sentence of the whole thing.
"Legalism, dead religion, religion is wrong because it produces in people what the Lord hates. It's what he desires least. It produces pride. It produces self-loathing because you can't do what you think you should do. It produces hypocrisy because I have to not let you know that I'm doing it and I have to choose things that I don't struggle with myself, and self-righteousness because I think I've done it enough."
If you haven't noticed, God is against those things with everything in his being. People tell me they hate hypocrites. That's why they don't come to church. I want to tell you something. If you hate hypocrisy, Jesus is your man. They hate self-righteousness. If you hate self-righteousness, Jesus is your man. If you hate yourself, Jesus is your man. If your life is lame, Jesus is your man.
God is trying to reveal him to you through his servant John who captured specific elements in Jesus' life and is saying, "This is the one. Follow him." Now let me say this just very quickly. When I taught through Galatians a number of years ago, I titled it The Long Arm of the Law just because I was a child of the 70s and I listened to Styx.
So I titled that book… The law…legalism, religion. It keeps clawing its way back into our life. This is what righteousness is. This is what spirituality looks like, okay? We're all living in fear. "Oh Mom, I'm in fear for my life because of the long arm of the law," they wrote. Thank you, Dennis DeYoung.
So anyway, my point is that Galatians talks about how this is going to keep trying to claw its way back into the church, but grace is where life is. Getting something that you don't deserve through what God has accomplished because he loves you. I'm going to share with you what I shared then very briefly. I talked about why legalism is worse than love. Because Christianity is about a relationship. That's what I'm in with God. I don't live in fear with him.
I see him pursue me when I didn't pursue him. I see him make provision for me when there's no way I could make provision for myself. I'm spending the rest of my life trying to respond to that gift of love through Christ. I don't have to be here. I don't have to sing. I have great joy talking about how great God is through song with you. I worship to declare him, and I worship to remind myself that this is a good God.
He is compassionate and kind and gracious and he cares for me. He paid my penalty that I might be restored to him, and now he wants to lead me as I recognize him as a good God, not one I should fear, but one I should absolutely follow. Here's just what I said about love and legalism. Okay, watch this. Legalism always produces fear. Love is better than law as a means to motivate people because law rules by fear of punishment.
Now let me just say this. I was asked recently what my goal is with my children. I want to let you know, my goal with my children is not to raise obedient children. I like it when they listen, but my goal as a parent is not to have kids who listen all the time in a way that impresses you that, "Wow, they're such polite children. They're little Mary Poppins children that when I show up they go, 'Hello Father, we're here for inspection.'" And after I'm done, they scurry back upstairs and do whatever they do with Mary Poppins in the nursery. Right?
No, I don't want kids who live in fear. By the way, I can control my kids. I can make them obedient children if I intimidate them, if I bring about a heavy hand of discipline and intimidation and restriction. If all I do is get my kids to obey my moral what, it's just a matter of time before all hell breaks loose. When they finally get out from that long arm of the law and my punishment is not there anymore and they go to college and I haven't taught them the moral why…
All they know is that the motivation for obedience is gone because, "Dad is not here to whup us or scold us or shame us anymore. It's not going to cost him his job because we're hellions. We can do what we want up here on our college campus," and they go… A very large denomination in the southern part of the country has done a study and said that we're losing about 80-85 percent of our youth.
They leave us when they go to school and they never come back. Part of it is because rightly or wrongly this denomination has had this mantra of, "Hey man, we don't smoke, we don't drink, we don't chew, we don't dance, and we don't hang out with chicks who do." Basically. You've heard that a thousand times.
Kids are like, "Okay, we don't do these things because we don't want to get shamed. We don't want to be ostracized from the community. We want to be good folks in this denomination." But no one has ever taught them why. No one has ever taught them the moral why. When they leave that fear of punishment, they're gone.
My oldest daughter turned 18 on Thursday. Eighteen! I have a girl who is 18. It was awesome. We celebrated. My wife on the way there, we were in the middle of a conversation talking about a lot of things going on in society and my wife just goes, "Hey Ally, you're 18." My wife was kind of being funny. "Other than buy cigarettes now, do you know what you can do now that you're 18?"
My daughter said, "I can buy things on infomercials without a parent's permission." I go, "Really? That's why you had this date circled on your calendar?" She goes, "No, I can also buy lottery tickets." I go, "Really?" And then she said, "And I can date an older man now and not get in trouble." How about that? By the way, she can, but if you're an older man, you cannot date her and not get in trouble. I want to let you know that, okay? She's legal. You're not, in my opinion. All right?
She was jacking with us, and finally her sister, who then finally figured out what was going on, said, "You can vote." She goes, "Oh yeah, and I can vote." What I love about that is, listen, I'm not concerned if she is going away to college next year. She has been accepted to Sodom and Gomorrah U. She is in, and she is gone.
I am not fearful that because I'm not there watching her that because the community of faith is not there to shame her that we're going to lose her because Ally has learned the moral why. That God is good, God loves her, God cares about her, and he is a God worth following. Not because he'll punish you if you don't.
She understands that there's a choice you make in everything you do that you're free to make, but in the end, the choice you make makes you. She understands that a man reaps what he sows. She knows that God loves her and cares for her, that he has fixed certain moral laws in the universe. That gravity is a good thing that God gave us physical laws. She doesn't resent gravity.
She obeys it and respects it. She knows gravity is what keeps us anchored from flying off into space either to extreme heat or a lack of oxygen and extreme cold, so she doesn't mock gravity. She doesn't scoff at God because of gravity and she also knows that God is good. That gravity is what keeps us anchored on earth, this place.
That there is a spiritual law, there is a gravitas, a weight of the same spiritual law that she is grateful for. That she goes, "I know that if I leave this gravitas of truth that this good God gave me, that I'm going to fly off into extreme destruction and isolation and loneliness and cold or just to intense heat and burning and suffering. So I love him and I walk with him."
That is an understanding that by grace she has come to. You see, as opposed to having have you present there to whup them, love rules by fastening your heart to a person. I have no concern that Ally's heart is fastened to a person. His name is Jesus. She knows him, and she has seen that he is good. She has made some choices, like I continue to at times, that are disheartening to him and I leave his way and I grieve the Spirit and we always taste that bitterness, that burning underneath that thin layer of sugar that the Deceiving One offers us.
Love is always better than law. I said this in the Galatians series. Because love rules by fastening your heart to a person, law demands that you have to have present punishment. Jesus wants there to be present relationship. If you're here this morning and you think God wants to rule you by fear and intimidation, you need to know something.
He wants to draw you near to a loving God. That's why this story is here. It's one of the reasons it's here. Because you're going to find out that God is kind and compassionate and is sovereign and uses that sovereignty for your good. Watch this. This week, I was talking to my friend Eric who works with the folks as part of his job. His profession is a service profession.
One of the guys who he regularly interacts with is an atheist and is proud of it and often scoffs at Eric for his belief. He had an interesting conversation with him this week. He said to him, "Eric, I have to tell you something that happened to me. I was in Austin on business, and I got on an elevator and I just kind of walked in. The door closed behind me. I got turned around. The elevator I was standing literally in blood that kind of enveloped my shoes. Not over them, but I was in blood. It was all over the elevator."
Then he said, "I was just stunned. The elevator went down to the first floor. It opened to the lobby. Right there, there was a trail of blood, thick blood, and it led very clearly to the one spot in the room. There in the corner was a guy who was slumped down. Everybody was just in horror backing away from him.
There was one person in the medical field who was moving toward him. The guy was in a service suit. He was clearly an elevator serviceman and he had been servicing that particular elevator and the counterweight dropped and hit his arm and he was holding what was remaining of his arm in the corner." It's gruesome, right?
He said, "I stood there and I looked at this scene of horror and need. I did was 99 percent of the people in the room did. I just was overwhelmed. I didn't know what to do and I moved." He said, "I was discouraged at myself that I offered no comfort and no help. I just stood there stunned and moved away. I laid in bed last night thinking, 'Who in my life would've done something?'"
He goes, "I have to tell you, Eric. Of all the guys I know, you were the only person I thought of who would've gone over there and helped that guy." Eric kind of laughed and said, "Why would you say that? What made you think I would do that?" He said, "You know, because of that Christian thing. You're one of those guys who would…you'd just do something."
Now why did he say that? Because he understands this about Jesus. That if you really know… He said, "Eric, you're not just one of those guys who says it in name only, but Jesus is a guy who goes to where the lame are. He is the guy who initiates where the broken are. He doesn't move away from chaos, and you're like him.
You follow that kind, compassionate one who brings his gifts to bear to help people every chance you get. I've watched you do it with me. I've watched you do it with others, and you're the only guy who I know like that. You would've gone over there." What a great, great encouragement that this guy gets a glimpse.
So why is Eric like that? Not because he is a stud, but because he follows a stud. He says, "Make me like you, Jesus." You're going to see that Jesus walks in where no other Jew would walk into a place that is hopeless, that has no idea who he is, has bad theology, and no faith is present and watch what he does. Watch how you can change. Okay, check this out.
It says, "Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda…" House of grace. Chesed. If you read your Old Testament, chesed is a very important term. It is covenant love. It is love that is unmerited. It is compassionate, kind, and gracious. In the New Testament we call it agape love. It is the house of grace. Bethesda, Maryland. It's where one of our largest hospitals is. It's the place of healing. That's kind of how it came up. It was the spot that you would go to get well.
This place was called Bethesda. That's what the Jews labeled it, but it had another name that was going on here. This is very interesting. It's just not far from the temple mount, but it was a very pagan place. There is Asclepius, if you guys are into mythology. Asclepius is a son of Apollo and he is the Greek and Roman god of healing or medicine.
So asclepeion is a place that healing and medicine are performed. It's called a sanitarium. That's what really Bethesda was. Sanitarium comes from the Latin word sanit, which means health. We get sanity from it. If you're sane, you have a healthy mind. The suffix -arium means pertaining to. So you have sanit-arium. You get a place pertaining to healing. This was a pagan sanitarium.
Library, a place pertaining to books. Honorary, a place pertaining to honor. You get the idea. A sanitarium is a place related to health, but this was a very interesting place. Look what it says. "…having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered…"
Now it's interesting. You'll see a bracket that shows up here on purpose. If you have your own Bible, I hope you look at it. All of verse 4 is in brackets. So why is verse 4 in brackets? Answer: because it's not in most manuscripts. What's a manuscript? Manu-, manual, -script, writing. A manuscript is a handwritten copy.
There are thousands of them, tens of thousands of them, in your New Testament. The older the manuscript, just like the game of telephone, you'd think would be more accurate, but they compare manuscripts and they watch where these different variants came from. In other words, there's the original autograph, the original book of John that was written.
Then, because we didn't have Xerox machines back then, guys would sit down and they would copy them. They would be painstaking in their detail. They would count the number of letters in a line. They would count the number of lines in a page. They would count the number of words and they would put all this together to make sure they got it right. At some point, somebody later on stuck this in verse 4 because they wanted to help us understand why this place that was associated with Asclepius was considered a place of healing.
You wanted to tell us what happened. Here's the bracket that was put in. This is not the Bible endorsing this idea, but it's somebody letting you know that people would go and hang out in this syncrestic place where there's a combination of the Hebrew faith that believed angels actively intervened, that God cared about man and didn't leave us here to ourselves and Greek gods who would move and do things.
They believed an angel of the Lord would go down to certain seasons into the pool and stir up water. Whoever then first, after the stirring of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease they were dealing with. Let me just tell you. If you had leprosy, which was a real problem… You probably weren't there anyway because they were concerned it was contagious.
If you were lame and there was all of a sudden this movement of the waters, whether by wind or now we frankly know what happens. We've been to Bethesda. There's a natural spring underneath there. Sometimes when that water comes out, it bubbles up and it stirs the waters. The idea there was, this was Asclepius' place. This is where he comes, the angel or this god comes and moves the water. He is the god of healing.
If you get there first, you'll be well. In a place full of infirm people, the least infirm were the ones who would get there first. Probably folks with psychosomatic and other diseases like that, while people who truly needed help couldn't get it because they couldn't get there. By the time you saw it happening… The blind couldn't see the water move. The lame couldn't get there when they did have the water move.
It was the folks who were jumping in first. It was not a place of grace. It was a place of performance that probably was related more to superstition and myth than actuality. So the Bible is not endorsing that really happened. It's just saying, "That's the belief that was there." By the way, doesn't it make you look back with kind of a cultural elitism and go, "I'm so glad we're not stupid like that today?" All right? All right.
Clearwater, Florida. Office building. They have big glass panels. On these glass panels as a result of erosion, mineral deposits, and sprinkler system, there has appeared this. It looks an incredible amount like the Virgin Mary. If you look, there's this person with a mantle on leaning forward. Do you know that today I have an article that folks… That's not doctored. That's just what it looks like.
It's a rainbow that's kind of come up on those nine panes of glass. Everybody is freaking out. They're running to this particular place. Here is a quote from a police officer. They have to station 18 police officers…18...to manage the crowds. Thousands a day were going to this place when it first appeared. This is what he said.
He said, "People are making shrines. They're bringing gifts: candles, flowers, statues. People have fainted when they've gotten here, overwhelmed at the beauty and the revelation of the Virgin Mother. We have the infirm, the disabled in wheelchairs, and the blind. They're coming hundreds at a time to be healed by the Virgin Mary." Woohoo. All right?
So all I'm saying is this isn't just crazy, but this is what our world does. We always rush to what the world says might help you when God is here himself saying, "Trust me. Look at me. Listen to me." I love Jesus. He goes, moving in. Watch this. This is so good. Verse 5, "A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years."
Okay, why 38 years? John doesn't put stuff in for no reason. I could teach an entire lesson on the typology and symbolism of John. Right here, just to let you know. It is a fact in Deuteronomy, chapter 2, it talks about how Israel wandered for 38 years in the wilderness when they believed they had to perform to get into the place of promise.
Because they were fearful that they couldn't perform well enough, they were judged by God and had to wander. They lived in lameness in a desert land until the entire generation of fighting age expired. Then they were brought into the promise. How? By grace, by trust, by faith. See, what those folks did is they heard God said, "I want you to go. I'm going to give you this land of milk and honey."
They looked and there were giants in that land. They go, "We can't take them." God said, "No, no, you didn't hear me. I'm going to give you this land of blessing." Moses could not lead them in. Moses is the father of the law. Yeshua, Joshua…that is Hebrew for the Greek, "Jesus, the Lord saves"…he will take you in. You must trust in him. Joshua is the one who came back and said, "Yeah, there are giants but God said he'll give it to us. I don't know how, but let's trust in him through the provision of God."
So 38. That number is pretty significant and important, but I'm not going to make that my main point. Now notice, this guy was not seeking God. He is not on the temple mount wondering if the God of Israel could accept him. Probably because the legalists said that if you are infirm, it must be because you haven't lived well enough and had this small-minded view that everybody who was sick is being judged by God because they didn't do good enough for God; therefore, you got what was coming to you.
He had rejected Judaism. He had rejected the God of Israel because the people who represented that God didn't do it rightly. He is over there in the sanitarium, this mythological lost place, not seeking God. No idea who Jesus is, but Jesus knew who he was, just like he knows who you are. Lying there in a long time in that condition. Living a lame life. Crippled by your own infirmity. Lost, aloof, and without God in this world.
Then here's what he says. "Do you wish to get well?" Now this is an amazing question. The dude is lame. He is crippled for 38 years. That was longer than the average life expectancy of a first-century person in that general region. So what he is saying is his entire life, this guy has been living depraved, deprived, and wanting.
"Do you want to get well?" What an almost cruel question. What a mocking question, it seems. What Jesus is really saying to him is this. "Are you done? Are you done with your pagan worship, your superstitions, and your trying to trust in fallen humanity to get you where you think you want to go? Do you want to try something new? Do you want to believe in me?"
This guy is having this interaction. Verse 7 says, "The sick man answered Him, 'Sir, I have no man…'" Watch his thinking. Trusting in man. "…to put me into the pool…" Trusting in the superstition of the water. "'…when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.' Jesus said to him, 'Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.'"
What he basically says is, "Look at me. Have faith in me. Be obedient to my Word. Do what I tell you to do." It's interesting. When I'm interacting with guys on the streets, by the way, as I'm often able to do as I just make my way through the city. I am always asking guys when they ask me for something, "Do you want to get well?"
Sometimes they know where I'm headed. They look at me and they go, "Man, I want five bucks. I want five bucks." I go, "Well, that wouldn't be loving of me to give you five bucks, which will only continue your pain and delusion. But if you want to get well, let's go." I have folks who I engage. One of my kids, especially…
I always say, "Tell me your name. Tell me your story. I want to listen to your story." Once you sometimes part through the dramatic elaborate stories that are trying to elicit a certain compassionate response or intimidate you with Scripture to get you to do stuff because they know if you know God. I just say, "Hey, look. Tell my kid how you got here."
Do you know what they say every time? They say something along the lines of, "All right. You want me to be real? You want to know how I got here? I got here one choice at a time. Then there was another choice and another choice, then another decision." After a while, just like… They don't say this, but Scripture says, "…then your poverty will come as a robber and your want like an armed man.""I didn't get here by accident."
There are some really tough stories associated with folks, but what they're saying is, "I'm here." Some folks frankly are there… There's a whole story here recently of folks who are young and healthy with nothing wrong with them, no history of abuse, but just feel like they can make money by being on the streets living that way. Some are making a pretty decent living.
I say to them, "Do you want to get well or do you like what you have? Because if you like what you have, keep doing what you're doing." If you like hanging out trusting in men who are more selfish than you, just as needy as you, believing in superstition and pagan worship, then I'm going to move on to the next guy, but I have a feeling you might want something else, and I also have a feeling that one of the reasons you're here is because people who are supposed to represent me have not represented me well. I want to know. Can I help you?
What you're going to see is that Jesus goes where the Jews wouldn't go. Jews wouldn't go here. A good Jew wouldn't go into Bethesda. They would just hang out in the temple mount and scoff at the folks who were over here. Jesus went where there were hurting people. He is kind. Note this: God is kind. He is compassionate. He doesn't need to hear from you what is wrong. He knows that you're hurting. He knows you're lonely. He knows you keep giving yourself away to elicit relationships looking for love. He loves you. He's not even angry at you, but he wants to know, are you tired of being tired?
My sweet friend Karen, who used to be a prostitute… When I did that little series on prayer I had Karen up here on stage with me. We talked about how she used to party all night, make her 20 or 25 bucks. She'd have a child that she'd have to go back to. She'd hate herself. She would weep when those guys would leave the room. She said she prayed every time they'd leave. "Oh God, help me. Help me. Help me." She said she did that for years.
Then she'd go right back into the same behavior. I said, "So Karen, what changed? What changed on that one time when you finally prayed?" Go back and listen to the Vacate series and listen to her testimony. I go, "Karen, why the one time when you prayed this prayer did it all of sudden work instead of all the other times?"
She goes, "Because all the other times, I was just saying I wanted to get well. I was just crying out like God would do something, and this time I was just tired of being tired. For the first time, instead of asking God to help me, I listened to him when he told me what to do. He told me to pick up my pallet and walk."
What she did is she got right up and she walked in to the police department and she turned herself in. She says, "I'm a hooker. I'm a user. I have drugs." They go, "Ma'am, there's no warrant out for your arrest. We can't arrest you." She goes, "No, no, listen to me. You want to arrest me." She turned herself in. She convinced them to arrest her.
She got well and she began to pursue Christ in jail. Today she is a minister of the gospel as she began to associate with other believers, follow Jesus, and listen to him. Go back and listen to the Vacate series. Listen to Karen's story. Listen to what real prayer looks like. Watch this. Verse 9 says, "Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk." This is incredible stuff! His faith is absent. His theology is confused and God injected into him, he implanted into him the opportunity to believe.
He communicated to him his provision. He said, "Follow me. Listen to my Word." He gave the man enough strength that he could respond. When he began to test and say, "Okay, we'll see if I can do it, big boy," there was strength that was there. Immediately the man was well. Now we have to keep following, but watch this. John drops a bomb here in verse 9. Just out of nowhere. He says, "Oh yeah, and by the way, "Now it was the Sabbath on that day."
One of the things you're going to find is that most of Jesus' miracles are done on the Sabbath. That's when most of them are done. You go, "Why would he do them on the Sabbath?" Because he was here to stir it up. He wanted to let folks know who he was. What was the very first thing he did to kind of announce himself in Jerusalem?
He went into the temple, and he said, "This isn't right at all!" He kind of began to say, "This isn't the way you can approach me. You can approach me through relationship, not through this micromanaging of exploiting of sacrifices specifically and the money-changing." He cleansed the temple.
They go, "Who are you that you would do this?" He says, "This is my Father's house." They go, "This is God's house." He goes, "This is my house." They go, "This is God's house." He goes, "This is my house." What is he claiming? Fast forward to John 5. On the Sabbath, he tells this guy to pick up his pallet and walk.
The law told us that we should not work on the Sabbath. I'm going to tell you why in just a moment. The people said, "You can't do that on the Sabbath. That's the Lord's Day." He goes, "I'll tell you what to do on the Lord's Day because the Sabbath is my day." They go, "It's the Lord's day." He goes, "It's my day."
What is Jesus saying? What is John trying to help you understand about Jesus? If the temple is God's house and he says, "It's my house," who is Jesus? If the Sabbath is the Lord's Day and he says, "It's my day," who is Jesus? It's pretty clear, isn't it? That's why in verse 18 of this chapter it says, "…therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him…" because he was blaspheming. They couldn't understand. "What do you mean it's your day?"
Now the Sabbath, by the way… Look. We are called to keep the Sabbath day holy, but Mark, chapter 2, verse 27, says this. "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." In other words, what had happened is that religious people got ahold of this idea that God said, "I don't want you to work on the Sabbath." Why don't you work on the Sabbath? Because God loves you. He builds a natural rhythm into your life.
He knows that you'll work your fingers to a nub if you think that you're the only one who can make your life better. He says, "No, no, I'm the one who can make your life better. I love you. I am provider and protector. Trust in me. Don't work your fingers to a nub. Enjoy me. Set a whole day aside where you can enjoy one another. Rest. Love family. Eat. Celebrate. Think of me. Dwell on my goodness."
The word Sabbath literally means cease. Chill. It's not all about you. I mean, listen, there's a reason that God made our body… Sleep is an act of faith. I can go to bed. The Scripture says this. "It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for [the Lord] gives to His beloved even in his sleep."
There are times… one of the things people said, "Man, Wagner, all you have going on, with this and family and that… Do you ever have problems sleeping?" I go, "No." I really don't. My wife is in bed. "I can't believe you're sleeping." I go, "What am I supposed to do? Stay up and manage and worry? I can't change it. Okay? I've done everything I can do today. It's time for me, as an expression of faith, to lay my head down."
The Scripture says, " [The Lord] gives to His beloved even in his sleep." So the faster I go to sleep, he can get busy! Let's go!" We have prayed, we have served, and we have loved. The day is over. Let's sleep. We'll wake up. We'll get after it tomorrow. We're not going to be slackards tomorrow. We're going to work a full, honest day, but we are not God. We are not Messiahs."
He doesn't tell us to be anxious for everything and without sleep, continually work your butt off so that you can have peace. That's not what it says. It says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Here's the deal about the Sabbath. God gave it to you. If you want to mock that law that your body is made for rhythm, if you want to stay up all night worrying and discouraged and depressed and micromanaging, have at it! But you're messing with the gravitas of truth. Your body is going to crater. You will be depressed. Your body is going to power down.
It's not going to fire off all the chemicals it should, and you're going to pay, not as a sort of judgment. It's just what happens when you jump off roofs and you ignore gravity. What happened is the religious leaders injected themselves into this. They began to micromanage this. When God said, "Don't work," they thought that, "Okay, we're going to really make some rules," and they had 39 different categories and it covered everything imaginable. To this day, the Sabbath, which was meant to be God's gift to you, has become a burden.
To this day. Okay, I was just in Israel not long ago. The Sabbath is anything but a restful day. It is the most nerve-wracking day of the week in Jerusalem because you can't break the Sabbath. If you're a good rule follower, then God will love you. Some of them do it because they want to follow rules because they love God, but God is like, "Oh my gosh, you're wearing yourself out."
For instance, this is the craziness of it. You go into some hotels. Every hotel has a Shabbat elevator and you don't want to get on it. Why? Because you're not allowed to work on the Sabbath. Activating, pressing a button is work, so you can't get on an elevator and press the seventh floor. You have to walk up to the seventh floor or take the Sabbath elevator.
What's the Sabbath elevator? It works for you. It stops on every floor all day. All the way up and all the way down. You can get on that and keep the Sabbath, but you can't press seven. It's crazy. If you have a gas stove with a pilot light burning, you can turn that on because the flame is already there so you're not building a fire, but if your pilot light goes out, you cannot relight your pilot light until the Sabbath is over.
It is crazy. It is a burden. It is nerve-wracking. Jesus is like, "Oh, people, light your fires. Press your buttons. Love me. Enjoy me. Cease doing the Sabbath like that." It's the religious leaders who make these laws. They literally sit in the rooms, and they still to this day… There was recently a ruling about whether or not, I'm not kidding, you could pick your nose on the Sabbath or whether that is violating the law of the harvest. I am not lying. I wish it was a joke.
Verse 10: "So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, 'It is the Sabbath…'" Dude. Because what this guy probably did, where would you go if you were just healed? You'd go, "Man, I can now go back. I'm not going to be ostracized over that temple." He is probably over there now in the temple area, and the Jews saw him carrying some stuff on the Sabbath. "Hey!"
"Jesus told me to. Don't come back tomorrow. Just take up your stuff and go home. You're well." It's not permissible. You can… Now watch. This is hilarious. "But he answered them, 'He who made me well was the one who said to me, "Pick up your pallet and walk."'" Now, what would you do if somebody… What would you focus on that sentence if it says, "The one who made me well said pick up my pallet and walk."
I'd go, "What do you mean, he made you well? Well from what?" That's not what they say. "They asked him, 'Who is the man who said to you, "Pick up your pallet and walk"?'" They're totally concerned with protecting their turf, keeping you under their control. "Nobody makes rules but us. Who said that?" Okay, now watch this.
A great friend who did this before, he wrote a paragraph. I was so mad when I read it because I wish I would've been this smart. He said, this is just crazy, "Let's say you live next door to Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic, someone her entire life since you've known her, since she was 18, she has been in a wheelchair. You know Joni can't do anything. Then one Saturday morning about 7:30, all of a sudden you hear this lawnmower sound.
You look out your window like, 'What in the world?' You see Joni out there mowing her lawn, walking. You walk out across the street and go, 'Hey Joni! What are you thinking? It's 7 o'clock on Saturday morning. People are trying to sleep. What are you doing mowing the lawn?' and slam your door and go back inside. That would be crazy. I might go, 'Joni, you've been in a wheelchair your whole life. You couldn't scratch your own nose. You're mowing your lawn! You're mowing your lawn! What happened?'" Right? But not these guys. It's crazy.
They go, "Who told you to carry that?" He goes, "The guy who healed me. For 38 years, I couldn't move. That guy. He told me… I'm in with him." I'm going to come back to this because I want to end right here. I'm going to tell you. I told you I would tell you how a guy gets well? I'm going to use this guy right here as an example. You want to get well? This is how you get well.
Then we're going to pick this all up next week before Easter. Then I'm going to talk about Jesus' equality with God because that's where this passage goes. He did this on the Sabbath on purpose. He later goes back and finds this guy who didn't even know who Jesus was. He didn't even know who he was because Jesus moved away because he wasn't there to make a stir. He wasn't there to be the hero in the Greek gods' world to show that he was the real God.
He was there just to reveal something to Jerusalem, to Israel. "I'll tell you who I am. I'm putting it on notice. This is my day. I'll tell you who can do what on what day when it's my day." Here's how you get well, lame folks. Are you ready?
First, you come. This is not great insight right here. You just come. You come to the end of yourself or you come to your senses. It's Luke 15:13, where that young prodigal guy had gone away. He was eating with the pigs. He envied the food that the pigs were getting. It says literally, "…he came to his senses…" He came to the end of himself and goes, "You know what? My dad loves me. My dad was a better way," and he went home. You come to Christ. You come to the awareness that you need something other than yourself because your life is lame.
That's why the Scripture says, "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him." Because these smart folks always have a reason why your life isn't just right and you're going to figure it out. No matter how disciplined you get in your foolishness, you're always smart enough to spin your way and convince yourself that you'll get it right the next time.
That's why there's more hope for a fool than for you, because eventually a fool will be broken, but not smart guys. There's always a reason why this fifth wife worked out like the other four. Why whatever situation you just spun out of or got into was somebody else's fault, not yours. You know how you get well? You just go, "My life is lame. I am crippled to try and do this on my own. My understanding? Nuh-uh. Not very good."
Secondly, you connect. You don't live in isolation. You stop living in isolation. You stop with your excuses about why there's not a perfect place to get with others who understand who this King is and learn from them. There are some folks who will be here for five more years and it's Masters Sunday. That's your excuse. "I can't go now."
There's always a reason you don't connect with the people who are going to help you know what the word is that will make you well. You haven't come to the end of yourself. You like what you have so you're going to keep doing what you're doing. You certainly aren't going to connect yourself with other people who are going to get well with you, but you stay in isolation. The Scripture says, Proverbs 18:1, "He who separates himself seeks his own desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom."
Thirdly, you confess. When you come, you should just say, "Hey, let me tell you who I am, man. I'm here. I have a fairly lame life. It's not as lame as some other people maybe, but let me just tell you. I have a pattern and a history of breaking relationships, of getting involved in habits and addictions that are destroying me. Or I just am not experiencing fullness. There has to be something more."
So you don't come here and you connect, acting like your life is all good and you don't really need somebody who can help you, but you just kind of want to look impressive and think that's why we will connect with you here, because you look impressive. No, you confess that you're needy.
Even my kids when they come here who have grown up in a house of grace, when they connect here, they say, "Can I tell you something? I know that God is good. I know the gravitas of his truth is not to be mocked, but left to myself, I mock it. I need to be in community that will remind me and encourage me, folks who will disciple me and help me learn more, use my gifts, honor this God. If I'm not connected here with you, I will leave this Jesus who I am so blessed by."
That's the confession that my kids make. That's the confession that I make. That's why I need you. I'm not going to act like because I'm a pastor that I'm not prone to wander, prone to leave the God I love. I will not let you make me some unnatural follower of Christ because I serve in this role. I need you. I need his Word. I need his people. I'm going to let you know that left to myself, it isn't pretty.
Fourthly, you commune. When you come and you confess, you go deeply with others. See, the folks who do really well here are folks who go in with others. They know there are folks who know them, who love them, who share with them, and encourage them. We are a very large community here, but that means we are very small.
We have thousands of smaller groups here, and we really know each other. There is a group of about 10 to 15 people who are deeply embedded into my life who love me and spur me on and help me deeply. I'm connected. I'm communing. I'm being honest and authentic. Do you want to get well? Don't just join. Commune.
Fifthly, you change. Everybody who has been involved with addiction knows, if you're going to get well you're going to change your playground. You're going to change your playmates. You're going to change your playthings. If you want to kind of come and start following Jesus and still doing the things that you were doing, you don't want to follow Jesus.
This guy got well because he listened to the Word of God by faith and executed it. You have to change. You have to say, "Not my will, but thy will be done. I'm not going to operate based on my bias, my daddy's methods, my mom's methods, my world's methods, my methods. Not my will, but your will be done. I'm going to lean not on my own understanding, but in all my ways I'm going to acknowledge you."
That's change. That's repentance. Folks who really get well? They go, "What do I do with my mat? What do I do today? What do I do next? What's the next word? How do I handle anger? How do I handle lust? How do I handle debt? How do I handle plenty? How do I handle moodiness? How do I handle…everything?" You're an individual who changes and then you conform to Christ. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…" That's one of the habits of changes.
You're an individual who now starts to study God's Word and listen to his Word because his Word is what corrects your lameness. You're not going to deal with your hurt with drugs and alcohol. You're not going to deal with your loneliness with pornography. You're not going to deal with your anger by letting it rip.
You're not going to deal with your plenty by living in fear and protecting it more and diversifying more and escrowing it more so you'll never be without it. No, you're going to see money as a servant now and not as a master to your life because you're going to let Jesus speak into it and you really change.
Lastly, you cleave. I don't mean cut things off, but what I mean there is, you cling. You're going to cling deeply. Do you know the folks who really get well here? They're folks who when you will fail, and we all necessarily will fail, they don't disappear. They go, "This is why I connected here. Because there were going to be moments that I left the God who I loved.
I didn't walk with him. I went back to my lameness. I need to see grace manifested in you. I need you to encourage me and remind me of the goodness of God. Speak words of forgiveness and truth to me. Help me make amends, but I'm not going anywhere." This is not one and done…make a mistake and you're out.
The people who get well here… We've had folks on staff who have had serious, significant issues. We've had core members with serious, significant issues. You know the ones who get well? They're the ones who stay right here and deal with it in humility and they cleave and they don't let something become a wedge between us.
We've had some folks who have run into some issues who have isolated, and I'm going to tell you what. They don't change for the good. They spiral deeper and deeper and deeper into despair. The ones who get well are the ones who stay, even when there is great pain, difficulty, sin, and failure in their life.
Then they experience grace and restoration and hope and love. Those are the folks who change, just like this guy. Do you want some of that? Come. It's here. I'm telling you, man. Folks are picking up their mats and they're walking. That's key. You have to go out here now and walk. You have to walk in a way that the world looks at you and goes, "Hey dude, you used to be lame. You're walking differently."
We'll talk about that next week. We'll talk about how that gives glory to God. We'll talk about who he is. You need to know this, this morning. God is loving and kind and sovereign. You're not looking for him. He is looking for you. He says to you, "Do you want to get well? I don't care if you don't know who I am fully yet. I don't care if you're superstitious in trusting in fallen men. Start to trust in me." He'll change you. There is life here. His name is Jesus. Come home. Come on.
Father, I pray that in this room of friends there would just be some people who would come to the end of themselves, come to their senses, come to you. I pray, Father, that they would connect deeply with you in a way that would bring transformation to them and the world would see that transformation and go, "Hey dude, didn't you used to be lame? Didn't your life used to be constituted of ashes and now you're beautiful?"
We say, "Yes we were. Let me show you the man." Help us to grow, Father, in our ability to talk about that man whose name is Jesus. Help us to come, humble ourselves, confess, connect, commune, conform, and cleave to one another until that glorious day when you come and make us yours. I pray this in Christ's name, amen.
Have a good week of worship. We'll see you.
Who was Jesus Christ? A mythical man created to give a false sense of comfort after we die? Some sort of character that enables us to justify our own choices while simultaneously giving us the power to judge others? Or was He something much bigger? God, in the flesh, walking and living among His creation. A sinless man who became the sacrifice for our sins. The Gospel of John is more than Christology 101. It is an invitation to a living and active faith in Jesus Christ. Come join us on this life-changing journey through the book of John: the story of Jesus Christ.